I thought I would add a little on this subject since I myself have gone through many years of vocal problems and scares. First off let me start off by saying you can always change your technique and the way you sing little by little. I am not a gifted singer and I have had to change my technique slightly throughout the years. It is very hard to ruin your voice and you can always come back stronger and smarter.
I recently had a scare where for a couple of weeks i found it very hard to warm up and it took a long time to get ready to sing, which is a tell tale sign your voice is tired. Now it is very important to be in tune and honest with yourself. If you can't sing as good today as yesterday was it something you ate or maybe not enough rest or did you over work yourself. In my case I sat down and went over my last couple of weeks which went like this:
- 1. Wake up and warm up on the way to the gym
- 2. Warm up some more on the way home
- 3. Eat something then do a big warm up and voice exercises for about 90 min
- 4. Teach a couple lessons
- 5. Learn a couple songs for gigs and auditions
- 6. Eat and start warming up for tonites gig
- 7. Sing 4hrs of rock, pop, r&b, everything from Incubus to Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Cee Lo to Led Zep. All original keys
- 8. Warm Down
- 9. Sleep
That was pretty much daily one or 2 days off which on those days I exercised my voice like crazy.
Not to mention at this time my diet was horrible for me and I'm a pretty healthy eater. Of course throw in a couple shots of alcohol per night as well. Also a load of acid reflux meds which i have decided to kick after 15yrs of using them.
After a couple weeks of struggling with high notes and getting tired very quick I decided to go to my voice specialist. Knowing I couldn't get in to see him that quick I went and saw a local ENT. He used a flexible nasopharyngoscope which is good but a rigid one sees much cleaner. Well low and behold he said he saw 2 tiny soft vocal nodules one on each cord about a 1/3 up on the cord. Now you could imagine how I felt. Freaking out I cancelled my gigs and called in my sub singer to do the work. I shut up for 3 days which is very hard to do, steamed 3 times a day and drank a little elixir I make which I will give at the end of this blog. I then went to see my voice specialist who uses a rigid scope and they found no nodules and just some acid reflux bumbs(top of esophogus) and redness. He said my cords looked good but still wants me to use acid reflux meds (which I am not and I'm doing well). Im gonna be fine.
The dr. told me that if I have been singing for 20 yrs with the schedule I have and have not gotten nodules that I must be doing something right.
Listen to your body, if it tells you to slow down and shut up for a few hours do it. This will save you some worrying. A good test to see how swollen your cords are is called The Swelling test
Two tests have been developed that can help you monitor any swelling of your vocal folds. These are called the swelling tests.
- Sing the first phrase of a well known tune such as Happy birthday.
- Use the softest voice possible (boy soprano pianissimo).
- Sing it at progressively higher pitches.
- At some pitch you will begin to experience delays in the onset of your voice or you will be unable to produce a soft tone. Your voice will sound like air is passing through the voice box without causing a tone.
- This pitch is your vocal ceiling caused by swelling. You will know it is caused by swelling because with a loud voice you will be able to overcome this pitch ceiling and sing to a higher pitch ceiling.
- If you have no swelling, your soft and loud ceilings will be approximately the same (this is true whether or not you are a singer).
- There are exceptions. This test basically detects a gap in the vocal folds and any disorder that causes a gap may cause these onset delays. Once you have been diagnosed with a swelling then this test can reliably be used to monitor the degree of swelling.
- Sing the following phrase using a ho sound and a staccato length tone.
- So So So So So Fa Mi Re Do.
- As for the soft singing test, sing at progressively higher pitches.
- Monitor the pitch at which only air comes out rather than a tone.
If you really do have acid reflux its a really tricky thing to control but if I had to do it all over again I would take enzymes and probiotics before you eat instead of the drugs because the drugs just keep you acidic the enzymes help break down the food with your stomach acids. There is plenty of material on the internet about lifestyle changes for acid reflux. Also try this elixir to soothe your throat and promote healing.
20 oz water
2 oz aloe vera gel(drinkable kind)
2 tbsp nin jiom pei pa koa (find it at chinese herbs stores online) its loquat syrup and has herbs like slippery elm and licorice root.
1 dropper of marshmallow root
2 Heaping tbsp of slippery elm powder
and any other herbs like ginger root, licorice that you want to add. Sip through the day
This really seems to heal your esophagus quick.
Well I hope this helps and again don't worry it is in fact very hard to hurt your vocal cords or even get nodules.