2018 Report EVTA Voice Clinic - Europa Cantat - Tallinn, Estonia

by EVTA President Susan Yarnall Monks

EVTA were very pleased to offer this new initiative to ECA-Europa Cantat and were invited for the first time to offer a “Voice Clinic” at this amazing Choral Festival with over 100 choirs and 4500 individual singers, plus conductors, composers and music publishers, performing music across cultures, languages and genres.


We had originally thought of calling it a Voice Tent but were advised that Clinic would be more easily understood across the 51 countries taking part. However we did not feel the need for the boxes of throat pastilles so we put them aside, but we were grateful for the small room and keyboard and also for the explanatory page in the Festival Booklet. Having seen the success of this event a larger more prominent room might be more appropriate next time.


Working method

We had straws, a LaxVox tube and water, Pilates rubber band, FlowBalls plus some posters with vowel and consonant placement information using IPA, and books on vocal anatomy and EVTA flyers.


On average we had 20 singers each of the 5 days between 14.00-16.00 but in fact we usually started earlier and finished later so it was an intensive 3 hours! Susan Yarnall-Monks, President of EVTA ran all 5 sessions with the help of  EVTA members Sarah Algoet from Belgium and Antra Jankava from Latvia. 36% were male so there were more women but the young people  18% (under 18) were all female. 60% were under 30 years of age.


Countries represented were Spain, Poland, Portugal, Germany, Israel, Indonesia, France, Estonia, Slovenia, Turkey, Netherlands, Guadeloupe, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland.


We tried to deal with everyone individually but it was not always possible and some people preferred to sit and watch, and some came back the following days to ask more questions. The two teachers worked as a team, with respectfully exchanging different solutions to a challenge but always being open and honest.


We used BelCanto, Estill, CVT and Voice Science knowledge, teaching experience and an understanding what the individual could usefully take away with them, so not overcomplicating any advice, particularly as we stuck to English as our language of communication plus a lot of visual demonstrations. We talked about air pollution, the heat and humidity we were all experiencing etc. We recommended Ingo Titze’s Youtube video using a straw, LaxVox, FlowBall, hydration, nebulisers, and offered variations on the following from the internet.

We stressed to them to trust their own instincts and whatever a singing teacher or a book suggested always make sure that it was working for them, and not in anyway painful.

I decided, as this was a new venture and I wasn't sure how it would develop, to create a form for them to fill in, however sometimes there were so many in the room it was difficult to get accurate numbers and questions. We were not always able to do the quick vocal check list on everyone unfortunately.


Below you will find:

1. The form that I created;

2. Vocal function exercises that we used;

3. A summery of the questions, queries and challenges that participants came up with and our solutions.


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Voice Clinic Tallinn 2018



Name    ……………………………             Age………          Male/Female                      Nationality……………


Vocal Symptoms: (tick which applies to you)

•   Sore throat

•   Back/shoulder pain

•   Vocal discomfort

•   Acid Reflux

•   Dry throat

•   Persistent cough

•   Habitual Voice Loss

•   Tuning

•   Breathing

•   Sight singing concerns/Nerves


Quick Voice Check List

A.     Pitch of speaking voice “home note”  (own language counting 20 backwards)

B.     Vocal range………………….with 5 note fast light runs/glides

C.     Falling sigh (check for breaks or changes of timbre)

D.     Humming position (high or low)

E.      Open throat: Mamma Mia (watching tongue placement)

F.      Posture/Balance

G.     Neck Freedom/Tongue/Jaw

H.     Hip freedom/knees loose

I.      Diet/Sleep/Lifestyle


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“Vocal Function Exercises

The goals for voice exercises are much like those for other physical workouts or even physical therapy. Muscles and structures may be weakened, damaged, or out of coordination. These exercises will speed your recovery and prevent further problems by strengthening the system and helping it be more efficient.


General rules for Vocal Function Exercises

1. Exercises are done 2x each, 2x per day

2. All exercises are done as quietly as possible without breathiness



1. Warm Up Exercise

Sustain the vowel “eee” as quietly as you can for as long as possible on the musical note...

(F) below middle (C) for males

(F) above middle (C) for females

2. Stretching Exercise

Glide from your lowest note to your highest note on the word “knoll” – “whoop” – or – on a tongue or lip trill


3. Contracting Exercise

Glide from your highest note to your lowest note on the word “knoll” – “whoop” – or – on a tongue or lip trill


4. Power Exercise

Sustain the musical notes (C-D-E-F-G) for as long as possible on the word “old” without the /d/.

