As teachers and musicians, we must also focus on keeping our voices healthy. This is true of both singers and instrumentalists. As music teachers, we frequently partake in behaviors that can be detrimental to our voices if not handled properly.
Keys to taking care of your voice:
- Stay hydrated! Keep a water bottle with you to sip from throughout the school day.
- Warm-up your voice daily. Humming, light singing, and simple vocal exercises are perfect for this. Doing your warm-up in the car on the way to school or while setting up your classroom in the morning.
- Consider using amplification. Many of us have large spaces and large groups, so using a microphone can be a great way to be heard without straining your voice.
- Do not talk over the students! This is good teaching practice and a great way to take care of your voice.
- If your voice is fatigued, rest it. Vocal fatigue can come from extended amounts of singing, yelling or shouting, or even excessive coughing and clearing your throat.
- Allergies, asthma, and acid reflux can all contribute to vocal problems. Talk to your doctor if you notice an issue with any of these medical conditions.
Interested in learning more about taking care of your voice? Here are some resources:
Just as musicians must take care of their voices, hearing protection is also vital. In a study conducted by Joseph Pisano from Grove City College, 86% of band directors showed some degree of noise-induced hearing loss (Hearing Loss in Music Teachers A Widespread Problem). Since hearing loss typically occurs gradually, over time, many do not realize it’s happening until it has become a big problem.
What causes hearing loss for many music teachers?
- Prolonged exposure to unsafe decibel levels, from loud instruments, small spaces, and/or a large numbers of students
- Improper use of headphones or earbuds (volume too loud)
What can we do about it?
- Use a sound meter to read the overall noise level in your classroom. There are many models available, including several apps. Set it up in various areas in your classroom to determine the levels you are exposed to and what your students are exposed to (such as the students who sit in front of the percussion section!) Continuous exposure over 85 decibels shows that hearing protection would be wise.
- Invest in a good pair of earplugs. While the inexpensive foam inserts will work, look for a pair that will reduce the high intensity sounds without distorting the music or eliminating the softer sounds.
- When using headphones or earbuds, avoid turning the volume up too loud. Many people do this to block the external noise. A better solution is noise isolating earbuds, which will block the ambient noise, allowing you to listen at safer levels.
- Hear for a Lifetime: Protecting Musicians Most Important Asset, by Dr. Mead Killion
- Preventing Hearing Loss in Music Teachers and Other Musical Professionals Using Technology, by Chad Criswell
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