My thoughts...Wisdom from over the years


Posted in: Blog, tip of the week ♦ Monday, January 28th, 2013, 8:03 am ♦ 1 Comment on CHIT CHAT


I am a vocal coach. My job is to teach people how to sing, or perhaps become better singers. At least that’s what I am supposed to do. However, very often, when I come upon someone in need of vocal assistance, it’s likely time for a complete vocal assessment due to some kind of vocal problem.  I am not a doctor of course, but I spend a good deal of my time trying to help people assess whether or not they have vocal damage, what kind they may (or may not) have and how they most likely got it. This has become a sad reality in my practice.

Twenty years ago, I rarely saw vocal damage. Now I see it on almost a weekly basis. I believe that this upsurge in vocal damage is a direct result of our “new singing lifestyle”.  By this I mean a number of things, none the least of which is the style in which so many people, influenced by pop culture, are now trying to sing.  I have outlined many of these issues in previous articles and if you’re interested in more on the subject of vocal damage, please feel free to email me and I can send you information and answer any questions you may have.  For this article though, I want to focus on a huge contributor to vocal damage that has nothing to do with actually singing (other than the fact that it affects the singer’s ability to sing), SPEECH.

Most people are surprised to find out that if they are evaluated and found to have vocal damage, the doctor in charge will typically prescribe speech therapy. Many people are put off by this and may even find it silly, inconsequential or a waste of time. Because it’s often not covered by insurance, many people skip this very important step and instead rush off to find a singing teacher that can help them with their “real” problem; the fact that they are having trouble singing. This is a big mistake. The way we speak is often the biggest culprit with regard to vocal damage and without fixing it one may never find the solution they are looking for—even if they improve their singing technique!

It only takes a minute or two of thinking to realize the connection between speaking and singing. Another minute or so and you may see the connection from your speaking voice to the singing problems you’re having. No matter who you are, or how much you sing, there is no doubt that you talk more than you sing. This is why the first thought that an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor) has is, almost always, to help you re-learn how to speak in a more healthy fashion.  Here are a few things to consider:

The  Type and Amount of Speech

The first thing we need to take into account is how much we use our vocal cords for speaking.  Depending on your lifestyle and job you may have a tendency to speak more or perhaps less than average. If you are someone who is speaking all day long in a classroom or on the telephone, not only are you speaking more hours but you are likely speaking at elevated levels as well.  I once read that for every 90 minutes of vocal use, you should rest the cords for 10min.  This is something to consider. Everyone who thinks of themselves, at least to some degree, as a singer should be aware of their voice and how they are using it–being careful not to overuse it.

There are other, perhaps more obvious, things that are harmful as well. Continued coughing, clearing the throat, yelling, shouting, etc are all form of vocal abuse. Even laughing out loud for extended periods of time can have a dire effect on the voice (sad but true!). So take stock of how you use your voice on a daily basis and take note of what things might be causing or adding to any singing troubles you may be experiencing.

How You Speak

The other important aspect with regard to speech is the way you speak. So many folks have a really unhealthy approach to their speaking voice. It’s often situated in the lowest part of their range and powered by muscles in the throat. Both of these things can add undue stress. Additionally having a very small speaking range can also be wearing on the cords because it puts stress on the same area of the cords over and over—often with force if you tend to employ a lot of glottal stops in your speech. (A glottal stop is when the vocal cords are held tightly together preventing vibration. A common example would be the typical voicing of “uh-oh”)

Speech Therapy-Really?

So what does speech therapy teach you? In a nutshell, it teaches you how to speak the way you sing! You learn to use proper breath support, tone placement and how to change the registration of your voice. If you are singing correctly, you need to be speaking in a way that is very similar to the way you sing. In part for this reason, I recommend to everyone who sings: WARM UP EVERY DAY, even if you don’t plan to sing. Warming up reminds you to think like a singer. It will remind you to use your diaphragm for support, and to place your tone correctly.  Here are a few tips to help keep your speaking voice healthy and strong.

*Support your speech from your breathing muscles-not your throat.

*Vary the pitch of your voice frequently.

*Place your tone in a healthy place—not always in a throat or chest register.

*When you need to project, raise the pitch of your voice. A higher pitch is more easily heard and will require less volume.

*Find time to completely rest your voice (total silence).

*Condition (warm-up) your voice daily.

God bless you as you strive to preserve your voice to be able to serve Him better!!



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One Response to “CHIT CHAT”

  1. Posted by: Shelmith
    February 14th, 2013 at 3:32 am

    Thank you. Very good!

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