Taking care of the voice (before it takes care of me)

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trioptimum
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Post by trioptimum » January 13th, 2007, 7:04 am

I've just finished a recording session which lasted less than an hour and now my voice is a total wreck. I'm hoarse, my throat is sore, and it'll be several hours at least before I can do any more reading. I'm just hoping it's not going to be obvious on the recording, which I haven't dared listen to yet.

This is not the first time and I'm wondering if there's anything I can do to stop this happening.

I get the impression that there are some regular posters here that will routinely record for several hours in a day and I don't really understand how they manage it unless they have a larynx of steel*. Is there a secret -- vocal exercises, special concoctions to drink, splitting recording sessions with regular breaks, gargling Benylin?

Or maybe I'm reading unnecessarily loudly? I do try to read expressively and clearly and it's certainly louder than I would speak if talking to someone next to me but the recordings don't sound shouty and I'm not sure how much I can tone it down and still get a clear recording. (Hey, I should test that.) Is it abnormal to read a lot louder than conversation-in-a-quiet-room volume?

Sorry for the rambling post; just wondering if anybody's encountered similar issues and solved them, or indeed is in the same situation as I am.

* which surely can't be the case -- it'd sound horrible
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fae
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Post by fae » January 13th, 2007, 7:45 am

I am trawling through my memories of years of singing and trying to remember what we did to avoid voice strain...

The 2 things that come to mind are proper warm ups and the rather abstract practice of holding your mouth open (I mean really wide, like a jaw cracking yawn) for a count of 8. The first obviously is to avoid doing damage, just like in physical exercise, and the second to allow for more clarity of sound as well as loosening the facial muscles, thus alleviating the strain on the cords.

Oh also the director always counciled us to go home and drink tea with lemon and honey after our grueling rehersals before concerts and to avoid all dairy products before the actual event (ie no milk or cheese) saying that these clogged the cords.

Best of luck!

Cori
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Post by Cori » January 13th, 2007, 7:59 am

I swear by mint tea to refresh a stressed throat. During the speaking, along with lots of water, and afterwards, too. I've never sung, but in speaking for long periods the same thing happens to me with my throat/voice. I did an hour of recording last night, and my throat was about as you describe yours after it. Hot mint tea = Bliss! I did do some warmups, though, which I think helped it bounce back after a short rest. Also, usually, I do take breaks every 20 mins or so ... this was an unusual case.

Definitely experiment with different ways of speaking & recording! I have a particularly low voice I use for the telephone and that's very stressful on the ol' cords in longer conversations. Stupid habit. :roll: I wouldn't consciously use it for a recording here, 'cos I know how much strain it is.
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ceastman
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Post by ceastman » January 13th, 2007, 9:32 am

You might also want to record while standing up, of all things.

What's happening overall is, I think, you're speaking without what singers call 'support'. That's absolutely normal - if you talked to someone for an hour even spontaneously, chances are very good your throat would be shot after that too. We all tend to talk by using the vocal cords for the bulk of the sound production (surprise!).

Standing up while recording will encourage you to breathe more deeply, and therefore use more and better air when you speak. It'll (probably) help you use your sinuses - which are a resonant space! - in your sound production: this means less work on your vocal cords.

Blah. I'm not explaining this at all well. Anyone else?

-Catharine

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Post by Cloud Mountain » January 13th, 2007, 11:30 am

Believe it or not, for some, an hour can be a very long time to be recording, particularly if you don't do it rgularly. Take frequent breaks, just as you would when sitting in front of a computer.

The standing and taking frequent sips on something neither hot nor very cold is good too. Also, a good thing to keep in mind is to relax your breathing and speak naturally, as if you are talking on the telephone. Let your mike and recording equipment do the work! There are many reasons for a "strained" voice. Think of a strained voice as a message. Feel strained? Stop!

And HAVE FUN!

If you're not having fun, you're body will respond negatively.
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kri
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Post by kri » January 13th, 2007, 5:41 pm

ceastman wrote:You might also want to record while standing up, of all things.

What's happening overall is, I think, you're speaking without what singers call 'support'. That's absolutely normal - if you talked to someone for an hour even spontaneously, chances are very good your throat would be shot after that too. We all tend to talk by using the vocal cords for the bulk of the sound production (surprise!).

Standing up while recording will encourage you to breathe more deeply, and therefore use more and better air when you speak. It'll (probably) help you use your sinuses - which are a resonant space! - in your sound production: this means less work on your vocal cords.

Blah. I'm not explaining this at all well. Anyone else?

-Catharine
I think what you're trying to explain is better use of your diaphram. If you're using your vocal chords to increase the volume in your voice, you'll have more strain than if you use your diaphram. Plus, you'll get more extra volume (and control) if you use your diaphram to project your voice. If you're standing up, you'll be able to more easily use your diaphram to speak.

I've never really had problems with soreness or hoarseness after long recordings (man Ivanhoe has a penchant for almost 1 hour long chapters!) but sometimes I do get a bit of a dry throat. I probably don't prepare or take care of my voice well enough for recording but...c'est la vie.

Although, I think I talk a lot so...maybe that's why I don't have problems.

