Vocal cords, or vocal folds as they are more properly known, are what allow us to control the sounds that come out of our mouths. For professional singers, vocal cords need to be maintained in top condition so that they can perfectly control the pitch of their voice while performing. Like any muscle group, practice can help strengthen the control of your vocal cords. There are a wide variety of vocal cord exercises that can be done to improve your voice or help you recover from vocal cord dysfunction or injury.
The first exercise starts with a yawn. You need to open your mouth as wide as possible. By stretching your arms out, the movement will become more natural in some people. When you have finished exhaling, bring the tip of your tongue to the bottom of your mouth and take in a deep breath. On exhaling the second time you want to make the “ahhhh” sound as if you are letting go a sigh for about four seconds. The sound should come from deep within the throat, and you need to be careful to continue to make the sound throughout the exhale.
This process should be repeated at least ten times. The sounds should be done as softly as possible. It is much more important that you pay attention to the sound itself, rather than trying to strive for a loud volume. When the exercise is finished, the throat should feel very open.
The next exercise exercise starts with a deep breath taken in from your belly. This time on the exhale you will make the “oo…” sound like in stool. You should also form an “O” with your lips when exhaling the sound out. Again, the emphasis here is on form and not volume. The sound should be as low as possible. Make the sound for approximately 10 seconds.
Next, relax the cheeks and breath in through your mouth and nose. The breath should be intense enough to slightly press out the cheeks. If done correctly, you will notice the vibration in your lips. Once the breath is taken in, make the “oo” sounds again as in the first step. Repeat this exercise ten times.
The next exercise is slightly different from the last one. Again, you will begin with a deep abdominal breath. This time when blowing out you want to keep your lips together, protruding slightly from your mouth. The cheeks and lips should be relaxed as much as possible. From this position, you will make the “brrrr” sound as if you are freezing cold. You should feel the rapid vibration of the sound against your lips. Take in a deep breath as before and then repeat. Do this exercise ten separate times.
The next exercise will work within a larger range of sound. You want to start with the lowest pitched sound that you can make with your voice, and gradually work your way to the highest pitched sound that you can make. The sound you will be making this time while changing pitch is “whoop-puh” with most of the emphasis on the “whoop” while scaling up the pitch. Again, the sound should be soft with an emphasis on precise form. Ideally there should be no pause in the voice as one climbs up towards a higher pitch.
Repeat the previous exercise ten different times. When finished, reverse the process. This time you want to start with a high pitch and work down to the lowest pitch. Say the word “boom” this time. This should also be completed ten times with an emphasis in keeping the sound continuous, as before.
The above exercises help you to gain better control of your voice, and are especially good for singers. However, if your vocal cords ever become physically injured you might need some additional exercises to help to restore the function.
One of the best ways of strengthening weakened vocal cords is to repeat words starting with vowels (such as “Easter”, “old”, and “air”) over and over. Repeating “Ah, Ah, Ah” ten times in a row, putting a hard emphasis on the first word can help to strengthen your vocal cords. In addition, saying “Ah” once with a sharp voice as well as a very prolonged “Ah….” for about 10 seconds will also help. Ideally each of these exercises should be done ten times in a row for three times per day if suffering from weakened vocal cords.
Learning to relax the throat is also important to recover from some vocal cord injuries. This is particularly important for people who have conditions such as vocal cord dysfunction where the cords tighten up on an inward breath, mimicking the symptoms of asthma.
To practice relaxing the vocal cords, start on your back with your feet touching the floor. Concentrate on relaxing your upper body, particularly your head, shoulders, and throat. Inhale slowly in through the nostrils and exhale through slightly pursed lips making a “shhhh” sound. Make sure to be cognizant of your abdomen to gauge the breath as you perform this exercise. After doing it on the floor, try it in different postures while seated.
Your vocal cords can exercised like other voluntary muscles in your body. Whether you are a singer looking for a more melodious voice or a person who has suffered severe trauma to the throat, you can use the techniques outlined in this article to improve the function of your voice box.
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