If you are a professional singer or a teacher or someone who uses your voice extensively in your profession, here's a course from SRU that could be of help.

It is one thing to learn an art and another to understand the instrument that is responsible for developing the art. At Sri Ramachandra University (SRU), Porur, in Chennai, ENT surgeons and speech language therapists have come together to help people who use their voice extensively to preserve their vocal chords.

The University's Department of Speech, Language and Hearing conducts a four-month course that teaches a professional voice-user the basic structure of the vocal chords and its functioning.

The 12-week certificate course, conducted for students of the Department of Indian Music, University of Madras, is part of the University Industry Community Interaction Centre programme, said Prameela Gurumurthy, head of the department. The faculty is provided by SRU.

Sudha Raja, who runs a music school in Chennai, volunteered to be tested using a stroboscope and attended the course. “Basically I am a professional singer and have been running a music school for the last 20 years. As teachers we sing or talk all the time. I was worried that I may have developed nodules. The stroboscope test ensured there was nothing wrong with my voice chords,” she says.

Based on the observations recorded during the course, SRU recently released a DVD on exercises to preserve the vocal chords. The DVD also relied on a year-long study conducted in 2009 by SRU, which revealed that 46 per cent of those who use their voice as part of their profession have some problem with their vocal chords.

According to Prakash Boominathan, associate professor in the Department, the study included professionals such as lawyers and teachers also. He says this year the department has begun focussing on children. “In the last seven years I have seen more amateurs wishing to become professional singers. As their attention is divided they do not have enough time to learn musicianship and the way to maintain the system [vocal chords]. When the science is understood, it would help them to evolve better as vocalists,” he says.

Good dietary and sleep habits are important to maintain the health of the voice, he says. The student is taught to understand his personal comfort zone while using his voice. Breathing exercises reduce the stress level, calming the students.

Ms. Raja has taught the exercises to her students. “As a teacher I can see that the exercises have helped my students,” she says.