Why Vocal Fitness Training?What Vocal Fitness Means for Your Voice
The Singer as Athlete
Some years ago, Jane was working with a personal trainer. One day she realized that the work that she was doing with her students was similar to the sessions she was taking with her trainer. The only difference is that the muscles engaged for vocal production are much smaller than those larger groups you would train at the gym. This makes vocal exercise an athletic activity, since muscles are being moved, stretched, conditioned, and strengthened.
She named her voice studio Vocal Fitness Training, LLC to reflect the focus on the progressive muscle training of the vocal instrument. She re-engineered the curriculum’s focus, creating an entirely new paradigm for her students as they came to realize that the results of proper vocal exercise is not a hit or miss proposition, but a progressive retooling of muscle memory and vocal habits.
Vocal Fitness for All Styles of Singing
For many years, vocal instruction focused on formal training of the voice for classical music. Vocal music that did not fall into that category was generally labeled nonclassical, and included such genres as musical theater, pop, rock, folk, country, jazz, and blues. Recently, many singers are adopting the term Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM) for these styles of singing as a group. There has been recent acknowledgment that these singing styles deserve attention from voice teachers, and many have begun to teach, research, and develop vocal techniques to address them.
Much of the style of CCM is speech based, with the theatricality of the music demanding a naturally produced vocal sound. If you are a CCM singer, you are already aware of the kinds of vocalizations expected, such as twang in country music. Muscle conditioning and vocal fitness are the focuses of this technique, without a bias toward any one genre of singing; it is intended to give you a strong vocal foundation upon which you can build your vocal style.
For those who sing musical theater, it is necessary to have a strong vocal foundation to be able to switch between the varied styles of singing required. If you are fortunate enough to get a job on the Broadway stage, you will need to have the vocal stamina, technique, and strength to sustain performing effectively in eight shows per week. Your first order of business is to train your instrument so that it is strong and supported by a healthy and reliable vocal technique.
Other CCM performers will need stamina, too, if they perform gigs of three or four sets a night, or long concert tours. Acquiring vocal training, and practicing proper vocal exercise is the cornerstone of healthy vocal production that will serve the demands of your performing life.
The Vocal Fitness Philosophy
Progressive Muscle Training
Regardless of your level of experience, the overall design of Vocal Fitness Training will teach vocal technique efficiently. You will not find fancy or complicated exercises. Rather, the scales and tunes of the exercises are simple so that you can focus on learning how to do them properly for the best outcome.
Remember, by deliberately focusing on progressive muscle training, Vocal Fitness Training goes beyond the traditional approach to teaching singing. When you look at it this way, it creates an entirely new paradigm of the process employed to improve your voice. By shifting the idea of vocal training to something tangible and attainable, it changes your understanding of what is possible. Confidence emerges as you gain an understanding of what steps you will take to improve your vocal production.
Developing Stamina and Strength
Unfortunately, many singers are frustrated with vocal problems and may fall victim to maladies such as injury, vocal strain, hoarseness, and even voice loss. A properly trained voice, on the other hand, can support the physical demands placed on it and avoid those problems. Would you play a sport without having trained your body to maintain a level of conditioning and endurance? Of course not! The same holds true with singing. You must properly prepare the parts of your body involved in vocal production so your voice is strong, healthy, and reliable.
The Athletic Approach
Vocal exercise is an athletic activity, since you are moving, stretching, conditioning, and strengthening muscles. The difference between singing and working out is that the muscles engaged for vocal production are much smaller than those larger groups you would train at the gym (e.g., quadriceps, biceps, or hamstrings). The focus is the same though, because we are also training for strength, stamina, endurance, and flexibility.
Well-trained muscles for singing easily produce clear tones throughout the range, improve the overall stamina of the voice, and bring the entire instrument into balance. However, like working out at the gym, you must regularly practice the exercises with the correct form and execution to realize these kinds of measurable results.
It is vitally important to understand that in order to strengthen and isolate specific muscles for singing, you must make sure that the form for the exercise is correct, including such things as lip posture, mouth shape, and tongue position. If your form and position is incorrect for any type of body exercise, there is risk for injury or for incomplete, ineffective, and inadequate muscle movement. The same thing holds true with vocal exercise. As long as the vocal instrument and its muscles are in proper alignment and balance during the exercise, there is less opportunity for either injury or poor vocal production.
Body-Weight and Resistance Training
Our goal is to stretch, strengthen, and engage the vocal-production muscle systems in a physical workout, but it does require a different approach than for other parts of the body. When we work out at the gym, we can challenge our muscles by using additional weights and resistance, such as dumbbells.
Certainly, we do not have any external weights we can use to train the muscles that operate our vocal instrument! However, there is an alternative—body-weight exercise. Using the body for strength training is a common approach widely used in traditional fitness workouts. Push-ups and squats are good examples of this, as they use the body’s own weight to place force on the muscle to improve its strength. Vocal Fitness Training’s exercises use an approach similar to body-weight resistance training by challenging the right muscles and moving them through their full range of motion.
There are three distinct muscle groups that need our attention:
- Muscles used for the articulation of the vocal sound (tongue, lips, etc.)
- Muscles of the larynx and throat (including the vocal cords)
- Muscles used for respiration (rib, abdominal, diaphragm, etc.)
You can move some of these muscles intentionally, but you will have to learn to release others, so that their own unique movements will cause them to strengthen. These include, but are not limited to, the internal and external laryngeal and respiratory muscles. Vocal exercises, when done properly, will indirectly and reflexively move, stretch, and strengthen these muscles in coordination with vocalization.
With this approach, the muscles that you intentionally exercise create freedom for the others and encourage coordination of all three groups simultaneously. As you might imagine, it is very important to know where to focus your efforts in order to receive the best possible benefit, and Vocal Fitness Training’s exercises will guide you through this process.
I am so grateful I found Jane Edgren as my voice teacher. I didn’t know what to expect when I came to my first lesson, but I found myself very surprised. She is very professional and friendly, and had lessons planned out for weeks in advance based on her book of specialized vocal technique. I would definitely recommend the book, as it was very informative and gave me insight on the reasoning behind her techniques and their importance. There is detail about the concepts and lessons so that you know why you’re doing something a certain way. Very helpful!
I came in as a struggling singer. I didn’t have consistency in my voice and felt that at times I would sing well, and then other times I wouldn’t be able to control my voice. I also would hurt my throat a lot when I sang, because I loved to belt out. When I sang for her the first time, she made me feel very comfortable and although I know I needed a lot of improvement from that mini performance… she encouraged me and gave me hope that we can work through it.
Today, I can say… I feel much more confident with my voice. With learning how to control it and developing my own sound, I am falling in love with how it sounds, as her techniques have helped me to strengthen the consistency in my voice.
Her belief in my voice has encouraged me and has made me so excited for hearing what my voice will grow into. I still have a lot more to learn, but I know with her teaching and experience… I’m in the best hands. Love her!