Is there anything a trans woman can do to prepare for voice coaching. Any videos? Websites to read?
If you are embarking on voice therapy and asking your voice to perform extra-ordinarily, the best thing you can do to prepare is get yourself and your larynx in shape. Vocal hygiene is important to everyone, but to ‘vocal athletes’ (people who rely on their voices for their livelihood or those who engage in vocal athletics, such as singers), it is imperative. I consider transwomen to be akin to vocal athletes. These voices are asked to work in ways never before required and it can be physically challenging to meet the demand. So, what do we mean by ‘vocal hygiene’?
Vocal hygiene is the care of the vocal mechanism. It is adopting practices that allow the larynx to be in the best possible condition for performance. Here are the basics:
1. Hydrate. Aim to consume 1.5-2 litres of good, clean water every day. You can flavour it with fruit, but don’t make it too acidic. If you run your finger around the inner part of your lips, gums, cheeks, etc., you can feel how different these cells are as compared to your external skin. This mucosal lining of the mouth, throat and vocal cords needs lots of water to function as it should.
2. Reduce caffeine. Coffee and tea do not count as water sources. The high caffeine content contributes to the diuretic effect of drinking them, so your body excretes higher levels of water. Of course, if you manage to drink the recommended amount of water each day, you counter-balance the drying effects of caffeine.
3. Reduce alcohol. It, too, is a diuretic, encouraging the removal of water from your bloodstream and dehydrating your body.
4. Try inhaling steam through your mouth and nose, either in a steam room or bath. You can pour out a kettle into a basin and with a tea towel over your head, lean over and inhale the steam as it rises from the bowl.
5. Stop smoking. There is nothing positive to say about smoking. The heat, chemicals and particles that are inhaled are irritants to the delicate tissues and mucosal lining of the nose, mouth, throat and vocal cords. The tar causes irreversible damage to the lungs, reducing their ability to function effectively. You increase the risk of acquiring a myriad of smoking-related conditions, such as cancer, and COPD.
6. Avoid other environmental irritants, such as pollution, air conditioning or very dry heated rooms.
7. Avoid behaviours that are detrimental to your vocal mechanism, such as shouting (at sporting events) or talking forcefully over background noise.
As far as websites and other sources of information, there are copious videos on YouTube, vlogs and blogs which may offer ideas and helpful tips. Do be cautious, however, of any practices that may lead to muscular tension and strain. Muscle tension is the enemy of the vocal athlete.
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