UWG is committed to the health and safety of its students, faculty, and staff. The following resources and information are provided to inform musicians about the general maintenance of hearing, vocal and musculo-skeletal health, and injury prevention.
In order to establish and nurture a climate of musical health promotion:
- All program personnel are encouraged to follow good musical health guidelines as posted on this guide.
- Applied and Ensemble faculty may include musicians’ wellness information within the course syllabus, and/or discuss wellness in lessons, rehearsals, or studio class.
- Students are encouraged to discuss musical health concerns with faculty involved (e.g., applied teachers, ensemble conductors). Further, anyone with musical health concerns should see an appropriate healthcare specialist related to their particular injury. These resources can be accessed on campus at Health Services or with their private healthcare provider.
- Students who experience music-related disabilities that require further accommodations need to obtain a Student Accommodations Request (SAR) from Counseling Services.
Hearing health is essential to your lifelong success as a musician. Noise-induced hearing loss is largely preventable. You must avoid overexposure to loud sounds, especially for long periods of time. The closer you are to the source of a loud sound, the greater the risk of damage to your hearing mechanisms. Risk of hearing loss is based on a combination of sound or loudness intensity (measured in decibels (dB)) and duration. Recommended maximum daily exposure times (NIOSH) to sounds at or above 85 dB are as follows:
- 85 dB (vacuum cleaner, MP3 player at 1/3 volume) – 8 hours
- 90 dB (blender, hair dryer) – 2 hours
- 94 dB (MP3 player at 1/2 volume) – 1 hour
- 100 dB (MP3 player at full volume, lawnmower) – 15 minutes
- 110 dB (rock concert, power tools) – 2 minutes
- 120 dB (jet planes at take-off) – without ear protection, sound damage is almost immediate
Sounds over 85 dB (your typical vacuum cleaner) in intensity pose the greatest risk to your hearing. Certain behaviors (controlling volume levels in practice and rehearsal, avoiding noisy environments, turning down the volume) reduce your risk of hearing loss. Be mindful of those MP3 earbuds. See chart above. According to the most recent research, controlling volume by playing with a variety of dynamic ranges is one of the best ways to protect your hearing in any practice or performance environment, regardless of room size. The use of earplugs and earmuffs helps to protect your hearing health in cases where you cannot control volume (e.g., performances of loud music), but is not as effective as. Foam earplugs are recommended for your use in loud situations. Brass and percussion players may want to invest in custom molded earplugs.
Day-to-day decisions can impact your hearing health, both now and in the future. Since sound exposure occurs in and out of school, you also need to learn more and take care of your own hearing health on a daily basis. If you are concerned about your personal hearing health, contact Health Services.
Neuromusculoskeletal health is essential to your lifelong success as a musician. Practicing and performing music is physically demanding, and musicians are susceptible to numerous neuromusculoskeletal disorders. Some musculoskeletal disorders are related to behavior; others are genetic; still others are the result of trauma or injury. Some genetic conditions can increase a person’s risk of developing certain behavior-related neuromusculoskeletal disorders. However, many of these are preventable or treatable. Following are tips to stay healthy:
- Warm up physically, away from the instrument, as well as musically, before playing. Stretch when taking a break or when finished. Do not stretch when cold.
- Maintain proper body alignment and balance. Your applied teacher and classes such as yoga, Alexander, Feldenkrais, and Body Mapping can be of aid in this.
- Take regular breaks during practice and rehearsal. 10 minutes out of every hour of practice is recommended for healthy musicians.
- Make sure your equipment fits you. Most instruments can be modified to the player's needs in some way--whether by moving a key, adding a thumb pad, etc.
- Avoid sudden increases in practice times.
- Know your body and its limits, and avoid “overdoing it.”
- Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, eat a diet of colorful, non-processed foods, and drink 6-8 glasses of water a day.
If you experience pain from playing or singing that does not go away or get better within 48 hours, you should make an appointment with a medical professional at Health Services. If you are concerned about your neuromusculoskeletal health in relationship to your program of study, speak with your applied teacher first.
Maintaining a healthy voice while singing or teaching is important to ensure a long and healthy career. There is no better time to get to know what works for you than while you’re in school. Here are five tips to get you started:
- Speak well. Singers are trained to sing well, not speak well. Often their singing voices are healthier than their speaking voices. All musicians need to speak well, particularly those who teach. Spend 10 minutes or so on vocalization before beginning to speak each day. Sing your favorite and easiest vocalizations to warm your speaking voice first thing in the morning. You’ll likely discover that your speaking tessitura will be optimal, have more resonance, and be more resistant to fatigue. Avoid screaming, shouting, and chronic coughing or throat-clearing.
- Warm up to warm up. That is, before exercising the extremes of your voice, begin by vocalizing in your most comfortable octave at a comfortable dynamic. Once the voice feels easy, flexible and “warmed” (perhaps after about 10 minutes), then begin to expand outward into your low and high registers.