Goal = ________ seconds (octave below middle (C) for males) (middle (C) for females)


Maintenance Schedule (subjective based on clinical judgment)

Week 1 - All steps 2x each, 2x per day

Week 2 - All steps 2x each, 1x per day

Week 3 - All steps 1x each, 1x per day

Week 4 – Exercise 4 2x each, 1x per day

Week 5 – Exercise 4 1x each, 1x per day

Week 6 - Exercise 4 1x each, 3x per week

Week 7 - Exercise 4 1x each, 1x per week"


Joseph Stemple, Ph.D.: The Blaine Block Institute for Vocal Analysis and Rehabilitation; “Voice Therapy for the Twenty-First Century”


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Questions, queries, challenges

Solutions in summary

Dry throat


Hydration, steaming and nebulser


Vocal discomfort

Whole body perception and understanding of balance and energy


Loss of voice

Rest, sleep, not talking, gentle hums when ready


Persistent coughing

Hydration, steaming, use of nebuliser, check reflexes and suck gentle sweets


back/shoulder pain

Posture/balance, Alexander technique


Breath management (lots of questions and confusions, belly in or belly out????)

Lots of help here with advice on breathing and using videos to improve understanding. Always breathe OUT first so natural breath kicks in with rib swing


Acid Reflux

watch diet, food allergies, hydration, timing of meals before and after singing



Confidence in strength and understanding of how the voice works, so use the extra adrenalin to achieve what you want.


Ageing voice but still wishing to sing at top level choir

Failing an audition in your top choir, is devastating and we tried to restore some confidence and give simple but effective voice function exercises, little and often, use it or lose it, keep singing!


Emerging Tenor, young Baritone?

We had some young men in early twenties just emerging through pubertal changes and noticing more vocal range and needing advice on tackling the new parts of their voices. Such an important area for conductors to understand!


Pubertal changes in females

few of the choral singers really understand how their voices change due to hormones and balance in their bodies. Simple and gentle exercises always watching posture and tightness in jaw.


Menopausal changes in men and women

Quite a few of the older singers were experience vocal changes that they were beginning to be aware of. Ageing bodies need to re-balance and find focus again. Lots of simple balance exercises and renewing confidence!


Information on ‘Support’

Interesting and divers discussions with use of video demonstration on diaphragm movement during breathing.


Improve speaking and singing voice to have more authority

Using the body behind the sound, freeing the voice with movement and dance, using natural resonance.


What is this Voice Clinic all about?

Some people were curious but once they found out we were not that scary they found they did have a question after all!


How to use ‘head voice’ in choir?

Perception of timbres, light glides across range, body balance again.


How to maintain our voice in an intense week like this?

Sleep, less dairy food, less talking if possible, cool downs and rest voice, straw and bubble blowing, loosen lips/jaw etc. Horizontal rest if not sleep!


Hurting and ‘pressure’ in throat when I sing?

Release, posture balance, check not pushing head forward, loosen tongue.


One vocal fold only

gentle glides, hums, breath management.


Voice breaking in later years

renew vocal function exercises, little and often ,just the same as pubertal changes and you can sing into your 90’s!


What to do in my choir when sopranos are on sustained high d/e in Renaissance music?

Passaggio explanation, Use different colours and textures to maintain vitality and attention, always easy.


Low tessiturra for altos- how to improve quality and volume

release and gentle lowering, whole body, resonance, natural response, no pushing.


Singing after having a baby

Balance in pelvic area, gentle glides, renew strength in abdominals. Alexander technique.


Confusion over head and chest voice

general discussion about the meaning of such terms, glides down the scale, release

‘Chest sound has more muscle, head sound has more air feel’


Nodules but no surgery, how best to proceed

gentle glides, voice function, little and often, no pain never


How do I make my voice louder?

use resonance, freedom, natural calling sounds.


Easing my higher notes please?

Jaw tension, posture balance, whole body approach.



Keep up water levels, we need mucus but not too sticky, don’t cough, swallow, no anaesthetising pastilles.


Improving bass notes

Release, open throat, use of resonance.


Ideas for conducting children’s choir for my own voice and the children’s?

Long discussion on children’s voices, recommended Jenevora Williams book on singing with children, suggested rounds, games, fun, movement, expression, and making the rules clear for silence and attention so no conductor loses voice shouting, never!


Interested in vocal exercises

Shared simple exercises emphasizing the need to understand why you are doing them. Noting nothing should hurt!


After flu?

Rest, sleep, hydration, humming gently, glides when you feel able, straw and lax vox to return to normal function. No strong medication that might dry the valuable mucus.


Young voice, tonsils removed, change in timbre

Possible Dramatic soprano, still a young voice, stop singing first tenor, work with a teacher over all your 2 octave range gently.


Tension in throat

ease shoulders and neck, check jaw and posture, gentle glides.


Sore voices after being asked to sing louder in atelier

Take care not to tighten jaw, check posture, freedom in lower body also, sniff-hum, achieve volume through resonance not throat pressure.


How to adapt from free Folk singing style to Classical Choral voice?

Advised exploring Alexander Technique so understanding body posture. Exercising all colours in voice and moving gently between the two.