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Your Voice’s Early Warning System

Your Voice's Early Warning SystemAre you a vocalist who simply tolerates pain, hoarseness and even voice loss? Dane Chalfin challenges conventional thinking in this exclusive 3-part series.

It’s time for all singers to recognize that within their body there is an early warning system that can assist them in finding positive ways forward for their voice.

Certainly voices do get tired, but a tired voice is very different from a hoarse, painful or lost voice.

In this article, I am going to introduce you to five early warning signals that demand an immediate response.

Make sure you are focusing your vocal effort in the right places

Just before we do that, we need to make sure that you are focusing your vocal effort in the right places…

Working Harder than You Need To?

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”.

It’s no secret that human beings like to work harder than they need to—this is especially true of rock and pop singers who 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!

Singers often misplace their efforts; effort should certainly be made in the postural muscles in the head, neck and torso and the core stability muscles in the abdomen and lower back.

The same, however, is NOT true for the muscles around the larynx.

Relaxation, then, is not a cure for all voice problems; the idea that Stevie Wonder, Bono or Pavarotti felt their high C in state of physical relaxation is ridiculous—just look at their videos and you will see there is postural stability work.

Now, let’s turn to those signals calling out for the attention of every singer.

Warning System no. 1: Acute Pain

It may sound silly and obvious to say that acute pain is an early warning system but a lot of singers who don’t know any better accept pain as an occupational hazard.

Belting or hard rock styles should not cause any sensation of acute or vocal pain

The use of falsetto, belting or hard rock styles should not cause any sensation of acute or vocal pain.

The sensation of pressing, constriction or scratching on your vocal folds will make you want to cough—this is an immediate warning that the sound that you’re making is not being produced efficiently.

Next week I will discuss 2 more early warning systems experienced—at some point—by all singers.

Dane Chalfin

Dane Chalfin is a leading industry vocal coach and voice rehabilitation specialist. His clients include well-known artists and actors and his teacher training courses attract professional vocal coaches and singing teachers from around the world. Principal Lecturer at Leeds College of Music and a director of the British Voice Association.

Website | The British Voice Association

  • Paco

    As I find very cruel from you to make me wait another two essays to complete this article, I have tried to find out something more in the links you provide. The correct link for the British Voice Association is http://www.british-voice-association.com/ (you have a middle dash missing between British and Voice)

  • Don C

    I did not always understand this, until after learning to sing in Bel Canto with increased twang. And there it was… an open throated BELT with loads of volume and a distorted rock scream! No vocal pain whatsoever after doing this for several months. In fact, my range is even better than I started with BECAUSE of this technique. You want to produce it with lots of support from the stomach and back muscles, however…That is critical to keeping the open throat. Try to make that sound on a closed throat, and you’re in trouble. I recommend also keeping the nasopharynx as closed as possible. That will keep some air being losed unnecessarily through the nose. It also makes the heady resonance stronger in the sinus cavities. I lost my voice at karaoke many times before learning how to keep it open and instead ground away at my voice back with my larynx shooting up into my neck. When you it right with the slightly lowered larynx, you can actually hear frequencies seemingly being shredded apart- your voice is deafening on everything above Ab4 and it doesn’t even feel like you’re putting in much effort at all, other than down below where all the tension should be, save for the effort it takes to squeeze the AES.