Vocal Massage

What is Vocal Massage?

Singing places great demands on the body which can throw the alignment of the posture out by tensing and straining muscles. This forces the singer to adjust the position of their pelvis and neck. Any adjustment made will affect the singer’s breath capacity and best breath management.

Over time it will shorten muscles if they are kept in a contracted position. Vocal Massage can help release and lengthen these muscles again, bring the body back into alignment, and let you sing with more ease.

In a Vocal Massage the muscles most relevant to singers (see Anatomy of the Voice section) are addressed. Each vocal massage is different as it is customised to the individual singer. After a postural assessment and discussion of problems you may be experiencing, a treatment plan will be agreed upon.

I will treat muscles around the hips, diaphragm, upper torso, shoulders and neck and work on them as needed. Myofascial technique (see Massage Techniques) is used around the larynx as it is very gentle, non-invasive and effective for this area.

I also use trigger point work on ‘knots’ in the neck and jaw muscles. I will identify how the jaw is tracking and may massage muscles in the mouth (using gloves). Passive and active stretches are great for the neck and mobilisation of the shoulders and can be performed at home between treatments.

Benefits of Vocal Massage

I believe that singers need to look at themselves as professional athletes in an increasingly competitive and physically demanding field. The potential performance capability of a singer is determined not only by their talent and training but also the condition of their voice, body and their emotional state.

Massage can help to release contracted muscles, relax the singer and build resilience and stamina by:

  • Establishing and maintaining the best posture for breath support and muscle use when singing. This enables the vocal and breathing mechanisms to function at optimal capacity.
  • Balancing the central nervous system, releasing endorphins, improving emotional wellbeing and reducing stress. This also helps to alleviate fatigue on the body, mind and voice. Hormones released by stress constrict blood vessels, inhibiting circulation. A stressed mind and body makes the heart work harder. Breathing becomes rapid and shallow and digestion slows. Nearly every body process is degraded. In fact, researchers have estimated 80% of disease is stress related.
  • Releasing muscle tension and stiffness around the neck, jaw, tongue and larynx which helps the singer produce the best possible phonation, resonance and articulation of sounds.
  • Keeping the larynx in a normal, relaxed position in the neck rather than being elevated or depressed by constricted neck muscles.
  • Hastening recovery from illness and injury and by increasing the flow of lymph (eliminating waste from the tissues) which also boosts the immune system.
  • Lowering heart rate, blood pressure, increasing blood circulation, relaxing muscles, and mobilizing muscles and joints.
  • Increasing endurance and muscle recovery rates by eliminating irritation from waste. By helping reduce fatigue and quickening recovery, massage enables more productive singing, and longer, more effective sessions.

If we owned an oboe worth $1000s we would pack it up correctly, keep it oiled and dry, check the positions of the screws and the condition of the wood. We would have it regularly maintained by a professional to investigate areas of wear and tear and possible need for repair.

Why, as singers, would we not take the same care with our ‘instrument’?

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