Brand new research shows that pop singers value their voices as much as classical singers do, but are much less likely to get medical help. Most fascinating, pop (I'm using the term very broadly to include rock, alt, studio, etc.) singers are more likely to go to the doctor for other medical problems, than for the voice.
Here's a checklist to help you get clear on what is and isn't normal:
YES or NO: WHICH OF THESE HAS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM IN THE PAST MONTH (other than times you've had a cold?)
- I have trouble talking loudly or being heard in noisy situations.
- I feel a lump in my throat, like extra phlegm or something sticking there.
- I am losing work, or afraid I might lose work, because of my voice.
- Talking or singing takes effort or makes me tired.
- I have to repeat myself to be understood in normal conversation.
- My throat feels sore or achy even though I'm not sick.
- I'm losing notes at the top, bottom and/or middle of my singing range.
- I feel anxious or frustrated because of changes in my voice.
- I have trouble using the telephone.
- I have to strain, or compromise my technique in order to sound the way I used to.
If you answered YES to 5 or more questions, see a voice doctor as soon as you can.
If you answer YES to 2-4 questions, work on taking better care of your voice (rest, steam, hydration, good nutrition and exercise, and dutiful warm-ups!). If your voice doesn't improve in 2-3 weeks, see a doctor.
If you can answered NO to nearly every question, congratulations! You are in good vocal health. Keep taking good care so you'll stay that way.
This essay was first published April 19, 2009 on The Modern Vocalist.com the Internet's #1 community for vocal professionals, voice health practitioners and pro-audio companies worldwide since November 2008.