Vocal health: It's not JUST about singing...
Updated: Oct 12, 2019
In my senior year of High School, I developed what I can somewhat jokingly refer to now as a “smoker’s rasp” – a sort of husky, gravelly, sounded like I always had a cold type sound whenever I spoke or sang. I was singing in two choirs at time and had just completed a stint in the CA State Honor Choir, and was concerned because my high notes were rapidly disappearing. At the urging of my vocal coach, I went to an ENT to “scope” out the problem (bad vocal cord pun). The verdict? A condition the doctor referred to as “pre nodes” – basically, my vocal cords were swollen and inflamed and, if left untreated, would eventually develop hard, callous-like growths called nodes, which would result in a “perma-rasp” if left untreated. The cure? Vocal rest, a dose of steroids, and, interestingly enough, speech therapy. And that, dear reader, is my round about way of introducing you to this important topic: learn to SPEAK properly, and you may never experience vocal fatigue. There’s a reason why teachers, cheerleaders, musical theatre performers, etc get nodes: they use their speaking voice incorrectly and for long periods of time. But follow these simple tips, and you can easily head off the worst vocal damage as we head into this high energy season:
1) Stop yelling and whispering. No…seriously, just stop. Learn to clap. Ring a bell. Make a high, ambulance like siren noise of excitement – just for the love of your voice, stop yelling. Yelling puts way too much strain on those trusty vocal cords, and whispering doesn’t use enough air to support the production of sound. Ever go to a concert and wake up the next morning without a voice? Yelling…
2) Quit clearing your throat. Go ahead, do it just this once. Hear that sound? Yeah, that’s your vocal cords hitting each other – that can’t be good, reight? What happens when things hit and rub together constantly? They blister, get inflamed, and form calluses. You got junk back there? Swallow, spit, or drink water.
3) Glottal frys are not your friends. Do me a favor: say the work “Ape”. Now how about “Apple”. Do you hear and feel that little “click” that happens with the hard “A” sound? That’s what’s called a glottal stop – a fancy way of saying your cords are bumping together. Now try this…Think a soft “H” sound before you say those same words. Breathe in that “H’ sound before you say those two words. Aah, better, right? Feel that soft release of air, the relaxed way the word is formed, without that harsh stop? That’s what you want. Another concern is what we call glottal “fry”. Imagine someone who speaks and drops the end of every word so their voice dips down into a gravelly register (think Kardashian sisters). That low gravelly “thing” is the glottal fry, and it’s murder on your voice. Avoid dipping low at the end of your phrases. As a matter of fact, most people speak far lower than they should. There’s an easy way to discover your natural pitch, drop me a DM or text if you’d like to know how!
4) Finally, hydrate like you life depended on it (it kinda does) and use LOTS of air when you speak. So many of us talk in long, rambly sentences, then gasp and do it all over again. This generally forces the voice to dip low at the end, grabbing for that extra air, and “frying out”. Manage that air, baby. Practice speaking slowly, with a nice big, supportive breath in between sentences. You’ll be amazed at how much healthy you and your voice sound just by breathing and hydrating.
There you have it, folks – 4 ridiculously easy tips to help preserve those cords this Holiday season. Want more tips? Follow our Facebook page Tamraloo Music and More and you’ll be IN THE KNOW!!