A vocal cool down is so important for maintaining a healthy voice, and here's why
A vocal cool down is an essential part of a performers self-care routine, and they often get neglected. If you're a singer, you know what a vocal warmup is - a dedicated series of exercises designed to prepare the voice for singing. Vocal warmups help you get from your "normal" voice to the higher-energy vocal posture needed for efficient vocal performance. A cool down is almost the opposite - they help the voice ease off the "performance setting" and help to reset the voice back to "normal". Both vocal warmups and cool downs are essential components for maintaining a healthy voice.
YOU ARE AN ATHLETE!
Just like any other athletic discipline, there's a balance to be found between training, exercise, warmups, and cool downs, and each must be used in the right proportions to achieve the desired effect. For instance, an athlete training to run a marathon will not start their session until they've stretched out their muscles - warming them up for the high performance task, and easing the muscles into working. If you skip this step you'll be operating your body "cold" and will likely be more susceptible to injury and fatigue. Equally, once the athlete has concluded their training, they don't just lay down and that's that - the athlete might do some gentle stretches, and they might do a period of lower energy tasks to let the muscles return back to normal operation. This process helps the body to return to a normal heart rate and blood pressure, and allows the blood vessels to ease as well.
People often forget that professional voice users are athletes too - it's just the muscles we work with are much smaller and more intricately controlled, but the same principles apply. Whilst a singers heart rate and blood pressure might increase as the vocal tasks become more energised, so does airflow and pressure, the larynx moves around quite a bit in a vertical direction, and the vocal folds will stretch and unstretch quite rapidly depending on the task. The core muscles will also perform similar operations, expanding and contracting as necessary to move air in and out of the body in order to power the sound, and so on.
Again, just like our athlete, we need to ensure we don't keep using our bodies in this high-energy state when we don't need to. It's a waste of energy, can lead to muscle tension, and can have other knock-on effects like hoarseness and vocal fatigue. So, as vocal athletes we need to reset our vocal muscles back to neutral in order to continue with our normal, non-performance, day-to-day life, ultimately helping you become a more conditioned athlete, with more stamina, and with less chance of injury too.
EXAMPLE COOL DOWNS
Here's a great 6 minute vocal cool down we've put together for you to be working with:
As you know, we LOVE straw phonation, so we've designed these cool downs to be used in two different ways, depending on what you're feeling like on the day. If you decide to use a straw for these exercises, make sure you checkout our SOVT Straw for the most efficient vocal cool down you'll ever do!
COOL DOWN #1: 5-1-3-1 Pattern / Fricative Or Straw
🎹 Starting on the 5th, we'll bounce down to the root, then up to the 3rd, then again to the root. This is great, as it lets the voice incrementally relax back it's higher-energy, slightly more "stretchy" vocal placement.
🗣 We'll be using a Voiced Fricative sound here, as they're a type of semi-occluded vocal tract intervention (SOVT), and are incredibly good at creating vocal efficiency and ease. Choose between a buzzy "vvv" or "zzz" sound, ensuring you aim for gentle/normal vocalisation to allow the voice to reset the muscles you use to control pitch.
COOL DOWN #2: 1-2-1-2-1 Pattern / "Huh" Sound or Straw
🎹 We'll be rocking across two notes for this cool down, making sure to smoothly glide from one to the other. This'll help the voice return to normal with minimum effort.
🗣 Aim for a low effort "huh" sound, almost like you're giving a sigh of relief. This'll help decompress the vocal folds, whilst helping you return your airflow and pressure back to a neutral zone.
Optionally, you can do both of these cool downs with an SOVT Straw and some water, allowing the bubbles to help massage the intricate muscles of the voice with air-pressure. This is a go-to especially if you're feeling a little more fatigued than usual, as the straw will help take the load of the vocal folds, allowing them to more easily reset to normal.
It's important to note that for both of these cool downs, you'll want to stick within your comfortable speaking range, and not stretch the voice too high or too low, as you'll be defeating the purpose of cool down, negating its effect.
HOW LONG SHOULD I DO A COOL DOWN FOR?
As vocalists, it is important to have a regular cool-down routine after singing. Your voice will feel better, you might find you're more free from tension, and you should notice an easier transition to normal vocal function. I would recommend running through a simple 5-10 minute vocal cool down routine, relative to how much you've used your voice. If you've finished a 2 show day at the theatre, and you've been singing a 2.5 hour show each time, or you've been giving presentations literally ALL day, perhaps consider a 10 minute cool down - whereas if you've only used your voice a little, you can drop down to around about 5 minutes of cooling down.