Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cross- Training the Singing Voice- Is it Healthy?

Cross-Training the singing voice can indeed be healthy if done in the right way!  What is cross-training a singer? As singers, we are vocal athletes.  Your voice adapts to the demands of the styles of singing BEST when cross-training.  Think about a runner.  If ALL they do is run and don't balance training out with some yoga or stretching, they get very tight and inflexible.  If ALL you do is belt, certain muscles that help control your vocal folds become stronger then others creating an imbalance and inflexibility in the voice.  If the runner practices yoga, they become more flexible and can in turn run better and longer.  If the singer practices some classical or 'legit' musical theater singing in addition to their belt, their voice is more flexible and endures singing for a longer time.  Yin for yang and balance in everything helps maximize potential!

When cross-training the voice you can:
* Find your true singing strengths
* Can keep the voice healthy and physically balanced
* Keeps you emotionally balanced
* Makes you more versatile to hire

There are physical differences for the different genres of singing that cause a different shape of the vocal tract. This alters the space that the sound can bounce around in therefore creating varying sound characteristics.  In other words, physical processes of singing belt vs. 'legit' vs. pop make the voice SOUND different.

Belt Characteristics
* Higher larynx, lower soft palate, more agressive

Legit/Classical Characteristics
* Low larynx, high soft palate

Pop/Country Characteristics
* Lower soft palate, altered vowels, facial lift, and often nasality

All of these physical models for singing can be healthy ways to sing when used in balance AND when you follow the 4 No's (Lisa Popeil)
1. No pressing of the vocal folds. (It shouldn't feel pressed)
2. No laryngeal discomfort.  (It shouldn't hurt)
3. No upper belly squeeze.  (Make sure support is not too high!)
4. No singing louder than you can control.  (Know you can always go one more level up!)

Crossing Over: Broadening Your Horizons, Classical Singer 2007

Explore different genres and use a balance of singing of different styles safely with a teacher.  In my studio, students sing repertoire of various styles.  This helps to balance out the physical demands of the styles and keeps the voice healthy.  Belt has different demands than classical and classical has different demands than pop.  A good model for practicing might be to warm up, sing an art song or 'legit' theater piece, work on a belt song, return to a 'legit' theater song or folk song to warm down.  You are exercising all of your vocal muscles, but in a more balanced way.  Within this realm, always produce your sound and pay attention to what your voice feels like.  (Read more about different ways to cross-train and Somatic Voicework methods next week).

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