Improving vocal quality and musicality
Simple effective voice-breath training in 5 minutes? Yes, and so much more!
Most singers use vocal training to help improve and or maintain better vocal power and quality. Yet, many develop preventable vocal problems requiring medical interventions.
A simple 5-minute breathing routine can improve the voice, and the brain-body breathing mechanisms to also help other music-related components like performance, composition, and creativity — all while warding off much more drastic measures such as prescription medications and surgery. There are more benefits, too.
While musical engagement has great potential to improve overall health, it can also provoke poor health in musicians, not unlike that seen in athletes who are often injured or overtrained.
Music itself does not promote injury and illness, despite artists often being portrayed by the media and Hollywood as physically and mentally run down. Conversely, athletes are often put on a pedestal as incredible examples of fitness, even though many are very unhealthy. Musicians are athletes too, although too many are not physically fit.
A goal of the 5-minute power break is to quickly trigger the brain’s beneficial alpha waves, not unlike a longer meditation session or deep breathing training. It’s been used by professional athletes and musicians, and others of all ages from all walks of life. And yes, it only takes five minutes.
Effective training, enough but not too much, is key for both musical and athletic success. The image of vocal or other lessons includes long practice sessions. However, perhaps the most valuable physiological changes necessary for better vocal and other musical benefits can be at least greatly aided or even equaled by a simple five-minute session!
Respiratory biofeedback, my original clinical name for this practice, which I now call the user-friendly 5-Minute Power Break, is an effective regular healthy routine and powerful warm up.
-- It can improve breathing, vocalizations, and prevent overuse.
-- This practice complements vocal and music lessons and performance.
-- Taking time for a power break can also prep the body and brain for other therapeutic sessions such as massage, physiotherapy, and other hands-on treatments.
This obviously can be invaluable for touring musicians before performances, and practice and studio sessions as well. It also can have beneficial effects for mental health issues including performance-related anxiety (stage fright), mood, anxiety, and depression.
Since the 5-Minute Power Break can reduce stress by balancing the autonomic nervous system, manage mental and physical endurance, improve sleep quality, and reduce muscle and joint pain and inflammation, it’s obviously great for virtually everyone.
Not only can the 5-Minute Power Break improve vocal activity and prevent strain, but it can also help other muscles involved in playing. Other health benefits can lead improved lung capacity, diaphragm muscle strength, cardiovascular health, blood pressure, endurance, blood sugar, and others — and it can even have a great impact on aging and quality of life.
Note that in a smaller number of individuals, the 5-Minute Power Break may be less effective because it cannot promote alpha waves. This is often due to very high stress hormones and/or the existence of neck muscle impairment (due to whiplash or other trauma), which can injure the brain. The same factors can also prevent meditation benefits.
The 5-Minute Power Break:
-- Sit or lie down and relax.
-- Close your eyes.
-- Hands or crossed arms relaxed on your upper abdomen.
-- Breathe slowly and deeply. Inhale five to seven seconds and exhale for the same. If this easy breathing is well tolerated, add an additional two seconds of stronger inhalation (the equivalent of 75% of maximum inhalation). So, the first five to seven seconds is with belly-breathing only, then a couple of seconds of the addition of chest expansion.
-- Listen to an enjoyable inspiring song or two. Headphones or earbuds are best.
-- Continue for about five minutes.
The best music to use for a power break are songs with the most alpha-wave potential.These are the songs you love and remember most from your youth, the ones you fell in love with, and the new ones that just make you feel good.
Use the 5-Minute Power Break daily, or more, as desired or needed.
Caution: If you start falling asleep it means you’re no longer in alpha but drifting into delta (the sleep wave), which may be indicative of a sleep disorder. In this case, five minutes is too long — stop before drifting off. Even one or two minutes of alpha is healthy. Gradually work up to five minutes as your brain learns to stay in alpha.
Some of the most beautiful music in the world is also the simplest. Lifestyle routines that also help people sing better and be more musical, and healthier, can be simple too. With a better brain, other musical components improve as well from playing and performing to creativity and composing.
While musicians tend to be very focused on performance and musical achievement, it is also important to manage physical and mental health to support such endeavors and prevent adverse influences that affect vocal and playing quality, energy and endurance, aging, and creativity.
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