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How to Increase Vocal Stamina

About Amy Chapman

Amy Chapman MA, CCC-SLP is a vocal therapist and performance specialist in the Division of Voice and Laryngology at the Osborne Head and Neck Institute in Los Angeles, CA. Amy is a board-certified Speech & Language Pathologist who has dedicated her career to helping the professional voice user improve and optimize their voice.

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voice-staminaIn the previous article,  we discussed how building vocal endurance is controversial because the way it is practiced and taught risks significant vocal damage. In this article, we will discuss how to reduce fatigue, in order to build stamina healthily.

The only way to use your voice for a long period of time is to use it it efficiently. Efficient voice use is reliant upon good technique.  It is critical to realize, however, that everyone has their own maximum duration and that while training will help you reach your potential, it will not necessarily ensure it is as long as another singer.

With so many different types of singing techniques and singing teachers, it can be difficult to know what good technique is.

How can I tell if I have good technique?

Unfortunately, taking lessons is not enough to guarantee good technique. There is too much variability in the quality of vocal instruction. When asking yourself if you have good technique, look at the following questions:

❏       Do you have difficulty hitting notes, but push to sing them anyway?

❏       Do you have weak spots in your range?

❏       Do you have vocal fatigue after a short period?

❏       Do you feel as though singing is often an effortful?

❏       Do you feel hoarse after singing?

❏       Are you not able to sing quietly, as well as raise your volume?

If you check yes to any of these questions, you might need to reexamine your singing technique. The act of phonating (making sound) should be relatively easy and effortless.

Why is breath support so important?

Breath support is a term often used to describe the proper breathing necessary for singing. In typical speech, exhalation is passive and breath support is not necessary. The body naturally takes the amount of breath needed.  In vocally demanding activities such as singing, active and controlled exhalation is required for efficient phonation.  Active exhalation involves over 20 muscles of the chest wall. This creates a controlled subglottal air pressure that should power the the voice.  A common problem among singers is not controlling breath exhalation and instead using vocal fold squeezing to control the rate of breath release. A way to conceptualize the difference between these is to consider a garden hose. You can put your thumb on top and squeeze the pressure in order to spray further, or you can turn up the water pressure. In this analogy, squeezing the hose end is squeezing the muscles of the voice, and turning up the water pressure is adding breath support.

vocal-stamina

The small muscles of the larynx should be utilized minimally for the work of phonation. When these small muscles work hard to phonate, they become fatigued, which is your body’s signal that muscular capacity has been maximized. The only way to sing without overusing these smaller muscles, is to rely on your bigger muscles to support the voice.  Our breathing muscles include the diaphragm, muscles of the rib cage, and muscles of the abdominal wall.  These large breathing muscles support breath flow that can power the voice without excess laryngeal tension. To decrease tension and thus vocal fatigue, you must have proper breath support to power the voice.

Possible complications

If you feel as though you are doing everything correctly and are still unable to reduce vocal fatigue and increase stamina, you might have a complicating factor affecting your voice.

Discuss this with your voice teacher, laryngologist, or voice pathologist to rule out any pathology.

To learn more about vocal stamina, please visit www.voicedoctorla.com

Contact a Physician at Osborne Head & Neck Institute

If you would like to speak with one of our physicians regarding this issue or another ear, nose, throat problem; or have other questions or concerns, please complete the contact form below or call us at 310-657-0123.

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