Vocal Health: 5 Ways Not to Shred Your Vocal Cords
But what does it take to avoid vocal problems and maintain vocal health? So many are still unaware that there’s another way. Wouldn’t you think they’d consult the best in the business to keep their voices at their peak? Yeah, me too. And sometimes, even if they do, they do not heed the warnings, forfeiting health for rock and roll…sigh.
But the simple truth is, the voice is not an instrument to screw with. The vocal cords are not replaceable. You only have one set of cords and the way you treat them and your body will determine whether you go down the road of deterioration that befalls the working singer, or be smarter and preserve your voice for your future forever.
Right now I am struck by how many stars are suffering. John Mayer just announced that he has a “granuloma” and had to cancel his birthday concert in two weeks with Tony Bennett plus the next few months of touring. He doesn’t know yet when he’ll be better because granuloma’s can take a long time to dissolve. One thing is for sure – he has to completely stop singing and talking for at least 3-4 weeks or longer – and it could be quite a while before he recovers enough to sing, let alone tour again. If surgery is the last resort, his voice may never be the same. That’s a scary thing in the career of a famous performing and recording artist.
Adele (as I wrote about last week) had to cancel her tour as well (hopefully just temporarily), but is also suffering from vocal issues. Christina Perri just recovered from nodules and there are many more, I assure you. It’s just not easy to be out on the road singing for a living and keeping your voice in great shape. Here’s my tips on my holistic recommendations to stay healthy in my Vocal Road Warrior Formula, but today I want to talk about vocal technique and preserving your voice while you sing. I want to teach you how to master your instrument and the key things to do to ensure that you never have to experience vocal problems of this magnitude. Of course there is MUCH more than what I can present in this article, but I picked out the biggest culprits that cause issues as it relates to the technical voice.
Vocal abuse or misuse, such as excessive use of the voice when singing, talking, smoking, coughing, yelling, or inhaling irritants can cause abnormalities of the vocal cords, such as nodules, granulomas, polyps, or cysts. The difference between these abnormalities is mostly a function of what kind of tissue is involved. Symptoms of throat granuloma (and nodules & cysts) can be hoarseness, chronic throat clearing, throat pain, cough (sometimes with a little blood), and the feeling of having a lump in your throat. Surgery is a less optimal treatment for throat granuloma than vocal therapy, although “granulomas are often slow to regress,” according to NYU Voice Center’s Website.
Most disorders of vocal abuse and misuse are reversible. The best treatment is to identify and eliminate the vocal behavior that created the voice disorder. In many cases, a brief period of voice therapy is helpful so the individual can learn good vocal techniques, such as proper breath support for speech or eliminating high pressure at the vocal mechanism.
What do to:
- Avoid coughing. Coughing shreds your vocal cords. When you have an infection, the body will naturally cough to get rid of it. The best remedy for this on the market is Bronchial Soothe with ivy leaf (available at Whole Foods). It’s the only remedy I’ve ever found that actually stops a vicious cough. And see my Vocal Road Warrior Formula to avoid getting sick in the first place.
- Don’t glottal. Glottal’s happen when the edges of the vocal cords bang together in over-closure. This results from poor vocal technique. The way to avoid it is to add a soft “h” to the onset of words that begin with vowels, i.e.; “hh-everyone”, “hh-“I”; “hh-always”. It can happen in the middle of a word too: “st-ay”. A really good vocal coach can teach you more about how not to glottal, however the operative word is “really good” vocal coach – most mid-level coaches do not have this kind of expertise and can even cause vocal problems like these.
- Get your voice out of your throat. Speaking low in your throat can cause nodules and granuloma. Associate your voice with less pressure and move it higher into your mouth or head cavity. Speak higher in pitch and raise the soft palate to move out of the throat (learn how to raise the palate in my Singers Gift Warmups).
- Don’t yell or talk excessively for long periods of time. Yelling and speaking for a long time (especially over loud music) is an immediate burnout and can ruin your singing voice. But whispering is just as bad. If you know your speaking voice is a problem, find a speech therapist, or vocal coach that understands speech therapy to help you get back on track.
- Study vocal & breathing technique. Find a great (not just a good) professional vocal coach who specializes in vocal disorders and knows a thing or two about holistic approaches to speed you back to health (like me). This is non-negotiable if you want to have a professional career and keep your speaking and singing voice healthy for life.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery, John Mayer, Adele, Christina Perri and all the other Vocal Road Warriors out there on the mend ~ stay healthy! We need you and your music!
To keep your voice healthy and prevent damage, experience my Singers Gift Warm ups and Cool Downs and do it right from the start! www.caricole.com/singersgift
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