Now that fall is upon us and school is starting, many people who earn their living as professional voice users (teachers, singers, conductors, clergy, telemarketers to name a few) and even students who study singing, need to use their voices more. If you’ve spent the summer away from the classroom or studio your voice may be a little out of shape and diving right back into choir, rehearsals or using your voice all day to teach can leave you feeling vocally fatigued.
The good news is you don’t have to experience fatigue, hoarseness and voice loss with the start of school! Here are some of the factors that can contribute to back-to-school voice issues and potential solutions:
The acoustics of the space you work in may make you change the way you talk, leading to muscle tension, fatigue, hoarseness and other, bigger voice problems. The issues here include, classroom noise level, how sound reverberates (are there lots of hard surfaces that cause noises to echo), equipment running in the room, heating/cooling system noise, outside noise from cars or planes, and other classrooms.
Some solutions include hanging cork boards or tapestries on walls and using area rugs and/or curtains to help absorb some sound. Be sure to report any vibrating, noise making parts in lighting and heating/cooling to maintenance and ask them to fix them. Practice respectful listening in your classroom where whomever is speaking has the floor and everyone listens without interrupting. If the space you are working in is very large, like a lecture hall or a sanctuary, use an amplification system.
Your voice is a muscle and our muscles function best when they are well rested, well hydrated and well fed. Stress level also counts. I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t get a little stressed about going back to school. Even after fifteen years of teaching, I’ve been known to have a back-to-school anxiety dream or two.
Some solutions to this include drinking enough water daily to have pale, straw colored pee. Get as close to eight hours of sleep as you can (if stress gives you insomnia, try yoga and meditation as ways of shutting down your thinking mind). Eat lots of actual food – vegetables of many colors, high quality protein and fruits. You can read more about my thoughts on hydration, sleep and food as well as why meditation is valuable to get more information.
You may be a professional voice user and never had any training in how to best use your speaking voice. There may be some bad habits in place regarding how your voice is produced: the pitch of your voice may be too low overall, you may not be connected to the breath and the alignment of your neck and shoulders may be such that your larynx isn’t in a happy place.
Finding your optimal speaking pitch and doing some easy warm ups in the shower before starting your teaching day can set you up to use your voice efficiently. Identifying and raising your awareness of postural habits in your neck and shoulders and doing some regular stretching of this area can go a long way toward making your voice happy.
As always, if you need help exploring your voice, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. We can work together in person or by Skype to set you up for a year of vocal success!