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Sculpt your voice: Can exercise help you sing better?  
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Sculpt your voice: Can exercise help you sing better?  

The crucial aspects involved in singing, be it breath control, voice quality or vocal stamina, are improved through regular exercise, say experts

Exercises can help singers enhance their vocal health and singing quality

Enhancing physical fitness, managing lifestyle disorders or improving mental health — the benefits of regular exercise are diverse. However, one of the most fascinating and not often discussed benefits of exercise is that it helps singers perform better. Singing involves the precise use of voice through the synchronization of several systems in the body. Regular exercise ensures the effective functioning of all the systems involved and helps you efficiently use your voice to sing better, say experts.

“When discussing the process of generating voice, most people focus on the voice box [also known as the larynx, a part of the respiratory system crucial for producing sound and adjusting pitch while speaking or singing],” says Prakash Boominathan (PhD), professor and principal, Sri Ramachandra Faculty of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology, Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, Chennai. “But the generation of voice involves the entire bodily system,” he adds. “Even though your vocal cords are vibrating to make a sound, your respiratory system — your lungs, to be precise — provides the energy for that vibration. When the air travels up from the lungs and meets the vocal cords, they start vibrating, producing a buzz. This sound is then modified in the vocal tract. Depending upon the language you are speaking, the sounds are enhanced in the mouth.”

This is the primary process that takes place when you speak or sing.

Physiological aspects that affect singing

According to Boominathan, four physiological factors are at play during the process of voice generation, which involves the coordination of multiple organs:

♦ Brain: The motor part of the brain simultaneously controls the exact movements of the vocal muscles, ensuring that pitch, rhythm and other aspects of singing operate accurately. The auditory feedback is processed by the sensory part of the brain, which enables singers to monitor their own pitch and modify their vocalization accordingly.

♦ Hormones: Along with balancing the bodily functions required for singing, certain hormones play a role in maintaining the voice quality or type. “Hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and thyroid hormones have an impact on voice quality,” says Boominathan.

♦ Parasympathetic and sympathetic nerves: The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems work together to prepare you for specific actions or activities in response to different situations or stimuli. They help with singing as well.

“For instance, someone may experience mild anxiety if they have an upcoming concert in front of a large audience where they must showcase their best. If not controlled, the anxiety may affect their voice. In such a case, the nervous system plays a crucial role in managing anxiety by regulating stress responses and influencing emotional states,” explains Boominathan.

♦ Overall well-being: Boominathan compares the energy required for singing to that of playing a sport. It is easy for anyone to invest energy in any activity when their overall well-being is in check.

Since regular exercise can ensure efficient functioning of all these factors, singers can reap its benefits to improve their voice.

Role of breath control in singing

Singing requires you to maintain a certain pitch or note for an extended period. In addition, pitch and intensity adjustments are far more frequent while singing than they are during regular conversation. A strong respiratory system helps in this process.

“If I want to sustain a note for a long time, that means I should be able to have continuous air supply till I finish that note,” says Manju S, assistant professor, department of audiology and speech language pathology, National Institute of Speech and Hearing, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. “By working on your respiration, you will be able to sustain your breath according to your requirements. Practicing breathing techniques and doing yoga or any kind of exercise that improves your respiration helps enhance your breath control while singing,” she shares.

Exercises to improve singing quality

♦ Core strengthening exercises: A good posture is essential to enhance the quality of your singing, along with supporting your breath effectively. “To have a good posture, you need to work on strengthening the core muscles and their coordination,” says Boominathan.

♦ Coordination and flexibility exercises: Exercises for coordination, such as lip trills and sirens, help develop smoother note-to-note transitions by using a variety of muscle groups. Vocal range and control can be enhanced by stretching the vocal cords using flexibility exercises like slides, arpeggios and scales.

♦ Endurance exercises: Enhanced vocal stamina resulting from higher endurance enables singers to sustain their energy levels through lengthy performances. By practicing endurance exercises like breath control drills and sustained vocalization, singers can sustain notes for longer durations without draining their energy or running out of breath.

Takeaways

  • Four physiological factors — the brain, parasympathetic and sympathetic nerves, hormones and general health — that involve the coordination of multiple organs need to be in balance for efficient voice generation. A singer can enhance their voice by exercising regularly, as it helps control all these aspects.
  • Singing requires one to hold a certain note or pitch for a long time. This is made easier by a strong respiratory system. Singers can sustain their breath in accordance with their singing requirements by working on their breathing.
  • Exercises for singers to enhance their vocal health and singing quality include coordination and flexibility exercises, core strengthening exercises and endurance exercises.

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