Two things I learned from David Howard about the human voice
I went to a talk on the Science of Singing by David Howard recently. He’s a fascinating talker, a bit self-indulgent at times, but highly entertaining. He talked a lot about singing, and a lot of it I already knew, but there are two things I took away which I’d like to share.
First, the reason why you should drink plenty (water) when singing — yes, it’s so your voice stays nicely “lubricated”, but what I had not appreciated is this: the lubrication does not work locally, i.e. it’s not that the water going past your vocal cords keeps them in shape. Instead, your body keeps a global water household and distributes it where it’s needed most. The problem is that the voice comes pretty far down the list compared to other organs like, say, the liver. So unless you’ve got plenty of water in you the body will save first on less vitally important bits such as the vocal cords.
Second, the diaphragm can’t make you breathe out. This is because it’s a muscle, and, in its relaxed state it sits under your lungs, bent upward. When you tense it, it straightens, pulling the lungs open and thus making you breathe in. What makes you breathe out is your abs! They’re needed to push the diaphragm back up.
Well, this article is not science, so I must admit I haven’t tried to look up the real facts, I take them as I remember them from the talk. So if you find I’ve been wrong, let me know.