You must never delude yourself. The cause of nodules, polyps, and chronic laryngitis, hoarseness and other unpleasant vocal disorders is usually overuse and abuse of the voice. . When you talk or sing, the vocal folds vibrate. The only way to heal the folds is to avoid hitting them together temporarily. This article is aimed at YOU.
Be very vigilant! If the voice is already under stress -- hoarse, tired, fatigued, gravelly -- a physical condition such as asthma, sore throat and allergies, may escalate the vocal problems, but it does not cause them. You may unconsciously compensate by replacing correct vocal technique with incorrect technique. For example, nodules do not form if the voice is used sensibly and correctly.
Most vocal technique, speaking or singing, is comprised of learned responses; for better or worse. When vocal technique becomes automatic, one is seldom aware of how the voice is being used. Always be alert to the warning signals that your instrument is not working normally. Don't wait until disaster strikes. Cut back drastically on vocal use the minute you recognize symptoms of vocal fatigue and stress. Social talking should be eliminated until the voice is better. Listed below are some clues to help you recognize problems:
One of the most damaging vocal behavior I know is speaking at the incorrect optimal pitch, usually too low. (Vocal Fry) More women than men have this problem. A soprano with vocal problems may have a speaking pitch around C or D below middle C! When I vocalize them in this area, they claim it is too low, but that is where they are speaking. This causes register interference (discrepancy) - usually affecting bridging between registers and seriously affecting the ability to sing in the upper voice. There can be little hope of successfully rehabilitating the singing voice until the optimal pitch is raised appropriately.
Learn your correct optimal pitch and use it all the time. If your voice is gravelly and hoarse, it is probably too low. When the optimal pitch is used, the quality of the voice is clear and does not tire as quickly. Not very scientific, but a way to find your approximate optimal pitch is to hum, sliding upward until the voice is clear. This will be close to the optimal pitch.. Become aware of that approximate pitch and continue to speak there, never allowing the voice to gradually "anchor" on the very low, damaging pitches. When speaking, the voice pitch encompasses a range of a fifth or more, but the optimal pitch is the most frequently used pitch. Begin by using mainly head voice for speaking -- it may sound childlike to you. The phrasing must be legato, sustained and well supported, using no excessive force or pressure. Until the voice is healthy, do not use your projected, "performing voice."
Glottal initiation of words and phrases is another surefire way to finish off your voice. It occurs when the delivery is staccato, breaks after almost every word and is disjointed, not legato. The louder the voice, the harder the folds collide; the higher the pitch, the more frequently the folds slam together. In glottal initiation of words or phrases (glottal attack) the glottis closes firmly before breath pressure is applied. To make a sound, the folds must explode open against muscular resistance, causing great muscular tension and vocal fatigue. Glottal Initiation of words or phrases is quite common among speakers whose speaking pitch is too low and those with voice disorders. The damage to the folds causes trauma, irritation and swelling. Hard, fast glottal attacks for 20 minutes may cause hemorrhaging of the vocal folds and even 24 hours of complete voice silence may not repair the damage. Unfortunately, most habitual voice abusers cannot be persuaded to rest the voice until they can hardly croak.
To correct this problem, begin the breath before the initiation of sound. Try saying /singing "hum" as you begin the phrase. Speakers and singers often use glottal initiation in an attempt to speak more distinctly and project the voice. Instead, the disjointed delivery often interferes with the audience's understanding of the thoughts being expressed. Convey the meaning and emotion of a song or speech by placing emphasis only on the important words, not every word; use the appropriate emotion in the voice; appropriate body action; and use variety of vocal pitch.
No matter the physical conditions that cause or exacerbate vocal problems, be it viruses, injuries or chronic conditions, vocal technique must be addressed. I have never worked with a client with vocal problems who had perfect technique.
Gradual retraining is necessary to recover from laryngitis and other voice disorders. The same process can be used with singers after vocal surgery. For best results work under the guidance of a voice teacher or a speech pathologist who understand the singing voice. Here are some suggestions:
During the first week or two after vocal surgery all social talking should be avoided. When the voice is feeling and sounding healthy, gradually begin short social conversations in a quiet room - no long monologues, no tense, emotional exchanges. Tears may help clear the emotional "air," but it wrecks havoc with the voice (results in muscular tension).
Professionally, one must walk a tightrope, making modifications in lifestyle and in professional activities when necessary to save the voice. To summarize:
During the recovery period or when your voice is tired, take advantage of every weekend and holiday to be absolutely quiet. Save your voice for your job. Try to schedule your time so that there will be vocal breaks. If one day or portion of the day requires heavy vocal use, plan vocal breaks that involve moderate, low, or no vocal expenditure. You must consciously plan vocal use, otherwise you will unconsciously use it in the same manner that got you in trouble. You can use your voice less and be more effective. Be creative.How rapid the voice improves depends on you and on a number of circumstances:
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Rosalie Loeding, 1425 Calcutta Lane Naperville, IL 60563,  717-8676,  717-6205 FAX, e-mail: RLoeding@aol.com
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