Cloud Mountain
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Post by Cloud Mountain » January 13th, 2007, 6:44 pm

What you say is true kri —if someone talks a lot, they can speak a lot. But talking isn't like reading. It's really not sustained.

But interestingly, your voice appears to be a "head" voice (female singers know what I mean) which is not to much in the throat, and so your throat isn't strained. Seating one's voive at the solar plexus or what some call the diaphragm lets the whole check do the work rather than the throat. Trying to control the breath at the throat is where the problem comes in, particularly if one is trying to "project." Projecting is a no-no in the kind of reading we're doing. This is why it's suggested to speak like we're speaking on a telephone, one-on-one, persoanlly. It's most natural and puts little strain anywhere. And yes, standing and speaking up to a mike opens up everything too.

Sitting in front of a computer, most of us have developed a perpetual hunch. Sitting up straight (but not stiffly) opens the passages and things aren't being forces through that little throat. Stand is best, yes, and rising the chin to speak upwardly too. Yes.
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fae
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Post by fae » January 13th, 2007, 7:55 pm

Cloud Mountain wrote:But interestingly, your voice appears to be a "head" voice (female singers know what I mean) which is not to much in the throat, and so your throat isn't strained. [snip...] Sitting up straight (but not stiffly) opens the passages and things aren't being forces through that little throat. Stand is best, yes, and rising the chin to speak upwardly too. Yes.
That "head" voice is exactly why you what to open your mouth a much as possible, it fills yet another cavity with air and makes words come out clearer and easier.

Also I remember being told continually to sit on the edge of the seat for the same reasons as described above; basicly getting more air into your diaphram.

kri
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Post by kri » January 13th, 2007, 8:38 pm

Hmm...I stand corrected.

Head voice? Will have to see what that means.

Edit: Ahhh, high pitched for the layman :P I have come to terms with it.

Cloud Mountain
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Post by Cloud Mountain » January 13th, 2007, 9:30 pm

Nothing meant by my comment other than a possible explanation for why your voice doesn't strain... Yerra lucky girl. I'm talk (projecting) all day in school and even with conscious breathing and 40 years of working on stage, by voice gives out 2-3 times a year. It just gives up.
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kri
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Post by kri » January 13th, 2007, 9:41 pm

Cloud Mountain wrote:Nothing meant by my comment other than a possible explanation for why your voice doesn't strain... Yerra lucky girl. I'm talk (projecting) all day in school and even with conscious breathing and 40 years of working on stage, by voice gives out 2-3 times a year. It just gives up.
Nah, I didn't think you meant anything by it. I know my voice is high pitched, and I've learned to deal with it. Just like I've learned to deal with being short and looking younger than I am.

I have a suggestion for tea. You'll probably want to avoid tannic "tea" teas (or tisanes if you want to get technical). Try rooibos, or red tea. It's made from a plant in South Africa, is really healthy for you, doesn't have any caffeine, tastes great (especially with a bit of honey or lemon) and...is overall wonderful stuff.

Cloud Mountain
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Post by Cloud Mountain » January 13th, 2007, 9:55 pm

kri wrote:I know my voice is high pitched, and I've learned to deal with it. Just like I've learned to deal with being short and looking younger than I am.
You have a high pitched voice? I was talking about the "head voice."

Look here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_register

And for a full view, here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_voice

Yes, rooibos tea is great. It takes some getting used to. (And honey is not always a good thing for a vocalist.)

(And while you're at getting rid of germs, can you kill this and the sender too please? http://librivox.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5217
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rootpi
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Post by rootpi » January 13th, 2007, 11:56 pm

Lots of good advice from more knowledgeable folks than I. The only thing I would add is that the more you talk the easier it gets. At one point I was teaching 5 or so hours in a day, all lecture in a large room, up to 90 mins in a row. I didn't feel great at the end but got through it, having built up to it. But now, not having taught in awhile, I'm sure I couldn't. So practice makes perfect!

-julian

trioptimum
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Post by trioptimum » January 14th, 2007, 6:37 am

Thanks for all the helpful advice everyone.

I actually do record standing up (exception: when I need to read off the screen rather than off a printout) because I saw that piece of advice somewhere in the forums when I joined, but I was on the verge of reconsidering this. Now I know (and even partially understand :) ) the reasoning behind it, I'll stick with the habit.

I didn't have a beverage on hand yesterday, which I'm sure didn't help. I'll look for some of those nice teas next time I shop.

I've come to the conclusion that I was definitely reading unnecessarily loudly yesterday, after experimenting a bit. Speaking at a quieter volume with higher mic sensitivity actually doesn't degrade the recording quality as much as I'd assumed it would. I do end up sounding pretty different, but I think I prefer that. In fact I think I might re-record the three chapters I've already done for my solo project, not just to cover any discontinuity, but to improve upon them :)
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Cloud Mountain
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Post by Cloud Mountain » January 14th, 2007, 10:42 am

trioptimum wrote:Speaking at a quieter volume with higher mic sensitivity actually doesn't degrade the recording quality as much as I'd assumed it would. I do end up sounding pretty different, but I think I prefer that.
It makes it more intimate and less stentorian (which sounds, well, less like a lecture.) Best natural.
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