As a singer and performer, your voice is your instrument. If your instrument breaks, you cannot go out and buy a new one so it is incredibly important to protect your voice. In order to give the correct information, I have attended voice health works shops, done my own personal research and also conducted an interview with a professional opera singer (Missie) who had vocal polyps. We will also discuss the most common types of vocal issues, how to prevent this, but also what to do if you happen to have any of these. First of all, how do our voices work? Above our trachea (the windpipe), we have a fleshy structure known as the vocal folds, sometimes also referred to as vocal cords, except these really aren’t “cords” at all.
The vocal folds vibrate together to create sound. They can vibrate up to 1000 times per second which is what creates the sound we hear when we sing. If we misuse our voice, we can run into to some dehibilitating issues with our voices. There are three common vocal fold injuries that can occur by the simple things we do in our daily life: Polyps, nodes, and hemorrhaging.
The most common causes for these injuries are:
· Singing/talking way too much
· Coughing/ sneezing
· Tension in the voice
· Acid reflux
HOW TO NOTICE IF YOU MAY HAVE ANY OF THESE ISSUES AND WHEN TO GET CHECKED OUT
· If you have been hoarse for two weeks or more, it is time to get checked out by a voice specialized laryngologist. If they are certified to work with singers, they will be able to help you regain you voice the CORRECT way. It is important to not leave this untreated. Missie left this untreated from May to October and they did not know if she would ever be able to sing again.
· If there is a SUDDEN voice change
· If notes that were once easy for you are either not there, sounding squeaky, or hoarse.
· If your voice consistantly feel tired.
· Can’t talk as loud as usual
· Neck or throat discomfort
The surgeries are often very invasive and can result in the removal of part of your vocal folds. Finding the right physician is the most important part in regaining your voice because not all surgery stories end happily. Missie, after recovery, built her range back up and now floats high B’s and C’s. Broadway’s own Julie Andrews (who had vocal nodes) lost her beautiful voice because of an error made in surgery in 1999. One of the most prestigious vocal heath centers in the country is Emory Vocal Heath Center in Georgia. Most of their staff are also singers and they work primarily with singers.
I know it is such a scary thought to lose your voice, so I am going to give you tips and tricks to protect yourself.
· Hydration is key! Drink primarily water. You need to drink so much water that your pee is either clear or a pale yellow. (TMI, I know) Because the vocal folds are made up of mucous, this is the only way they stay hydrated.
· Get enough sleep. If you’re tired, you won’t be able to produce a good sound therefore putting unneeded tension on your throat.
· If you are in a situation where you are talking constantly to a large room like at work, buy a small microphone set so you can project your voice WITHOUT being fatigued. You can buy these for approximately $30 on Amazon.
· If you HAVE to shout and project, learn to do them right. Use your diaphragm muscles. Breathe from your stomach instead of from you chest. Imagine your stomach is expanding all the way around even into your lower back. You shouls NEVER yell from the throat.
· Avoid unnecessary throat clearing.
· Do a few vocal warm ups as soon as you wake up. These can be light and simple as you are getting dressed. Just something to wake up your voice.
Small Warm Ups To Begin Your Day
· Lip trills
· Any five note scale on the vowel “Ya”. Keep your jaw nice and loose and sing lightly. Let your jaw drop. Don’t tighten your jaw because that causes tension.
· Vocal slides—starting at the bottom of your range and slowly and smoothly going up in pitch. Then, try starting from the top and sliding to the bottom of your range.