Ok so now you’ve started to do the best things you can do for your voice to help soothe and get the voice touching in a healthier way. So how do you make sure things don’t get worse? First start by Identify what is causing you the problem;
Assess your vocal load – how much and what are you singing?
How much are you singing? If it’s in excess of more than a couple of hours a day, and you aren’t at the top of your game with your vocal technique that is a massive strain on your poor vocal folds. Its not only singing though, are you using your voice all day at work? Do you shout or have to raise your voice a lot? these are bad vocal habits that can wear away on the voice.
Whats your repertoire like? Are you singing consistently at the extremes of your range, does your set list include a lot of high powered songs that use a lot of energy and effort? Do you have rest points in your set list? Do you feel like you have to push your voice to hit songs in your repertoire? Have you identified particular songs that do affect your voice?
Its important that you are singing repertoire in the range appropriate for you, are you making the right key choices? If you’re unsure about any of the above then i’d recommend finding a vocal teacher who can help you.
What environments are you singing or using your voice in?
Are you regularly singing in loud environments where you feel you have to push to be heard? How is the monitoring? Can you hear yourself back through the mix? If not you need to speak to your sound tech or think about investing in in-ear monitoring.
How loud are you playing during rehearsals? Do you have to push here? Can you turn down the overall mix of instruments / backing to prevent yourself needing to push to be heard
In every day life are you regularly speaking at high volumes places such as loud pubs / clubs / sports games / gigs. I have so many singers come to me after going to their favourite bands gigs, singing their hearts out and blowing their voices at the same time!
Whats your everyday vocal routine?
Are you warming up? Your voice is at its most delicate before its warmed up, you should warm up with vocal scales and gentle exercises designed to get the voice moving before you start singing, singing along to an easy song is not a good way to help realign the breath and voice before singing. Warming up everyday keeps your voice ready to go and helps you to be able to recognise any changes in tone or range immediately.
Do you warm down?
The amount of singers that warm up thoroughly is rare, the amount that warm down is much more so, when we sing (especially high or powerful songs) the larynx can stay in a raised position and the muscles around neck can remain tense, after singing we need to bring the voice back down to a neutral position, Its now recognised that most vocal injuries and issues come from the lack of release in the muscles during and after singing so encouraging the voice to relax is so important. The best way to do so is to hum gently in descending slides, no breath or excess pressure should be felt and you should ensure that it is comfortable.
Do you sing through pain?
Did that top note catch and scratch in the throat a little, did that belt slam in the throat more than you was expecting? (Have you even been trained to belt? do you know how to control the vocal mechanism to belt effectively and safely?) Its important to remember these little occurrences and how often – as slamming of the vocal folds can lead to further voice problems, I have worked with many singers who do not even notice how much distress their voice is in until they begin to train a healthier technique.
How to prevent problems in the future;
- Adopt a good and healthy vocal load
- Warm up and Cool Down whenever you are singing
- Make appropriate song choices
- Know your limits
- Eat and drink well
- Steam and hydrate often
- Follow the recovery tips to help keep your voice in good working order
- Have regular lessons with a singing teacher who understands vocal health
So the big and scary question for singers – When do you see a doctor?
If your voice shows any of the warning symptoms for any prolonged periods of time, if you notice a sudden change in voice after singing that isn’t related to a cold or virus. Or if you loose your voice entirely.
If in doubt consult your doctor, ideally you’d need to ask to be referred to an ENT specialist due to the nature of the vocal issues.
Remember – It is so important to look after your voice now, its much easier to prevent issues then it is to rebuild a voice!