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I Beat Up My Voice – Help!

Doctor's Corner with Anthony Jahn

Dear Dr. Jahn,

If I occasionally beat up my voice, how much rest does it need to recover? Two days of gentle voice use? More? I am talking about the other night when I strained my voice at a three hour gig with a bad sound system and ended up with a raspy voice at the end of it.


Dear Samuel,

I wish there were a simple formula I could give you.

In reality, there are too many factors at play. Your age, the anatomical attributes of your vocal equipment, your general health, state of hydration, non-singing vocal habits, social factors (smoking and drinking), as well as what actually happened to your cords – just some factors to consider.

Huskiness from a bit of swelling or muscle strain is quite different from hoarseness due to a vocal cord hemorrhage.

Here are some suggestions:

If you have significantly strained your voice, try 48 hours of complete voice rest.

This means no singing, no talking, and only essential minimal whispering (not the stressful “stage whisper”).

Stay well hydrated during this time. Then, try vocalizing. Try some soft sirens (glissandos) up and down to check the top and the mix.

Be aware of, and avoid, compensating by muscling or squeezing the voice if the top is clear but the mix is problematic; try muscle- relaxing techniques such as stretching and massaging the neck.

The best, of course, is to avoid the situation.

Like most things, if vocal strain becomes the norm rather than the exception, you may eventually have longer lasting vocal damage.

-Anthony F. Jahn, MD, FACS, FRCS(C)

Dr. Jahn welcomes your questions. You can send these to editor@voicecouncil.com

This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.

  • How do you impress on band members you are ill and should not do a gig ? I left a band due to being ill, I was pretty muched forced to perform in bad situation while waiting and waiting to go on ( it was the drummers wedding to boot and no time was kept to on when we should go on ) all the while the members drank non stop and when I failed to do well due to my illness and weak voice with a very crappy PA system and band members who failed to keep it down all was lost . I was told by those there I did Ok but apparently some thought I was not up to par while the band members missed cues and did not work as a Unit.They could care less it seemed. After 6 months of rehearsals in which they were well aware of my abilities and were happy , one bad night and I was now not good enough. Yes I agree was not a good band to be involved with and I was happy to leave on my own accord but the problem still arises when should a singer say hey I am not well enough to due this performance.

  • bw

    Been there a million times. For a singer, it’s the worst. Firstly, take of your end of things as much as you can. To me, this means have your OWN monitors and make sure you can hear yourself clearly. For me, this means IN EARS. I will NEVER rely on someone’s sh*tty monitors or shi*tty monitor mixing again. Been on them for years. If you’ve got a band that’s loud and you’re sick, you have no chance. If you want to be a singer, you have to be in the best light you can be in and that means being able to hear yourself. Take care of that first.
    You didn’t mention what “ill” was. Soar throat? Stomach ache? Explosive diarrhea? – I’ll assume you meant soar throat. For me, I can sing with a soar throat. I cannot sing with bronchial things going on and most singers can’t. If that’s the case, there’s not a lot you can do except try to get out of the gig (give the band a decent amount of notice) and explain to them “We either go on and we suck because I have no voice, and therefor,people will think that’s who are and never book us again. OR we cancel and get a substitute band or singer in there.” Either way’s a bum situation, but do what you can to let them know you’re not going to be at your best and the band needs to work together to sort it out.

    Get out of your own head. If you’re sick, thinking about that as you’re singing will completely stress you out and make a bad situation worse.
    Not sure how old your are but ‘breaking your voice permanently’ is NOT as easy as a lot of people would have you believe, especially if you are young. Sure, you can be rough for a few weeks, and with bronchial stuff, I can be rough for 6 weeks afterward, but can still use my voice well enough to gig. If you can do the gig and change the vocal lines enough to get through it, do so. If the band can tune down- have them do it. It can help.

    Part of being in a band is realizing it’s a business and it’s also a situation where you have to lean on each other for support. If these guys are ‘making’ you perform and you are not up to it, they are not thinking of the bigger picture as far that band’s future. They are also not caring about your well being. A Wedding is a special deal and does your band really want to take the chance of being horrible at someone’s wedding and have it remembered forever?

  • Golan Manor

    You might want to check TMRG Voice Solutions’ Emergency Vocal Recovery Kit.
    It is an all natural remedy that contains a solution, oil and drink powder that together have an amazing recovery effect on the vocal system. I have it on hand for similar cases such as yours. Even Vocal Coaches are using their products for themselves and their students. check out http://www.facebook.com/tmrgsolutions and their website http://www.tmrgsolutions.com/testimonial/
    I personally bought it on Amazon and got Next Day Delivery :-)