What effects the voice?
Deepak Chopra said: “Every significant vital sign – body temperature, heart rate, oxygen consumption, hormone level, brain activity, and so on – alters the moment you decide to do anything”. And so it is with the voice. In this article I will describe some of my personal observations regarding the impact of various things, states of consciousness, physical condition, etc. on the voice.
A few weeks ago, a dear friend and excellent composer, Anita Andreis, wrote a Facebook status about her observations as far as singing, and that is what prompted me to think of it as everything has impact on reputation. I hope to help you, my occasional observations and advice.
As food has an effect on our entire body, so it does on the voice. The first and primary thing I noticed is that it is almost impossible to sing on a full stomach. Specifically, as the diaphragm is closely associated with the stomach, it is difficult to breathe well if it is full, which means that it is difficult to sing well. It is advisable not to sing 3 to 4 hours after eating. And if you plan to have an important concert that day, it is a good idea to eat light for the entire day.
I cannot stress the importance of water and honey on the voice enough. They say that the human body needs approximately 2 litres of water a day. I would say that singers need even more. And it is important to constantly drink water, not just a glass or two before practice or a concert. You can see why in the following videos:
A few more foods that are good for the voice are nuts (although they should be avoided just before singing to avoid small pieces being lodged in the throat), black soybean tea, foods with a high protein content and foods with lots of vitamin C, for example, lemons (but avoid consuming them just prior to singing as they tend to dry the throat).
Some things have a bad effect on the voice of the dairy and sweet products (due to the production of mucus in the throat), caffeinated beverages, carbonated drinks and alcohol (they dry voice) and very spicy and salty foods. You should not completely cut them out of your diet (I love cheese and spicy food!), but it is a good idea to avoid them a couple of hours before singing and on the day of a concert!
Try to observe what your voice is like when you wake up in the morning, during the day and in the evening. You will certainly notice why most concerts are held in the afternoon and the evening. Although you may jump out of bed like an Eveready rabbit, your voice takes an extra 4 hours to wake up. If you sing in the morning, keep this in mind and try to take it as easy as possible. Lack of sleep, besides having a bad effect on your entire body, will also have a bad influence on your voice.
Yesterday I climbed Mount Japetić and the last part of the climb is quite steep and I had the feeling that I was completely out of breath. But the next day when I went to practice, I sang with much more ease and élan. Physical activity is important not only for athletes, but also for singers!
My dear teacher always said that the voice is lies on the breath. Exercise improves your cardiovascular strength and most importantly, your breath. Sports can help you sing higher, clearer, with less effort and with more energy and emotion, in other words much easier.
The Werbeck method of singing highlights how our whole body is an instrument and not just vocal cords, but also the forehead, mouth, tongue, head, diaphragm, arms and legs. As I said at the beginning – we are complete beings, and therefore the condition of our entire body, whether it is tense or relaxed, has an effect on our voice.
An increasing number of studies show that the throat is a hormonal target, ie., when there are hormonal changes, changes also take place in the throat. Hormonal changes in women usually occur during pregnancy and before the onset of menstruation.
I started singing shortly after I got pregnant with her third child so I cannot give any insight in terms of pre-pregnancy singing, but I can certainly share my observations about singing during and after pregnancy and every month before menstruation.
I noticed difficulties in singing high tones, in breathing, the voice tends to have a rough, gravelly quality and I have even had problems with intonation. During these times, it is beneficial to avoid foods that have a bad effect on the voice (see above) and to increase physical activity if you do not already practice a sport.
Eckhart Tolle said: “The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” How very, very true. Personally, I would say that the mind has the strongest effect on voice as well as our overall condition. If you avoid dairy products, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and then tell yourself, “I cannot,” then you find that you really – cannot!
Always try to remember that even though at this point in time things might not be “going as planned”, it will not always necessarily be the case. In my humble opinion, there is no talent and genius, just people who are persistent, who have worked hard and believed that, although they cannot do it today, tomorrow is another day!