Avoiding injury during practice
Recently, I was teaching a student on how to free up her higher registers. Using the exercises to isolate and relax her tongue, jaw, and other unnecessary muscles, we were able to work out her vocal chords in about half an hour. It took her a few more minutes to remember how it feels when her vocal chords are doing the work, and not interrupted by the other extra muscles.
We tried a few songs, and she could manage power pop songs like Kelly Clarkson and she revisited a few of the songs from her childhood that she liked but wasn’t able to sing before her training. She was so excited! It was the first time she had experienced being able to sing high notes effortlessly and without worrying about pitch and all that technical stuff.
But she got carried away, injured her voice, and was stuck with a raspy, coarse voice for a few weeks. From a teacher’s perspective, I still haven’t figured out how to deal with over-excited singers who discovered their voices for the very first time. I have to figure out a way to do it. Everything I say at that point falls on deaf ears. When you separate the two processes, the mind and the voice have less to deal with. You will make enormous progress, but it’s critical to have self-control at this point. Raspy voice and coarse voice are symptoms of overworked and non-cooperative vocal chords. In this particular student’s case, it takes much longer to heal than to damage.
As the vocal chords develop, you’ll find that you’ll need less rest for the voice as the vocal chords gain stamina and endurance. Daily practice will facilitate this process. I typically find that no matter how hard I work my voice, they will recharge after a good night’s sleep. But at the beginning, keep it slow. Do more exercises as opposed to singing. When the vocal chords are developed enough, the exercises serve merely as a warm-up to get the muscles to wake up. The rest, you’ll find, is muscle memory.
So once you get that freedom, get it in your heart. Remember the feeling. That’s the most important. You can’t see what’s happened to your vocal chords but you can feel the difference. Get that down and practice daily to imprint it in your head. You’ll find in a few months what I mean when I say singing is the same as talking 😉