How can the voice be kept healthy?
Preventive medicine is always the best medicine. The more people understand about their voices, the more they will appreciate their importance and delicacy. Education helps us understand how to protect the voice, train and develop it to handle our individual vocal demands, and keep it healthy. Even a little bit of expert voice training can make a big difference. Avoidance of abuses, especially smoke, is paramount. If voice problems occur expert medical care should be sought promptly. Interdisciplinary collaboration among laryngologists, speech-language pathologists, singing teachers, acting teachers, many other professionals, and especially voice users themselves has revolutionized voice care since the early 1980s. Technological advances, scientific revelations, and new medical techniques inspired by interest in professional opera singers have brought a new level of expertise and concern to the medical profession, and improved dramatically the level of care available for any patient with voice dysfunction.
How can a “normal” voice be made better?
Voice building is possible, productive, and extremely gratifying. Speaking and singing are athletic. They involve muscle strength, endurance, and coordination. Like any other athletic endeavor, voice use is enhanced by training that includes exercises designed to enhance strength and coordination throughout the vocal tract.
Speaking is so natural that the importance of training is not always obvious. However, running is just as natural. Yet, most people recognize that, no matter how well a person runs, he or she will run better and faster under the tutelage of a good track coach. The coach will also provide instruction on strengthening, warm-up and cool-down exercises that prevent injury. Voice training works the same way.
Voice building starts with physical development. Once vocal health has been assured by medical examination, training is usually guided by a voice trainer (with schooling in theater and acting voice techniques), singing teacher or a speech-language pathologist. In the author's setting, all three specialists are involved under the guidance of a laryngologist, and additional voice team members are utilized, as well, including a psychologist or psychiatrist (for stress-management), pulmonologist, neurologist, and others. Initially, training focuses on the development of a physical strength, endurance and coordination. This is accomplished not only through vocal exercises, but also through medically supervised bodily exercise that improves aerobic conditioning and strength in the support system. Singing skills are developed (even in people with virtually no singing talent at all) and used to enhance speech quality, variability, projection and stamina. For most people, marked voice improvement occurs quickly. For those with particularly challenging vocal needs, voice building also includes training and coordinating body language with vocal messages, organizing presentations, managing adversarial situations (interviews, court appearances, etc.), television performance techniques, and other skills that make the difference between a good professional voice user and a great one.
The process of voice building is valuable not just for premiere professional voice users. Virtually all of us depend upon our voices to convey our personalities and ideas. The right subliminal vocal messages can be as important in selling a product or getting a job as they are in winning a presidential election. The initial stages of voice building are no more complex than the initial stages of learning to play tennis or golf; and their potential value is unlimited. A strong, confident, well-modulated voice quietly commands attention, convinces, and conveys a message of health, strength, youth and credibility.