The Throat Doctor: Vocal Function Exercises by Françoise P. Chagnon and Ruth Gesser
/ February 1, 1998
Vocal sound originates from a complex and
dynamic interaction of various muscles throughout the body, and
voice professionals may not be aware of the association between
physical fitness and vocal health. The benefits of an exercise
program are manifold: increased cardio-respiratory endurance,
muscular strength, flexibility, and muscular coordination. A variety
of exercises have been designed for vocal performers and singers.
Attention should be given to posture alignment as well as to neck,
shoulder, breathing and jaw exercises before focusing on the vocal
muscles. A general exercise program, emphasizing endurance and
flexibility, raises awareness of sites of muscular tension,
maximizes airflow for breathing, and leads to a more efficient use
of energy during speaking and singing.
The words "vocal function exercises" refer
to a series of exercises designed to strengthen the laryngeal
musculature and to balance airflow, muscular activity and
supraglottic placement of tone. The series incorporates the
principles of exercise physiology, e.g. it contains both isometric
(static) and isotonic (dynamic) exercises.
Vocal function exercises consist of four
Sustain /i/ as long as possible on a comfortable note.
Glide from the lowest to the highest note in the frequency range,
Glide from the highest to the lowest note in the frequency range,
again using /o/.
4. Adductory Power Exercises. Sustain the notes C, D, E, F, and G (still using /o/)
as long as possible. Middle C for females, one octave below for
The exercises should be done twice in a row,
as softly as possible, with easy onset and forward placement of
tone. The optimum frequency is 5-6 times per week, with a 6-8 week
program providing the greatest physiological improvement.
Regular, short periods of exercising are
preferable to occasional long sessions. Although these exercises are
designed to maintain a healthy voice and prevent problems, they
should never be seen as a substitute for voice therapy. You should
seek professional advice before starting on a vocal exercise
program, especially in the presence of throat discomfort or a change
in voice quality.
For further information regarding vocal function
exercises, read "The Value of Vocal Function Exercises in the
Practice Regimen of Singers", by Juliana Wrycza Sabol, Linda Lee and
Joseph C. Stemple in the Journal of Voice, Volume 9, Number 1, 1995, pp. 27–36.
Ruth Gesser is the Speech Language
Pathologist at the Montreal General