Renee and Bob Marshall
Ten years ago my students usually ranged from 16-30 in age. Anyone over the age of 30 was basically considered too old to start a successful career in music. But, with the advent of YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and other video/social media outlets, this has all changed. No longer do older singers have to sit on the sidelines and wish they too could make a stir in the music world.
In the last three to four years my studio has grown considerably in the number of singers over the age of 40. About 20% of my current students fall into this age category. Many of them are singers who took their father’s advice and “got a real job.” Now that they have retired they are looking to follow their dream of pursuing a singing career.
What advice can I offer to help these singers to keep their voices strong and healthy up into their 80s, 90s or even 100s?
It’s generally not the voice that wears out, but the power behind it that diminishes. If we use good support when we sing and exercise the voice-producing mechanisms regularly to prevent them from atrophy, we will be rewarded with a vibrant and resonant voice well into our later years. We can’t stop having birthdays, but we can take steps to keep our voice strong and vital.
Here are some of the things that will protect and preserve the singing voice:
–Eat sensibly, get plenty of rest, and keep body, brain, and voice well exercised.
–Use Passive Breathing to eliminate neck and shoulder tension when singing.
–Use the strong muscles of the lower abdominals to support the voice.
–Use a good daily warm up especially when you will be singing.
–Keep moisture levels high with plant life, humidifiers, and eight glasses a day.
–Be alert for the voice-damaging symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.
–If you begin to have symptoms of vocal abuse take time off and rest your voice.
–Avoid yelling and whispering. They are equally bad for the vocal cords.
–Don’t smoke and limit alcohol intake.
One more little thing about older voices is that you can pretty much count on your voice changing as you age. Not all of these changes are bad. For example you may lose some of your upper range, but you may very well be rewarded with a more resonant voice, especially men.
And, you may find this hard to believe, but it’s not all about the voice. A good voice is a good thing to have, but if you can learn to be more expressive and communicate one-on-one with your audience no matter your age or skill you can still be a successful singer. Think Willy Nelson.
If you take good care of your voice it should last you a lifetime.