Stop Losing Your Voice Again - How You Can Take Care of It Well
The voice is unlike any other instrument. It is a part of your body. When your body is unwell, your instrument becomes unwell too.
As a singer, you’re a vocal athlete.
The capacity of the voice to express a wide range of tone color and emotions is huge.
If you have a $10,000 guitar, you’d probably take care of it very well.
Shouldn’t you treat your body/voice the same way as well?
Common Symptoms and Causes
Here are some common symptoms and what may cause them. This is not an extensive list because it covers the common symptoms and causes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a doctor and/or ENT if your condition worsens.
A sore voice/throat can be caused by a cold or laryngitis.
Overuse and abuse of the voice causes inflammation that can make the throat feel sore.
Your vocal folds vibrate at the frequency of the pitch that you’re singing. For example, when you sing A4 (440 hertz), your vocal folds vibrate 440 times per second.
When you overuse/abuse your voice, your vocal folds will swell. Over time, they will bruise and nodules will develop.
When your vocal folds are swollen, you’ll feel like there’s something in your throat.
Using incorrect vocal technique when singing creates tension and can contribute to a sore voice.
If you don’t support your voice with proper breathing technique and internal posture using the open throat concept.
Voice Loss (No Voice)
If you experience voice loss, it’s very likely that your vocal folds are swollen.
In more serious cases, your folds may even be bruised or nodules may have developed.
This can happen because you overuse/abuse your voice, especially over a long period of time.
Cold and cough can also be a contributing factor. When you cough, your vocal folds come together violently. Over time, they become swollen.
A raspy or hoarse voice can be caused by cold and cough.
If your voice gets hoarse after singing, it means there is something wrong. If your voice is healthy and you warm up before singing songs, it shouldn’t be hoarse.
Vocal folds adduct (come together) before we sing a note. If the folds are swollen or have nodules on them, they don’t close tightly/evenly. Air escapes and the folds don’t vibrate as they normally would. The result is a hoarse/raspy vocal tone.
For more info on voice disorders, go here
If your vocal issues are caused by sickness (eg cold, cough, flu, reflux), the best thing to do is to rest both your body and your voice.
Drink more fluids (room temperature or warm water). It helps to flush out toxins and germs - strengthening your immune system. The water you drink reaches your vocal folds after taking a tour around your body. So, keeping yourself hydrated is key to making sure your vocal folds don’t become dry.
Gargling with warm salt water helps to heal laryngitis. Bacteria in the throat is killed before they can enter the body.
Avoid clearing your throat at all costs. This isn’t easy to do if you rely on your voice to make a living (and your throat is phlegmy).
However, if you clear your throat, you’re starting a vicious cycle. You’re slamming your vocal folds when you clear your throat. This signals your body to create even more mucous - making you clear your throat more often. Swallow instead. Keep drinking water to boost your immune system.
Straw therapy is a therapeutic exercise invented by Dr Ingo Titze. It helps to ‘reset’ the vocal folds by ‘massaging’ them from the top part of the folds.
Some people claim that throat lozenges do nothing for a sore voice. I disagree. When I get laryngitis, I take herbal lozenges called Throatclear. They’re made by a company called Pretorius. They’re all natural and helps to calm down inflammation in my throat. I always carry some in my backpack.
Fishermen's Friend is also a fantastic option.
Inhaling steam can rehydrate the folds quickly and make a sore throat feel better.
I’m a strong believer in taking vitamin supplements for additional nutritional support. Vitamin C and cod liver oil help to boost the immune system immensely. Armaforce by Bioceuticals is handy for shortening the duration of a cold.
Avoid medications that cause vocal hoarseness (as a side effect) if you have a performance coming up. These include: anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers.
My friend and fellow vocal coach, Elissa Weinzimmer has put together a video of laryngeal massage. These massage technique are great if you have muscular tension in your throat/neck area.
Monitor your voice use when you’re unwell. If your voice is not 100% healthy, be wise about how you use it. You can find out your mucosal ceiling during your ‘normal’ days vs days when your voice is feeling subpar. This helps you to judge how much vocal dose you have left for the day.
Always warm up your voice before you start doing demanding vocal exercises and singing songs. A minimum of 10-20 minutes in recommended.
Cooling down the voice is also recommended after your practice session.
Learn correct vocal technique and apply them when you’re singing. Having a good foundation makes a huge difference to vocal health and longevity. The Open Throat concept is the cornerstone of vocal technique and you can find out about it in this free ebook.
A Vocal Toolbox contains the items to make sure your voice stays healthy. Keep these items close to you when practicing or recording vocals.
- Herbal lozenges
- Water bottle
- Steam inhaler
- Vitamin C, cod liver oil, immune system herb
- Sore throat gargle
If your condition worsens or there’s extreme hoarseness when you speak, you should book an appointment to see a ENT specialist immediately. You may be feel nervous but often times, surgery is the last resort. Speech therapy and eliminating the cause will usually solve most vocal issues.
The voice is a resilient but fragile instrument. If you take good care of it, it will last you a lifetime.
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