- Avoid smoking, vaping, and alcohol. Consult a laryngologist (or www.ncvs.org/rx.html or www.herbmed.org) regarding any medications or supplements you’re taking and how they might be affecting your voice.
- Hydrate. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day, maintain an allergen-free sleeping environment, buy a hygrometer for your bedroom and keep the humidity level around 35-40%.
- See your doctor. Particularly if you are a singer, find a laryngologist near you and schedule a wellness visit when your voice is in top form. Ask that he or she take a headshot and video of your vocal folds and request a personal copy. This visual is helpful for comparisons when you’re not feeling your best or when traveling and seeing a voice doctor away from home.
If you are concerned about your vocal health in relationship to your program of study, consult your applied voice teacher first. Contact Health Services if you experience chronic issues related to your vocal health.
Mental Health: 21 self-help suggestions
- Take on a Coping Attitude - Although you are unlikely to change all of the problem areas of your life, you will always be able to control how you cope with them. A coping attitude focuses on the choices we have available to us, even if we choose to do nothing at all.
- Learn to Learn - Understand that productive living is achieved through the application of living skills, and all skills can be learned. Concentrate your efforts on learning new, positive skills.
- Hear What Your Body is Telling You - Physical symptoms such as headaches, back pain, and stomach irritation can be signs of chronic stress. Let your body be an HMO for good emotional and physical health.
- Learn How To Use Relaxation Techniques - Meditation, imagery, and muscular relaxation can all help to reduce the stress of a fast-paced lifestyle. Choose a technique that fits you and be aware of its importance to your healthy existence.
- Respect Your Feelings - Feelings can help guide and motivate us to change problem areas. Feelings deserve attention and validation.
- Benefit from Your Thoughts - Thinking guides your behavior. Thinking things out helps us decide if and how we shall act on our feelings. Thinking is a skill which can be developed.
- Practice Assertion - Just be yourself. Begin to recognize your thoughts and feelings, pay attention to what they are telling you. Express yourself in an open and straightforward fashion. This will increase the likelihood of others understanding you as well as your feeling understood.
- Confide in a Friend - Let yourself share your thoughts and feelings with others whom you trust. If it is difficult for you to share feelings, tell them. Friendship and social support can be very helpful during life crisis.
- Give Change a Chance - Express your real feelings. Allow yourself to experience some anxiety—it motivates change. Trust your counselor—he/she is there to help you.
- Come Face to Face With Your Problems - As difficult as it might seem, confronting problems can provide opportunities for change and greater awareness. Try to view your problems as challenges which will ultimately improve your life.
- Attempt to Solve Your Problems - Answers to life problems require consideration and the weighing of alternate solutions. There is seldom one simple, correct answer. Observe how valued others solve their problems. Remember to assume a “coping” attitude. Solving problems is a skill that improves with practice.
- Act on Your Solutions - Decide what action you are going to take even if you aren’t sure about the results. Consider coming to some resolution of your dreams as well as your problems.
- Make Mistakes - Attempt to learn from your mistakes. Remember that mistakes reflect behaviors not your personality, so just because you make a mistake doesn’t mean you are one. Allow yourself to take risks and realize that making mistakes is a normal part of life.
- Employ a Self-Help - Develop a list of things to do which will help you feel better when feeling disturbed or helpless. Consider things which have been helpful in similar situations. Some suggestions are exercising, a soothing shower or bath, talking with a trusted friend, watching a movie, etc. Be sure to keep the list with you in case you need to use it. Maintain and upgrade the list as you begin to explore new ways of helping yourself cope with adversity.
- Concentrate On Yourself - Know what your needs are and respect them. Allow yourself space to be creative. Try new things to make life exciting. Make a point to indulge yourself on occasion. Even little things like getting a massage or going out to dinner can make you feel better.
- Respect Others - Recognize and pay attention to the needs of others. Kindness breeds kindness. It is likely that if you show love to others they will reciprocate. Caring sometimes involves taking risks.
- Plan Goals for Your Future - Know where you are going. Develop a list of objectives and create a general time line for their achievement. Imagine what your life will be like after accomplishing these goals.
- Recognize the Importance of Time Management - Prioritize your daily activities so that the most important steps toward your future are taken first. Understand that people do not find time, they make it. Take time to make time.
- Have Fun - Set aside time for open spontaneous, and imaginative play. Explore new activities. Engage in practiced activities which are gratifying.
- Seek Assistance - Getting help is a healthy choice if things are going badly and you believe you could benefit from it. Realize that we can’t always do it alone—we all get help sometimes.
- Realize that Anxiety is Normal - We all need to experience some anxiety in order to be motivated. Anxiety becomes a negative experience when it interferes with your ability to carry out daily tasks