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World Voice Day Melbourne, 2015, with the Australian Voice Association

World Voice Day 2015

On Thursday 16th of April I had the pleasure of being a part of World Voice Day 2015, at the Australian Voice Association’s Melbourne event. In the beautiful setting of Library on the Dock, about 40 attendees, mostly choral singers, came to learn about vocal anatomy & health.

My fellow presenters included ENT surgeon Dr. Amanda Richards, and speech pathologist Meaghan Sullivan, both of whom gave informative & entertaining presentations on vocal anatomy & health.

I particularly enjoyed Meaghan’s idea of the “vocal bucket”. Even if you have good vocal technique, your vocal folds are muscles like any other in the body, and they can be fatigued from overuse. You have a “bucket” of vocal use on any given day, and when you use your voice you are filling it up, and it can overflow.

Singing is more taxing on the voice than speaking, because it usually involves taking your voice higher than your usual speech pitch; the higher the pitch produces by the vocal folds, the faster they are vibrating – they collide with each other hundreds of times a second, so going higher fills up your vocal bucket faster!

Before the event I wasn’t quite sure what the other presenters would be including in their presentations, so I decided to keep my speech, at the start of the event, away from vocal anatomy, leaving that to the medical professionals. I focused more on something which I see commonly in so many singers – the shying away from identifying oneself as “a singer”, despite doing a lot of singing!

Do you sing or play music and not consider yourself a singer or a musician? Do you feel there is a requirement of some kind you have to have – qualifications, earning money, amount of time spent doing it – to call yourself a singer/musician? Did this “requirement” come from something someone else told you, or just from your own head? Is it completely arbitrary? I am putting together a video presentation about this topic, so stay tuned for that!

At the end of the evening, after Meaghan and Amanda had given their presentations, I finished the event with a couple of quick interactive exercises, talking about the useful concept of Effort Numbering which I learned through the Estill model, and how it can apply to things such as “mouth effort” and “breath effort vs vocal effort”. This part of my presentation was not planned and as such felt a little rushed and underprepared, but the audience seemed to enjoy it nonetheless!

In retrospect, I would have liked to teach the assembled singers about the false vocal folds and how to retract them; but I also didn’t want to keep everyone sitting & listening too long at that time of the evening when they’d already absorbed a lot of information. Ah well, save it for next time!

It was a lovely evening, thankyou so much to the Australian Voice Association for asking me to be a part of it, thankyou to Amanda & Meaghan for your fantastic presentations, and thankyou to everyone who came along and participated and asked questions!

Click here for a review of the event written by Jason from the Melbourne Contemporary Choir.

Top 10 Tips For A Healthy Voice (Australian Voice Association)

Further to my last post about the Australian Voice Association’s national seminar – here is one of their resources, a poster which is now on my wall – their top ten tips for a healthy voice.  These apply equally to speech as they do to singing… if you’d like to download your own PDF copy of the poster, click here.

australian voice assocation top 10 tips for a healthy voice

Australian Voice Association’s National Seminar; and a strange use for an iPhone…

To the right is a photo of my vocal folds (aka vocal cords).  They are in the act of phonating (vibrating together, creating sound).  How this photo was taken may surprise you – read on to find out more!
vocal folds iPhone endoscopy larynx
 
I consider myself a huge “voice nerd”; basically I can’t get enough of learning about the voice.  While reading good voice books is a great way to do this (I’m currently enjoying studying “Is Your Voice Telling On You?” by Daniel R. Boone). 

 

They say you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with; I’m sure this is true professionally, too.  One of my favourite quotes is:
“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”
So in early November, I took myself into a room full of medically qualified voice experts.

 

The Australian Voice Association is a great organisation which brings together vocal professionals from all areas & disciplines; primarily speech pathologists (aka speech therapists), and otolaryngologists (aka Ear, Nose & Throat surgeons or ENTs), as well as singers, vocal coaches & singing teachers like myself.  On Thursday 6th November they held their national satellite seminar at the lovely Baha’i Centre in Hobart.

 

We enjoyed presentations of research, an interactive workshop introduction to Alexander Technique by local practitioner & physiotherapist Elke Rudolph (fascinating stuff which I hope to study further, as I believe it can be of great assistance to any singers), and I sat on a discussion panel with an ENT and speech pathologist to discuss voice disorders in children after fascinating presentations on the subject by Dr Daniel Novakovic (ENT) and Dr Estella Ma, Associate Professor at Hong Kong University.

 

There were several presentations from different voice experts to the whole group, as well as smaller group discussions on specific topics.  Later in the evening we enjoyed a reception at Government House including some lovely performances.

 

At dinner afterwards some mischief occurred – pictured is Dr. Daniel Novakovic “scoping” my vocal folds using the highly scientific tool of my iPhone 5S, over the dinner table, much to the amusement of the assembled company (and the folks at the tables around us).  Don’t try this at home, kids – remember that Dr. Novakovic is a qualified medical professional!

 

iphone endoscopy australian voice association

 

The footage he took was remarkably clear – you can see it below:

 

 

In December, I was in Sydney while on tour with Damon Albarn, so I went in to see Dr. Novakovic in his office, and we did a proper endoscopy examination, both oral and nasal.  We did take some footage as I demonstrated various vocal techniques and sounds, and this may be released online at some point.

 

It was wonderful to attend the AVA seminar and connect with many great voice experts, both ENTs and speech pathologists (many of whom are also singers), and learn more about this fascinating instrument of ours and how to take care of it.  I look forward to the next one!