I've mentioned it briefly before, but it bears repeating that we use the same larynx for speaking as we do for singing. And even though singing is a more vigorous vocal activity, we speak waaaay more than we sing. So a huge key to vocal health is watching how we speak and for how long.
This season can be full of parties, meet ups with friends in coffee shops, talking on the phone, reminding your kids to put their things away for the zillionth time....in addition to all the extra singing that we are doing with these holiday gigs. And all those vocal fold oscillations add up. It pays to be mindful of how we are speaking during these extra things, and build on good speaking habits that can carry us through the entire year.
1. Pay attention to your environment
If you are in a noisy place, the Lombard Effect can go into full swing. The Lombard Effect is an phenomenon in which the brain hears the ambient noise around us, often without us being fully aware of that noise, and tells us to speak or sing louder to compete with that ambient noise. Have you ever been in a crowded place, and then walked outside and realized you've been yelling for the last hour? It's a real thing and can lead us to wear out our voices faster than if we were talking in a quiet room. I'll be talking more about how to combat the Lombard Effect in a later post, but for now, be aware that it exists and take measures to limit your time talking in noisy places.
2. Add in extra vocal rest times
If you already know your voice is going to be used more, build in some buffer time and plan for times to be silent or less talkative. Think of it as a vocal nap. Rather than powering through, those little vocal naps here and there can give your voice the energy it needs to be able to do what you need it to do.
3. Warm up your voice
Vocal warm ups aren't just for singing. Remember, it's the same larynx, so give it a chance to operate at peak performance and warm up those muscles before you start speaking at a party.
4. And then cool down your voice
While you are heading home from the party or the coffee shop, do a few vocal slides to let your voice cool down and recover from those times of heavy talking.
5. Notice any patterns that might need to be addressed
Just like with singing, pay attention to any patterns that may emerge in your speaking voice. Does it get raspy regularly after talking on the phone for a long time? Are you noticing patterns of vocal fatigue after meetings or gigs where you've been talking with your adoring fans? Take note of those things and seek out the help of a speech language pathologist who might be able to help get your speaking voice in tip top shape. And working on your speaking voice is almost guaranteed to benefit your singing voice, too.
6. Limit your talk time
Practice your listening skills. Ask interesting questions, and then let everybody else talk. And don't be afraid to tell people that you are resting your voice. It is your livelihood after all!
Speak well and sing well. Your vocal health will be better if you do!