Vocal Rest. Have you ever been on vocal rest? It’s not just for singers. You can be put on vocal rest for overuse and fatigue. You’re especially vulnerable if you’re someone who has to raise your voice often at your job: a crossing guard, sports coach, warehouse or factory manager, restaurant floor manager, retail, etc. I was inspired to find out more recently that some of my favorite singers: Kristin Chenoweth, Renée Fleming, Celine Dion also practice vocal rest. In fact they swear by it. I started utilizing vocal rest on my performance days about 2 months ago. I never even considered it before one of my voice coaches, Karen Hall told me to experiment with it. This means, I’ll wake up at normal hours (8am or 9am, give or take) and I’ll remain silent until our soundcheck around 3 or 4 pm. Obviously, there are some unavoidable exceptions to this rule: important phone calls, business lunches, final rehearsals on the day of performances, etc. However, I’ve noticed a huge different and confidence in my own singing that I simply didn’t have before. I attribute this entirely to vocal rest. It’s the only thing I do differently in my day.
Over the years, many people inquire: “What do you do to keep your voice in shape? Do you wear scarves? Do you drink tea with honey and lemon? What are your rituals?” I used to say that rest and hydration were the only things I cater to. I’ve always been obstinate when people assumed I had some crazy ritual or exercise I did before my shows. I would roll my eyes and think, “how ridiculous?” Now, I do one of the most ridiculous things possible. I refuse to speak to people. The joke is on me, I suppose. It becomes incredibly difficult communicating around the house with James. I have an app on my phone called Text to Speech. You can type whatever you want in there and choose a voice, specific to gender and from many different regions of the world. It will spit out whatever you wrote in the voice of “Fred” or “Shirley” and that becomes a great way to communicate. It is also multi-lingual. Only problem is, it’s not loud enough with just a phone speaker. I often click at James to get his attention. He loves that part! When I have to go out and run errands in public, I’ll often write down what I need before I go and hand it to the clerk or sales associate. Sometimes when I order coffee at Starbucks or such, I’ll use my talk to text app and people will look at my like I have three heads. It’s often extremely loud in public stores and they won’t hear me, so I’ll have to get out of line, scramble for a pen and paper and write it down. I wonder what they think? Do they think I’m hearing impaired, or I’ve lost my voice? Or do they assume I’m a jerk and just don’t want to talk to them. I certainly feel like a jerk sometimes.
If James and I need to have a lengthy conversation about business or otherwise, it becomes particularly tricky as my response time lags greatly. James has learned to have patience with this, but it certainly makes for interesting fodder. The best is when we’ll have an early call time at a theatre we’re playing and I arrive to many hellos and greetings and how are you’s. When I take my hand and motion that my voice isn’t working, the administration, stage management and producers will have a heart attack thinking I’m unfit to sing the performance for the evening. Again, I have to get out the app and slowly type what exactly is going on. It’s only on the delivery of the message that their color restores in their face and they stop breathing heavily.
Just today a little kid came up to me whilst I was pumping gas and asked if I’d donate to his basketball team by allowing him to wash my car windows. I motioned that I couldn’t speak and then motioned that I hadn’t any cash (which I hardly ever carry on me). He turned away and then came back, tapped me on the shoulder and proceeded to bow before me like we were in Japan or something. It was awkward and very endearing on the kids’ part. Maybe he thought I was hearing impaired as well?
If I knew a better solution, I’d take it. But truth be told, there is nothing better for for my performance than to just shut-up and save it for the singing.
This video below is more than 17 minutes long. Many would argue that not all of the techniques the singers are using for warm-ups are healthy, and they are correct. But the voice is a muscle like any other. It needs rest and it needs stretching and exercise.