As we close this series, I’d like you to remember a key insight in our first week:
If one’s technique is solid, then one should have no acute signs of trauma or loss—no matter how heavy one’s vocal “loading”.
Often rock and pop singers may think that if they don’t feel a sensation of pushing or straining when they’re singing, they are not committing emotionally to their material; the “pain sound” is often the desired aesthetic—but it should be produced painlessly!
Today I invite you to be aware of our last two very serious early warning systems.
Warning System no. 4: Losing Your Sound
When voices become inflamed, they often “cut-out” intermittently. The technical name for this is intermittent aphonia—literally meaning “without sound”.
If you make an effort to produce a note and you get a second of sound without a noise, this is a 100% guarantee that the vocal folds are not happy.
The more extreme version of this vocal swelling is a complete loss of part of the range—usually the upper range.
If your high notes stop working you’re in trouble and we can be pretty sure that the vocal folds are inflamed and swollen; there may also be severe constriction in the muscles above the vocal folds.
The loss of the upper range could also be an indication of more sinister injury such as vocal fold hemorrhages, polyps or nodules.
If you continue without making healthy changes, you could face our last sign of trouble:
Warning System no. 5: Complete Voice Loss
Voice loss is not always abuse related; complete voice loss may be a symptom arising in association with certain viruses or psychological disorders.
If there is a sudden loss of voice (complete aphonia), it warrants an immediate investigation.
The standard accepted guideline for vocal behavior is that if your voice behaves abnormally for two weeks, then you should have a check-up with a laryngologist (this is an ear nose and throat surgeon who specializes in the larynx and voice).
Your Voice Can Bounce Back
By paying attention to the signs above and receiving appropriate treatment, you may be surprised at how quickly you can return to vocal health.
I was recently called into a recording studio because a lead singer was struggling during the recording session. He manifested several of the signs outlined above but was trying to ignore them; scoping subsequently revealed significant evidence of vocal abuse and reflux.
We spent six weeks on technique and lifestyle changes and engaged in some anti reflux measures—the band was due to play Wembley Stadium six weeks later.
Although in medical terms the singer’s larynx didn’t make a perfect recovery, he was able to play the series of career-changing gigs without trouble.
Don’t wait for a New Year’s resolution to make vocal health your priority; it begins by watching keenly for those telltale early-warning signs
—and it begins today.
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Dane Chalfin is a Director of the British Voice Association, a Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Voice Technique, and one of the UK’s leading professional voice consultants. He is also one of the few official singing rehabilitation consultants for the British National Health Service. His clients include signed recording artists; West End and touring actors; TV, film and radio actors; comedians; soap-stars; universities; TV and radio presenters; worship ministries; recording studios; management and production companies; business people; hospitals and voice-users requiring therapy and rehabilitation.