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PARAMETERS OF VOICE PRODUCTION

The human voice is a tool for communication and a vocal instrument at the same time. Its study is complex. The voice can be characterized by physiological, acoustic and psychological aspects. For a vocalist, voice is the major investment that earns him/her popularity and trade. It is imperative for these elite performers to conserve, prevent abuse and maintain vocal health to meet their occupational requirements. In India, scientific examination of classical singing and other types of singing (light music, folk music, music associated with dance, etc.) is still a relatively new concept, despite the traditional styles and pedagogies, high cultural relevance and vocal health issues. It is important to understand acoustics and physiology of voice production to help develop training methods facilitate the mastery of skilled singing.

Culturing the voice depends on the inherent texture of the voice and the genre of singing as in classical (Indian/ Western), folk and light. The singing voice and the voice with which we speak aren’t the same. While speaking is an action that doesn’t need any conscious effort (do not refer to speaking as in stage orations), singing does demand. The technique of bringing the voice under our command is termed as “voice culture”. This comes with breath control techniques, healthy body, and more importantly a sound and focused mind.

While for an instrument, oiling, tuning, selecting the instruments made out of the right materials (depending on the instrument kind – percussion, string, air instrument) etc. would matter, culturing a voice needs an ardent effort and a personal care. Every voice is unique and beautiful. The voice needs to be understood by its owner to nourish and culture it in a way that it gets strengthened. Each voice has its traits and limitations. Voice culture must aim at reducing the shortcomings and enhance the impressive traits of the voice.

DO’s and DON’Ts:

  • Practicing early in the morning, soon after waking up may not suit everyone. Give sufficient time to your voice to even out. Warm water gargling would help. Talk to people. Get your tongue to movement and leave your voice chords moist before you start the first practice for the day.
  • DO NOT practice at very high pitch (Shruthi) when the sun is right on head (that’s between 12 and 4) i.e., in the noon. If your pitch is five and half, it will do good to stick to five (say half a pitch lower than yours) at this time of the day. This would avoid ware and tear.
  • Every practice should start with a varnam preferably; varnams are structured in a way that would exercise the voice from all possible angles.
  • Learn to modulate the voice. DO NOT sing with the maximum voice beyond upper sthayi rishabham. Soften the voice to reduce the stress on the vocal chord. This doesn’t mean you bring in false voice. Using false voice may help in effortless singing but wouldn’t reach the audience in effect. Know the difference between singing with open voice and singing loudly and the difference between singing with a false voice and singing softly.
  • Proper physical posture is required for a good voice production. Certain voice types would get strained with 2-3 hours of practice but some people can go upto 5-6 hours in one stretch. It is important that you understand the nature of your voice and its limitations. One should know his/her own competence to practice and NOT overdo! If the posture and the singing technique followed are acceptable, at the end of the practice session, the abdominal muscles should get strained and not the voice chords. This could be a self check. (Nabhi hruth khanta rasana- Origin of voice is from the abdomen).

Figure 2.1 Representations of a correct posture in the sitting position

  • Nasal touch is required for a proper alignment with Shruthi, but nasal twang shouldn’t inhabit your voice completely. Open mouth singing helps reduce the nasal twang.
  • Diet plays an important role in maintaining the voice health. Drinking warm water helps; hot tea, clove in honey, ginger kashayam, and pepper milk do wonders and soften the voice. Avoid road-side food, oily food, and cold items.       
  • Avoid overuse of the voice- don’t scream; talk softly; have limited talks; Last and the most important being “Get rid of the fear of falling sick!” Have a strong mind and a committed soul.

Next in series would be on Voice Culture


REFERENCES
Aronson, A. E., & Bless, D. (2009). Clinical Voice Disorders (4th ed.). New York: Thieme Medical.
Boominathan, P., Rajendran, A., Nagarajan, R., Jayashree, S., & Muthukumaran, G. (2008). Vocal abuse and vocal hygiene practices among different level professional voice users in India- A survey. Asia Pacific Journal of Speech Language and Hearing, 11, 1, 47-53.
Chapman, J. L. (2006). Singing and teaching singing: A holistic approach to classical voice. San Diego, Calif: Plural Publishing.
Deutsch, D. (2013). The Psychology of Music (3rd ed.). San Diego: Elsevier. 
Davies, G. & Jahn, A. F. (1998). Care of the professional voice. Boston: Oxford.
Ravikumar, A., Boominathan, P., & Mahalingam, S. (2010). Clinical voice analysis of Carnatic singers. Proceedings of the 4rth World Voice Congress, Seoul, Korea, pp. 173.
Sataloff, R. T. (1997). Professional Voice: The science and art of clinical care (2nd ed.). San Diego: Singular Publishing.
Zemlin, W. R. (2010). Speech and Hearing Science: Anatomy and physiology (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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Dr. Rajalakshmi Krishna
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836 Replies to “PARAMETERS OF VOICE PRODUCTION

  1. Very good article highliting the importance of maintaining the voice, indicative of greatness of one’s personality, gesture of the speaker, do’s and don’ts, how to impress others by practicing tuning of the voice, how to use voice so nicely.
    I hope this article will help to those who are good orator, artists of any field who require to play with voice if they nurish, take care for their voice.
    Best Wishes.

  2. As noted, the voice is the means of verbal communication. The celebrities are recognised by their voice. Every famous singer in different formats of Music known for their voice delivery, the iconic voices of Sh. Amir Sahani of Binaca Geet malika, the legendary Amitabh Bachchan, and now the most imitated voice of our PM Sh Narendra Modiji are examples of impressive voices, these voices identify the personalities. A reader has already noted how important it is for a celebrity to maintain their voice box.

    An educative article for a common man. The writer has lucidly explained the importance of voice, it’s culturing, the training and practice to attain the mastery, the dos and donts for the care of vocal box. Explained from the medical perspective, the article serves as a self care manual too.
    Waiting for the next article in the series.

  3. A very good article highlighting the importance of safeguarding our voice… which is an asset for a singer as well as an orator.

    It reminded me of an article in a magazine in which the famous singer Shri Yesudas narrated as to how he avoids cool drinks and certain food items before a performance to maintain a clear throat.

    We are also aware how Minmini, the famous singer (who rose to fame with her song ‘chinna chinna aasai’ in the film ‘Roja’) lost her voice in a stage show in London and was unable to speak for several years.

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