A White Paper by Jessica Marciel – Las Vegas Vocal Training
Author’s Note: This essay is on maintaining vocal health is combines music industry and medical information, as well as personal experience and first-hand observation. There are many resources linked from this document, to give further information on particular items.
Please use this White Paper as a starting point for understanding your voice and what can affect it, positively or negatively. As cited in this essay, should you experience extended hoarseness (more than a couple of days) or pain, when you sing, it’s best practice to consult and Ear, Nose, & Throat doctor. My Dr. is Dr. Salinas here in Las Vegas at the ENT Clinic, and my Speech Therapist is Erik Landry who works with Dr. Salinas with artists like Steven Tyler, Imagine Dragons, and Celine Dion.
Many singers, such as the late Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Adele, Shania Twain, Keith Urban, John Mayer and others have had vocal health issues. All either had surgery or vocal rest plus anti-inflammatory medication, or both.
I felt an urgency to write about some of the important facts and issues surrounding the care of your voice.
Rule #1: If it hurts when you sing, STOP.
Common medical issues such as acid reflux can damage your vocal cords. When acid and mucus comes up, it burns your throat. Sleep deprivation, allergies or incorrect vocal technique can do permanent damage. Stress can leave you with Muscle Tension Dysphonia, a serious condition. This requires therapy, for damage can be long term. Air flow is so important. The vocal cords are thin muscles that need air flow to work in harmony with the vocal folds and their air flow. The entire larynx will shut down from tension. The Motor boat, or Trill, Bubble exercises, are extremely important. I did not know this until I studied.
Increasing Pitch forces the tension ,the thoracic and abdominal muscles , then they require more pressure. This puts a strain on your body. You don’t want the Folds to assume the load. The vocal folds are little pockets of air, but you need to control how much air you are filling them with. It can lead to serious damage. If the air in the folds get too wide, you become raspy. . Caffeine, soda, and smoking, pull the moisture out of your folds , leaving you with dryness and makes you feel like you cannot sing. You probably cannot, and should, not sing!
Vocal cords can be damaged just from dryness. Air conditioning, furnaces, or low-humidity climates (such as Las Vegas) are potentially risky. I do not use my heater in Winter, or the A C in summer,,, I Know I Know,,,I use some fans and just get through it……
Recycled air in airplanes is also a problematic environment. Dermatologists (skin doctors) recommend moisturizing and drinking water when you fly. Performers who fly often should drink plenty of water during the entire flight.
Some treatments and cautions for dry throat are:
• Half-teaspoon salt. half-teaspoon baking soda, half teaspoon of clear corn syrup, and warm water, and gargle. I LOVE apple cider vinegar,Honey and hot water.
• Honey, lemon, and warm water, sip throughout day. Zinc lozenges, Mucinex and limited speaking.
• Throat coat tea, no caffeine, Biotenemouthwash, (I use it every day) and Entertainment Secret Throat Spray.
• Birth control pills may cause virilization of the female larynx, try to use alternate birth control.
• Avoid clearing your throat or coughing. Please ask me a safe way to clear your throat.
• Whispering is bad, too. Just speak softly.
• Use humidifiers throughout your house and bedroom, specifically. Use cold air humidifiers; NOT warm or hot air.
A New Nasal Emollient is PONARIS,,, at CVS Nasa uses it for Space!!!!
Another great gargle is Apple Cider Vinegar , warm water and honey, and gargle or just sip every morning. This is also a great cleanse I have used since I was 18.
If you have an infection, a sore throat, try 15 drops of Iodine, salt, and warm water, and gargle until gone. Repeat throughout the day and night. If you cannot tolerate the iodine, then substitute Hydrogen Peroxide for it, and make sure you do not swallow it. It will kill the germs.
For example, getting a quick Prednisone injection before a gig can restore your voice, quickly. You cannot do that often because Prednisone is a steroid and is not recommended for extended or continuous use. It is not unusual for working singers to have a half-dozen Prednisone pills, on hand for emergencies. A shot will work more quickly.
If you are hoarse for more than a week, see your ENT. Being hoarse for more than a couple of days can be a symptom of broken blood vessels. Vocal cord paralysis can occur when the nerve impulses to your larynx (voice box) are interrupted. It can even affect your ability to speak.
DO NOT cancel an apt with me because you have allergies! Check Weather.com and find out the forecast for pollen, and have some medication around! I have never called in sick to sing,,, YOU CAN sing over anything. Please take care of your instrument!
About Shania Twain
The public was told Shania Twain’s loss of voice was due to the trauma of her cheating husband (also her partner-producer).
However, she also moved away to have a child and took a few years off from performing. It would not be unlikely if the combination of both non-use of her voice, as well as the other trauma, led to her voice problems I believe she has Muscle Tension Dysphonia …. A series of vocal flow phonation , and vocal health probably helped her come back,
Our voices are not infinite. We need to work at keeping them in shape by warming up, and working them out.
Tension can also prevent you from reaching your potential. Relax, stretch, warm up, be informed and apply your vocal knowledge.
We are human, not stainless steel. Take care of your voice. It is your instrument.
Las Vegas Vocal Training