Monday, June 03, 2024

Choir leaders and singers: how do you know when you’re overdoing it and need to stop?

I wrote recently about Why your throat might be sore after singing. One of the reasons can be overuse. You’re just doing too much.

photo by Lee Haywood

But how can you spot when you’re in danger of doing too much so you can stop in time? Here are three ideas that might help.

We all overdo it from time to time. We get involved in something so much that we don’t notice when we’re over our limit. It’s only when we stop that we might realise that our throat is sore or we’re very tired or our legs hurt.

The difficulty is that, when we’re truly focused on something, there’s no space in our brains or attention to check in with ourselves. It’s only when it’s too late that we tend to notice.

Here are three ideas that may help you look after yourself and your voice better.

1. time-limit the task at hand
Whether it’s leading a choir or singing, decide in advance how long is sensible (based on previous experience) to do that particular activity. Then stop, or take a break. You might sit down for a while, give the choir a tea break, or not sing the next song while you rest (even though everyone else is singing). You need to be disciplined to look after yourself even though you might be the odd one out.

2. train yourself to check in regularly with your own body
You can practice shifting your focus (from singing or choir leading) every now and then to quickly run a check: any tension? soreness? aching? This takes a lot of practice since your tendency will be to fully focus on the task at hand rather than your own body, but it is possible. As soon as you notice any problems creeping in then stop or take a break.

3. do the same thing differently
If you always notice that your throat gets sore when you sing, even if you limit the time you do it, then it’s time to try a different technique. If leading your choir for a two-hour rehearsal wipes you out for the next few days, you could reduce the rehearsal time or try leading using less energy. Find different ways of doing the same thing that will help to preserve your energy. See Energy conservation for singing leaders: how not to get carried away and No energy? Sing different, sing better!

What do you do to prevent yourself from overdoing things? I’d love to hear from you.

Chris Rowbury


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