Friday, 16 September 2011

Rusting Vocal Chords

This is a not very good photograph of some of the detail of our lovely west window at St. M's.

The backdrop to our choir rehearsals on Friday evenings, in the lighter evenings when the sun is shining through into the gallery where we rehearse this is a really wonderful sight.

After our break (no choir throughout August), there is a tendency for our vocal chords to sound in need of oiling when we recommence for the Autumn, and tonight was no exception.

Only the childrens' voices sound much the same as before the break.  The rest of us need 'tuning'.

As probably the oldest member of the choir, I have at least the excuse of anno domini to explain some of the odder sounds I make.  The rest have no such excuse.
Since we all, without exception use our vocal chords each and every day, (some of us to excess), it is strange that singing makes quite different demands on the vocal equipment.

When I was taught to sing - back in the dark ages - it was made abundantly clear that breathing was the all-important factor in good voice production, but since we all breath, all the time, that would appear to be a
misrepresentation  of the truth.

We breath and we speak, therefore we can all sing, yes?   No!

I am Welsh and it is often said (inaccurately), that all Welsh people can sing.  I would amend that statement to read "all Welsh people do sing".  Some of them quite horribly.

There are times when even I with all my delusions cannot fail to notice a decline in the quality of the sound I make as compared with those of 30 years ago, yet no-one has ever given a satisfactory explanation for the decreasing quality of even the most beautiful of voices.

And why is it that some old people acquire what I call 'budgerigar' voices, which are totally unlike the robust clear tones of younger people?

After considerable thought I have decided it is due to rust, and since rust when found on metal can often be cured by oiling, the logical conclusion is that a weekly throat-spray with WD40 or similar should effect a cure.

If someone out there has a severe case of rust and would like to try my cure I would be happy to publish the result.

Any takers?


  1. I love the idea of budgerigar voices and a can of WD40 - they're both for me as my breathing has totally gone to pot. Seriously, though, I used to have a decent voice and loved leading the congregation in hymn singing. Since my TIAs this is no longer possible and is a real loss. Never mind, I sing in my head instead.

  2. Hi Freda
    I'm so sorry to hear you can no longer sing. As you say, that is indeed a loss.
    Having had two services today - the usual one at ten am, and another RAF one this afternoon - I am so very glad still to be able to sing (after a fashion).
    Two full sung services, with two anthems is a lot of singing at my age, but the chance to do so has kept me sane over the past two years.
    Can nothing be done to improve your lung capacity?
    Blessings, and go easy on the WD40.

  3. Love your sense of humor!

    Doesn't WD40 cure everything? If not, I'm certain chocolate will :)

  4. Yes Kathleen of course it would.
    Have you ever tried to sing after eating chocolate?

  5. Being a trained singer I find myself quite shocked to realise the need for lubricant and the paucity of warming up that lays seige to my voice.

    Still, I also make the congregations suffer because I can do three lines to their one when it comes to breathing and I hadn't realised that either.

    This post has led me to promise my voice some warming up and a few exercises during the week. As for the WD? I seem to recall there was an alcoholic substitute on offer in the green room ;-)

    Good post - keep on singing!


  6. Hi Vic
    Like you, I find that the early training has given me extra lung capacity and I too only need to take a breath for every half dozen the others take.
    Lack of 'warming-up' however, is a serious matter and a few weeks without practice can have disastrous results.
    Alcohol is not recommended by anyone but for some reason, I always find i can sing better after communion. Can't think why.

  7. I'm late to this conversation, but, regarding alcohol, the large choir at my home parish always has champagne between the 7:30 and 10:30 Christmas Eve services. THEY always claim that they sound better at 10:30!

    I used to sing quite a lot and not as much now and have noticed, too, that I am getting rusty. This is a good reminder that I ought to practice more!

  8. Hmmmnn! Sounds like proof to me. Seriously though alcohol is really reckoned to be detrimental to the vocal chords so I'll stick with the tiny sip of communion wine and lots and lots of practice.

  9. :-) this made me smile.
    I also love singing but rarely get the opportunity. I feel very self-conscious when amongst a congregation and when I try to sing with my daughters (one who is generally off key & the other crystal clear but both much higher than my alto) I also find I get embarrassed & then sing very out of tune!

  10. You sound a perfect candidate for the choir Shona.
    Go on, give it a try.
    If it sounds too awful you have the advantage of knowing you are in the process of emigrating so there can be no come-back!