Vocal coach, composer, music director, and Backstage Expert Andrew Byrne says one of the most important things behind vocal health is taking care of your vestibular system, an integral part of your body. It’s responsible for your sense of hearing, direction, balance, and even immunity.
“The first thing that this system does is that it tells you what to look at, so when you move your head around, you have to know where you are looking, and this [vestibular system] helps keep your vision steady as your head moves around,” Byrne explains. “One of the biggest threats to visual clarity is your own movement, so this system ties in very, very closely with your eyes, as we will go over…. It stabilizes your posture as it will keep you in the right place.”
But how does it inform your voice?
“The point of all this stuff is to use it in your singing,” he continues. “So let’s say, we are doing runs or riffs. This vestibular sense has a lot to do with the rhythmic aspects of singing. So pick a run that you do or a riff, do these drills, and then sing it. See if it feels any easier after you do them. The other thing you can watch is if you watch yourself on video, is: When you sing, are you swaying around, are you turning your feet out? You should try to stand straight and not sway when you are singing. If you see that happening when you record yourself, do the drills beforehand and record yourself again and see if there’s less swinging after.”
Another somewhat surprising benefit to training your vestibular system, particularly through the nation’s current state of isolation, is mental health. Citing a study in 2016, Byrne explains that the pool of college students tested had symptoms of anxiety and depression quelled when all the test did was give them a swing. “They could swing as much as they would like. After about 150 days the people who had used the swing more showed more resilience to anxiety and depressive feelings. And so, when we can’t get out and get into a swing, we can at least do some of these drills, because they are going to do a lot of the same stuff that a swing is going to do.”
Walking through said drills, Bryne sat with Backstage’s new digital video platform, The Slate, to review a number of exercises to help vocalists improve their sense of hearing and immunity. Watch the full video below!
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