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Practical Exercises and Advice For Non-Classical Singers Recovering From Vocal Nodule Damage

Practical Exercises and Advice For Non-Classical Singers Recovering From Vocal Nodule Damage

Fact number one:

You are facing a temporary obstacle. Obstacles must be regarded as a blessing in disguise. Why? Because the vocal nodule will eventually teach you how to sing well as you will not be able to sing comfortably on your throat. Therefore you will search until you find the answer. That is exciting! Setbacks and reversals can not affect morale if viewed in this way. There is a saying: what does not kill you makes you stronger. Keeping up your positive attitude in the face of obstacles is part of a successful solution to all of life’s problems.

Fact number two:

It is impossible to learn how to sing from exercises on a piece of paper or on a CD or DVD. Why? You need a teacher with the right knowledge giving you specific advise on your specific problem in the moment. That being said, I will still give a few exercises that may help and explain them so that you may understand something.

Fact number three:

There are very few good voice teachers around. Those who are famous are not necessarily good. You, however, will not know who is good or not due to lack of experience. I suggest going to a speech pathologist to retrain the speaking voice.There are more good speech pathologists than good singing teachers.The speaking voice is the hand and the singing voice is the arm. If you speak forward in the resonators using the breath, singing will follow as the next easy step for you.

How the Diaphragm works

Rock, blues, country, pop, singers use the Natural speech function of the diaphragm where the diaphragm contracts on the exhale and expands on the inhale. Locate the front of the diaphragm by putting your hand horizontally right below the last rib to the waist . The hand will feel an area of three to four inches that goes to the waist. The sides of the diaphragm are at the right and left side of your waist line.These two areas will have to become bouncy with the movement in and out of the breath described below. Don’t over do the ab exercises because if your abs are too hard you have no flexibility with the diaphragm! Many singers think that the diaphragm is the abdominal muscles or stomach muscles. It is not.The stomach is not the diaphragm. We use the diaphragm for singing. The stomach is for digesting food. It is true that in certain breathing schools like yoga, the abdominal muscles relax out on the inhale. Much less so , however,for singing. In fact, it is fine if the stomach muscles remain toned, not pulled in, but toned. Sometimes it is permissible to allow the abdominals to relax out on the inhale , but mainly for very high notes. For the rest of the range, the diaphragm is the right muscle to develop and expand with the air.

Support for classical singers is different than for singers of any other genre. Classical singers use compressed air so the function is, actually opposite. Support for the classical singer is with the diaphragm muscle going out on the exhale which is opposite to the natural function. However,some classical singers support with the diaphragm going in on the exhale with good results. I will speak about the natural function of thr breath which is used mainly by non-classical singers.

Before starting the exercises do twenty minutes of a fast power walk without stopping ( or as many minutes as you can). As you walk exhale using the sound SSSS or SCH sound. Four counts out (exhale) and allow four counts for the inhale. This will get the breathing mechanism (diaphragm) going correctly. If it is raining do the same walking on a treadmill or in place. Then as you walk and synchronize your breathing observe the muscles of the diaphragm and how they work. You will need to recreate this. Notice that you are not breathing high in the chest and that your shoulders are not going up and down. You will also notice that the abdominal muscles extend out on the inhale with this kind of aerobic exercise. for singing try to concentrate on the diaphragm, both front and sides. The back of the diaphragm can be located by putting your thumbs on the sides of the waist and the fingers on the back. It is good if the back of the diaphragm also expands for the high notes.

Exercises for understanding the breath:

1. Tell someone to be quiet using the sound : SCH. Get all the air out. Now see what muscles were used when you did that because you will have to recreate the same action when you sing but instead of saying SCH you will be singing using that air.The abdominal muscles will also go in but you will put your attention at the level of the diaphragm.

2. Next exercise is the same except short. Again use the sound SCH. Do it five times staccato (very short) and notice that the diaphragm goes in on the exhale and then relaxes back out. Do not think of taking in the air as it will happen by itself. Try to understand this function by doing this exercise as you will have to recreate it on speech. Put your hand horizontally on the front of the diaphragm ( below the last rib to the waist) and do both exercises again watching what happens.

3. Now do the same as the above on the sound SS. You can do these exercises all day long.

Combining the breath with sound:

1. After understanding how the diaphragm works as a muscle that generates the air flow it is necessary to be able to speak using the nasal resonator and have that speech be exhaled in the same way as the SCH sound was exhaled. You will have to help the diaphragm to go in on the word, and then let it relax again by itself. When you try to speak helping the diaphragm to go in on the speech you will find that it is more difficult and not as automatic as when you used the sound:Sch. Then allow the diaphragm to relax by itself. In so doing the air comes in by itself.

2. Now to find the nasal resonator: make the sound Mm hm as if you were agreeing with someone and you didn’t speak but made this sound. Now put your two forefingers half an inch to the right and left of your nostrils. See if you can feel the sound there when you say: MmHm. Now say Mm hm and the word one. Say the word one at the same pitch level as the Mm hm. You may need to say the word one as a question as it is normal to drop the pitch. You do not wish to drop the pitch. You are no doubt speaking in the lower part of your throat without correct use of the breath which has caused the problem in the first place. This is an exercise that the famous doctor, Morton Cooper uses to cure Asphonic Disphonia (the strangled voice) which the medical profession has called incurable. Remember that this exercise must go hand in hand with the breath as described above. When you can say Mm Hm one, using the diaphragmatic movement going in on the exhale and then relaxing again to allow the air back in. Remember that the muscle relaxes after you speak, not during, just as in the SCH exercise.You relax the muscle after you say SCH, not during. Feel that the sound resonates in the face at the level of the sides of the nose and cheek bones and you will have it right. You can increase the number of words that you say like Mm Hm one, two only when you have mastered both the breath, exhaling from the diaphragm, together with speech, at the level of the nasal resonator. It must become a habit for your normal everyday speaking.

Then can you begin to try to do the same with the singing voice using simple exercises with the diaphragmatic exhale and the nasal resonators. You can start with one note using the same function as the Sch exercise but using the consonant H preceding the vowel. The vowel e will become He. A will become Ha, etc. This is to assure the airflow which the H will assure. Start with the staccato exercise on one note that is at an easy pitch level for you and then go to holding the not for two, three , and more beats, etc. while keeping the air flowing from the diaphragm into the resonator.

You can do the breathing exercises for hours, but when you add the voice you need to start very slowly with five to ten minutes , no longer, but several times a day. You can do them four or five times a day but only for this short period of time. Later you can up the practice time a bit more. Do not sing your songs until you have completely changed the use of your voice. Good luck!