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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How Long Can Opera Singers Sing Per Day?

To those readers who aren't singers (or even those who are) I would like to take some time today to talk about the proper and measured use of our voices (speaking and singing) during the course of a normal day and over the course of a normal week.

This subject has come to mind for me because of factors relating to everyone' normal daily lives.  We are technologically-connected beings who are constantly communicating with someone, somewhere, somehow.  Sure, it's great to talk at work with your co-workers during lunch break, or have a phone conversation with your Grandmother for an hour every Tuesday, but just how much is all that talking really weighing on your voice in an overall evaluation?

Because I have been singing six days a week for at least two hours since last June (and have really kept that schedule up- amazingly--okay, except for Christmas break at which point I didn't sing for 1.5 weeks) I've noticed that speaking frequently over the course the day would turn into wear-and-tear on my singing voice the following day in the practice room!  This may not be that alarming to those of you who are professional singers, or who have studied singing a great deal and are familiar with the workings of the human voice, but this might be veritably uncharted territory to those of you who sing as a hobby, or infrequently, and might come as a shock.  Not only does talking a lot today contribute to the overall tiredness of a person's voice tomorrow, but sometimes it can even take a few days (depending on the kind of things you're using your voice for) for the voice to get back to normal (e.g. screaming to your friends across a loud club, in a rock concert, or across a crowded street).  That is simply because, although we do not think of it often, our voices are powered by our vocal folds, which are just like any other muscle in our body, and they can get sore, tired, and overworked if we use them improperly.

Therefore, I am writing this article to stress the importance of using your voice sparingly if you've got a lot of singing going on in the course of a week, month, or even year.  I just was watching this interview with Renee Fleming the other day on NY1 which can be found here and in which she mentions briefly the fact that she finds it hard to eat in restaurants in New York City because of the noise level.  Not that the noise level bothers her hearing, but rather that the noise level is so high, it actually necessitates the need for her to raise her voice during conversation, thereby tiring her voice out.  In fact, this subject is so important for Fleming, that she actually talks about it at the very beginning of the interview!

Going further on this tack, we can then deduce that even correct vocal use (as I've found) over too many hours' time can also contribute to vocal tiredness.  So, practicing 2+ hours a day is not for the feint-of-vocal-folds, and should really only be attempted if you except to do very little talking during the rest of the week (as I have found out the hard way these past few months).

And, I know it's difficult as a singer (someone who others view as talkative and gregarious in social situations by nature) to explain to friends, family members, or even your special someone that you really can't talk to them right now, but make sure to stick to your guns!  I know I've encountered all sorts of opposition to this rule from people whom I thought were most understanding of my vocal care necessities, but just remember, no matter how much these people know you and love you, they probably just won't understand this one.  (Or, if they do, put them in touch with me so that I can make them a hand-crafted plaque which I expect them to hang on their wall and tell others why they received it!)

So, once again, we find the lonely singer, out in the wilderness of solitude not able to talk to their loved ones, suffering for their beloved art....how ironic! (NOT!)

You know, on a less melodramatic, more serious note, it's probably good for us to have a good reason not to talk sometimes- I know I'm normally quite glad for it!

2 comments:

  1. Oh lol, I think I actually have another reason why to be glad for not having a life... Yay XD.

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  2. @ Anonymous: Why is that? Would you care to explain why else we singers should be glad for 'not having a life' as you say? :) If there is something else to be glad for- I'm all for it! :) Thanks for commenting- looking forward to your answer!!

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