Maintaining Your Vocal Health

A White Paper by Jessica Marciel – Las Vegas Vocal Training

Microphone open arms fire on a black background

Microphone open arms fire on a black background

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 Cord - Folds

Vocal Cord – Folds

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.

VCD aka VOCAL CORD DYSFUNCTION was not even discovered or named until 1951. That is when a definitive study was conducted.

An ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) can order appropriate tests for you. You should get to know your ENT, well. That includes having their cell phone number, in case you have an urgent need.

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!

Bleeding (such as in Adele’s condition) is caused by microscopic blood vessels in the cord in a jelly like layer, under folds when it is not absorbed. It can form a polyp and cause scarring.

 

 

About Shania Twain

The public was told Shania Twains 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.

Download this entire article (in PDF). Feel free to share it.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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10 Success Tips For Singing Competition Auditions

Singing Competition Judges

Singing Competition Judges

I have watched countless singing competition auditions on TV shows. Now, having judged a talent show, I can tell you, how to get winning results.

Song Selection and Execution: Choose your song carefully. It should climb to a crescendo, quickly, and make sure it shows your range. Get to the bridge, fast, leave out a verse if the verses are too long.  We want to hear you really in control of every note.Do not bore them, with a ballad that doesn’t go anywhere.

You need to relate to the people, even if there are just three people there. You need to perform. To feel the song. Choose a song you love . A song close to your age (age appropriate) and will showcase your emotional range as well as your vocal range.

Breathing and Phrasing: Proper breathing and phrasing are  a must. If you are not trained, you can still learn a song correctly, by breathing where you would, if you were speaking the song. Take the lyrics, and speak them, pay attention to where you are breathing. That is where you should breathe when you sing it.

Then you need drama, and emotion. That’s why the song is important. You want the judges to have goose bumps. Move them. Make them feel something. You can go another way, and do a comedic number, but they won’t take you as seriously.

Song Choice Examples: ‘Nothing ‘ From ‘A Chorus Line’ is a great song for a Broadway show audition. Also ‘Blue Hair’  for theatre., ‘Life Of the Party’ from ‘The Wild Party’ Broadway show.  ‘Listen’ is great for pop.

If you are a belter, any song by Janis Joplin, Jesse J, Aretha Franklin, or Etta James are excellent picks… or the English singer Sam Brown, ‘Stay Baby Stay’.   But stay away from the overdone ‘Adele’ songs.  A nice ballad, ‘Wish me a Rainbow’ of the film, ‘This Property is Condemned’. Judges are tired of listening to Adele songs.

Some of these song choices are on the Las Vegas Vocal Training YouTube channel.

Top 10 Tips for Singing Competition Auditions

  1. Singing Competition AuditionsKnow the genre of the show, and what they are looking for. Look at video from past seasons, and study the people who got through.
  2. Choose a song that starts out strong, and if it doesn’t, start at the bridge.
  3. Wear something comfortable and flattering. Wear heels if you are a woman. Dress nicely, but not over done.
  4. Be comfortable onstage. Feel as though you belong there. Introduce yourself, and warm them to you. Breathe deeply before you go in, and exhale all the negative feelings.
  5. Look judges in the eyes. Then as you sing, concentrate on what you need to do to, and reel them in. Make them feel your song.
  6. Song selection will make or break you. Prepare three songs. I have had observed X-Factor auditions for my students. They were told to prepare 90 seconds. The audition person with the mic, asked for two entire complete songs from each of my students. That made three entire songs from start to finish. They even gave one student time to go out and think of another song. Be prepared and have more in mind, just in case.
  7. If they ask you questions, answer, clearly, loud, and with energy. These shows are largely about personality. If you hem and haw and yes or no, short answers, they will pass on you. You are not good television.
  8. Thank them after you are finished, and smile as if they are British royalty.
  9. When you sing, move about, as if you own the stage. Do not let them know you are frightened or insecure at all.
  10. Be as prepared as you can, and bring bio, picture, and an mp3 or a DVD. They will video record your audition, but having the tools makes you professional and makes you stand out!

The art of the audition is just that, an art. It takes time, thought, preparation, and practice. Really do your homework and get professional help if you can.  If you need sheet music for 16-bars or 32-bars or a  CD track, go to www.auditiontrax.com. Tom Grieps, in Los Angeles, provides this service for a reasonable fee. It’s a one-day service. He will send a pdf of your song, in your key;  CD or Sheet music and your music is ready.

Be prepared, be yourself, have fun. This is what you want to do, so act naturally.

Good Luck!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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