A singer’s voice is their most important tool, so if it fails or falters then the consequences can be devastating. The voice is a muscle like any other in the body—it needs a good workout to stay fit and healthy, but it can be damaged by misuse or overuse.
When we use our voices, our vocal folds snap together and vibrate quickly. Singing can raise this vibration to over 1000 times per second, and these micro-collisions can lead to contusions, particularly if the singer is using a less-than-perfect technique.
When vocal cord damage does occur, voice therapy can be a vital aspect of rehabilitating the singer and also helping them to avoid difficult surgery, which can damage their voice beyond repair if it goes wrong; Elton John’s voice famously became much lower as a result of surgery.
There has been a slew of cases of superstars pushing their voices to the extreme and causing vocal cord nodules, from Pavarotti to Whitney Houston. Celebrities with vocal disorders include big voices like Sam Smith and Adele, who both had surgery, whilst others like Bjork and opera singer Lesley Garett have used voice therapy to bring them back to full health.
Distinct Therapy for Different Genres
With so many different genres of singing, there is no one size fits all approach to voice therapy, and each singer needs a specific approach and an individualized plan based on their voice type.
Opera—Opera singers are vocal gymnasts, which makes substantial demands on their voices. They are advised to use the Bel Canto vocal technique, which requires breathing from the diaphragm and opening of the vocal cavities to create forward resonance.
Rap – The larynx should be low down when rapping, and breath control is important. Keeping the face and jaw relaxed ensures fast and fluid flows. The Alexander technique (famously used by celebrities with vocal disorders, Paul McCartney and Sting), is often utilized by rappers and singers to release tension and correct posture and head position.
Rock – Rock singers are renowned for shouting when they sing and having a gritty tone to their voices, so they are more required to relax the vocal cords. It’s important for them to learn to sing from their diaphragm and avoid singing from the throat which causes constriction.
Jazz – Jazz singing is lyrical, and singers are encouraged to use scatting, pitch slides and improvisation. There is less press than in rock singing and singers are advised to use both the head and chest voice to avoid overextending the vocal cords. Again, breath management is important.
How to Take Care of Your Voice—Tips and Tricks
- Drink water – Lubricating those vocal cords is vital so that there are less friction and viscosity to the fluid in the throat. Eight to ten glasses a day is thought to be the perfect number to keep things running smoothly. If you struggle to chug down that much of the clear stuff, try to eat foods high in water like apples and cucumber.
- Sleep—Rest is incredibly important for singers. Vocal exhaustion is one of the leading causes of voice disorders, and getting enough sleep means that you will be energized and refreshed. It is also helpful to take “vocal naps,” where you don’t speak or use your voice at all for certain periods of time. Opera singers actually avoid rehearsing the day before a concert so that their voice is fresh on the big day.
- Warm up the voice—Vocal warm-ups are probably the most important thing you can do to protect your voice. You wouldn’t go for a run without warming up your legs first, and it’s exactly the same for the voice. You should be stretching the voice out well before you start singing, which includes deep breathing, singing scales and the following;
- The lip trill or lip bubble—Lip trill is a great exercise to carry out before singing to help things flow more freely. Breathe in, relax the muscles in your face, and send a breath between your lips, making them vibrate.
- The M hum or mi-me-ma-mo-mu vocal exercise—This is a classic singing exercise that many people are aware of; the shaping of vowels and consonants helps with articulation and forward tone.
- Do not smoke and try to avoid drinking alcohol—Smoke is an irritant, which causes the mucous membranes in your throat to swell, so avoid smoking and smoky areas like bars. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages can dehydrate you, causing your vocal cords to become dry.
- Think before you eat— According to the beverlyhillsspeechtherapy.com acid reflux can cause chest pain and tightness in singers which in turn affects the voice. Ensure that you don’t sleep on a full stomach and avoid eating certain acid causing foods such as cheese.