Voicebox Part 2

Voicebox Part 2

Professional voice users such as teachers, performers and singers can develop voice problems due to poor voice technique and vocal health. But how can this be resolved?

I spent an evening with voice specialist  and speech therapist Madeleine Ashton to find out more. We left Part 1 of this interview at a cliffhanger – what therapies can benefit those experiencing voice problems?

LMT – what is it?
Laryngeal Massage Therapy.  This is like physiotherapy for the larynx, it’s about stretching the muscles and releasing tension in the larynx. It’s said to be beneficial for any type of voice problem, but particularly for Muscle Tension Dysphonia (see part 1). It’s about knowing how to stretch the muscles to help achieve muscle relaxation. Then the client becomes aware of this sensation of relaxation and tries to replicate it themselves.How many sessions does it take?
In theory you can do this in one session, but really it depends. If the underlying issue isn’t dealt with then the problem can recur.

So, for example, if a teacher finds their throat is often tight and hoarse, is that something LMT could work for?

Yes, teachers often use their voices a lot without necessarily having much idea of what is happening with their voice, so you would need to find out what they were doing to cause the tension so that you can prevent it recurring.

And that’s something you do?
Yes, I try to do manual therapy with anyone I think it would be beneficial for. Some people hate having others touch their necks, so you need to build a relationship first. There are also exercises that you can do which can be just as effective, as people get into a routine of doing them.What is the most interesting part of your job?
The people, and the stories that they tell. Voice clients tend to be talkers! So you do get into some interesting conversations with people.

Thank you Madeleine!

When we speak and when we sing we use the same set of apparatus – what affects the speaking voice can affect the singing voice and vice versa. Want to know more about how singing lessons at Punch Vocals can complement speech targets? Drop me a message here.

If you want to know more about Voicebox or if you feel you would benefit from advice on one or more of the topics mentioned, please contact Madeleine through her website here.

Debuting a Commission

Debuting a Commission

The final 2015 performance of the Howells Voices choir was at Gloucester cathedral, where we debuted
the eight-part piece, Holy is the True Light, commissioned for the choir by composer Ian Carpenter.  To keep you on your toes, this ethereal anthem was written with a changing 4, 5 or 7 beats in a bar.
Once the service was finished we indulged ourselves in the acoustic magic of the cathedral by singing the piece again in the side chapel. An amazing experience where the sound chases around the internal structures and comes rushing back at you, giving you the sensation of simultaneously being singer and listener. Beautiful!
Voicebox Part 1

Voicebox Part 1

Speech is fascinating: how the human body physically produces sound, and how the brain orchestrates it. 

We use the same set of apparatus for both speech and singing – the lungs, diaphragm, larynx, vocal chords, and tongue to name a few. Not long ago I met with Speech Therapist Madeleine Ashton, from Voicebox, who specializes in the treatment of the larynx. 

Professional voice users, including singers, teachers, and public speakers can develop voice problems through extensive use of the voice. As a vocal coach my job is to promote and train singers in good technique and prevent problems from happening or reoccurring. If problems do occur a voice specialist speech therapist such as Madeleine can help. I met with Madeleine to find out more:

Maddie, what do you do at Voicebox? 

VoiceBoxBristol is a speech and language therapy practice focusing on laryngeal disorders, swallowing problems or any other problem related to the larynx.

What types of conditions do people come to you with?

A large part of my work involves people with Muscle Tension Dysphonia (MTD), which is basically when the muscles that control the function of the larynx and the vocal chords become really tight. This affects the quality of someone’s voice, it might become strained, hoarse, rough or they may even lose their voice totally.

What causes this? 

It can be triggered by a virus, but it’s usually a case of something tipping the balance, perhaps there’s a problem such as reflux, then for some reason they become ill or fatigued and it kicks their larynx into functioning in this way.

Why does this happen?

It’s like their vocal chords are working at 150% all the time.

It’s a functional disorder, but there’s often a psychological component to it as well, for example emotional stress or a background of anxiety, which is taken on at a subconscious level. The way the larynx is working is affected by the psychological issue.

There are also organic voice disorders such as vocal nodules, which professional voice users can get from using their voice a lot on a daily basis. It’s caused by the impact of the vocals chords – little calluses build up where the chords vibrate against each other.

How would you recognize if you had vocal nodules?

The nodules themselves can’t be felt, although there may be muscle tension, which can cause discomfort. Your voice would sound hoarse and would be diagnosed by a ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist. Voice therapy is important even if the nodules are removed because if the voice user doesn’t change how they use their voice the nodules can recur.

Want to know more about different therapies that can help voice recovery? Find out more in Part2… coming soon!

Listening With Your Body

Listening With Your Body

People usually assume that listening is done through the ear, but really there is so much more to listening.

Let me introduce you to the great Evelyn Glennie, a talented musician, speaker and educator. She is the first person to have a full-time career as a solo percussionist and recently received honorary membership from the Royal Philharmonic Society, and the Polar Music Prize (a big deal – the musical equivalent of a Nobel Prize).
Evelyn lost her hearing by age 12 and learnt to recognize the difference between sounds through the vibration in her hands and throughout her body. She started her percussion lessons by training herself to recognize tiny differences in the vibrations of sound.
As I carry out speech and language intervention at a school for deaf children this is so important to understand! During this TED talk, Evelyn asks the viewer to allow their body to be a ‘resonating chamber’ for the music they experience, to experience the journey of the sounds, not just the initial contact of the stick on the drum, or the bow on the string. To pay attention to the tiny changes in how the sounds are affecting our bodies.
During the talk she explores notions beyond instructions from sheet music, interpreting the music with feeling, and in the final stage to listen to ourselves, both musician and audience alike.
Let’s think differently about music. And start learning how to listen.

And click here to watch the talk!

Image by: King JG, Hillyer JF, on Wikipedia here

Music for the Half Marathon

Music for the Half Marathon

It’s two weeks today until the Bristol Half Marathon! Read on for some musical training tips to help you keep motivated.

Lots of people listen to music while they run, as it can positively affect your mood and reduce how much pain you feel! A study in Germany showed that runners preferred listening to music with a similar frequency to their physiological systems[1] (that is how much you shake up and down, and the electrical signals in your brain – 3 Hertz apparently). Also, synchronising your stride to the beat can help you maintain your speed.[2] So we prefer running when we feel that the music is in tune with our body, or vice versa. Watch out though… the brain can become desensitized – so using music when you really need it is much more effective than listening every time you run.

I will be running the Bristol Half this year. Gulp. I am a little bit nervous. I am running with a
couple of friends in aid of a fab charity called Bridges for Communities, who aim to create links between different cultures and communities. If you would like to sponsor my run – I’m feeling exhausted just thinking about it – click here

My playlist currently includes; Swedish House Mafia – One, Pharrell Willams – Happy, and some David Guetta. Got any tune recommendations to get me through those 13.1miles? Please name some below!

[1] http://running.competitor.com/2013/09/training/does-music-help-during-a-run-the-results-are-mixed_13979#isy6lAJOkc3WJktv.99

[2] http://womensrunning.competitor.com/2014/07/training-tips/can-music-help-you-run-faster_28058#i3iJoUwt2PTEuc2q.99