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Your Voice’s Early Warning System: Part III

You want to play career-changing gigs without vocal trouble. Dane Chalfin shows the way. Part I of this series. Part II of this series.

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.

To comment on Dane’s Series, just scroll to the end of any of the articles.

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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.

Useful Links

Dane Chalfin & Associates

The 21st Century Singer

The British Voice Association

Am I Losing My Upper Range? – Anthony F. Jahn MD

  • I have loved this series you have shared with us! I sing at least 4 days a week as a worship leader…which tends to be a lot of high energy belting. I have experienced many of these symptoms regularly. Mondays and Thursdays are the worst after singing a lot on Sunday and Wednesday. I often worry when accepting to lead a special services on Sunday nights or weekends wondering if I'll have a voice left for the gig, or if I accept a Saturday gig if I'll be shooting myself in the foot for Sunday morning. It frustrates me terribly! Is there any advice you have on finding a good voice coach…or what exactly I should be looking for? I'm in Dawsonville, GA…about an hour north of Atlanta. I just want to get a handle on this so I'll be good for the long haul. My singing load is increasing which I love…but I would really love to not have the daily worry of “will my voice last for tomorrow's gig?”

  • Hi Christy,

    Why not try a Skype session with me? Check out http://www.21stcenturysinger.co.uk for more details.


  • EWS Voice Page initiator can receive an SMS or email to advise of responses to the message. Interactive Voice Response (IVR) DescriptionThe IVR service increases the flexibility of the system by allowing users to navigate a recorded voice menu (similar to phone banking).

  • trekjock

    Great advice, this has highlighted a problem that I have started to notice and has inspired me to seek out some help. I first notice that it's been a bit of a strain to reach a couple of notes that I didn't miss really (hehe) but it's really come to my attention when I try to woohoo during 'Walk of life'. My voice seems to split into two or three sounds (non of which are the correct note!) I don't think my dr will be much help with this so I'll have to try and find out where I can go locally to have things looked at professionally.

  • Blamb

    Got excited bout music recently, ended up checking my range on and off for a few hours whilst learn bout too much for a day.
    No warm ups.

    Noticed my voice had a tendency to try shoot up forcefully when trying to find low end notes. Then noticed using tuner software, i skipped straight over 3 maybe 4 notes on my upper end!

    ADHD meds, dry mouth and carried awayness do not mix.

    Thanks for the warning. I’ll take it further seriously.