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my voice is broken

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http://picosong.com/WHF/ (I think you get the idea)

I don't know what else to do anymore. It was good for at least 10 or so minutes, but then it came back. It's been like this for months now, since summer, every time I try and sing, I always get this awful rasp. It's like an ugly robotic rattling vocal fry all around, and once it 'activates', it gets stuck throughout the whole range like glue.

I've pretty much quit singing entirely for the past few months, hoping some kind of mystery damage would've healed t least a little bit. I recently got back into the game with some very light easy exercises, but it's exactly the same. I was singing for at least a year and a half beforehand with no problems, clear voice and everything, able to sing C5s and traverse the passaggio well enough, I don't know what could've caused it.

Sometimes by chance I'm able to get a clear phrase here and there, and falsettos still fine, and I still talk just fine. it's just after I start singing for a bit. It it a nodule? polyp? Dryness? Tension? Larynx stuff? Mucus? Acid reflux? Some kind of second puberty (I'm 22)? Just awful technique? I don't smoke/drink/etc. It's driving me crazy, no matter how or what I try to sing, how much I warm up or hydrate, or shifting all kinds of muscles and breath and resonance and vowels and everything, I can't get rid of it or figure out exactly what's causing it. I'm very distressed that it could be health related or permanent, but then at least I'd know.

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I'm no expert, but I listened to your clips.

It sounds like vocal fry, so it could be that you are unintentionally adding this effect. If you were to sing a loud EH on a comfy low-mid note such as A3, do the attack of the note with an H so it's H-EH (sustained). Be loud, maybe 90-100% of your max volume . Is the creaking still there? If not then maybe it's an unintentional effect added.

You say it "activates", this makes it sound like you are unintentionally slipping into some vocal fry configuration.

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Thanks, yeah, that's exactly what it feels like. Unintentional vocal fry, like flipping a switch I can't flip back.

Actually for the past few weeks I've been retraining with Frisell's method, just taking it easy with some descending falsetto exercises trying to really ease my voice into shape. And for the past two days I've been actually able to sing again a little bit. But just now I was testing out a few full voice notes and the fry crept in again, suddenly triggered, now I can't kick it. Sigh. I've been trying to figure out what exactly causes it, like a detective, but no luck.

Those Heh's really seem to bring it out. Hmm, trying out with vibrato and no vibrato, still there...more nasally or not, still there...

Testing it out loud though seems to be a little more resistant to it though. When I quiet down to the close of the note it comes right back. Testing it moderately, it's there. Could this be breath related? Or are the cords just too weak to stay together? I'm really bad with this technical stuff.

I've also looked up some other vocal school rasp techniques (creaking, rattling, whatever) to see if I'm doing them by accident, so I can try and sort of reverse engineer them, but I really don't know enough about them.

Update: After a ten minute rest of making some scrambled eggs for dinner, I came back to your A3 test and found I can crudely switch back and forth with some great difficulty. I went higher and tested it too (exaggerated to induce effect: http://picosong.com/vcX/). There is a very light "heightening" or rising sensation in the throat somewhere. Putting my finger on my throat, the fry rumble sensation also comes from around the mid-bottom of the larynx. The back of my tongue moves slightly too when "activating' the fry (although if I move the tongue on my own, it doesn't do anything, so something must be moving the tongue up). It almost feels like I'm yodelling a bit, you know, that breaking of the voice. So perhaps this is a high larynx problem or something.

I think that's enough for me tonight, I don't want to beat up my voice even more (for the purposes of science), but I still feel I made some progress. And maybe I'm just overreacting and it'll all go away with enough normal slow singing training, hopefully.

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I'm far from an expert but it sounds like something is mechanically wrong with your voice. There have been notably singers who have injured there voices and have added a "harshness" to it. Some have even made it there "style".

If you can afford it and you really care about your voice you probably would want to see an expert that can see if there is any damage. Did this happen very quickly or build up over time? Does it seem to go away with rest? Does it hurt or feel different than before?

See if you can narrow down what caused it. For example, say if you had a big performance one day and didn't get to practice and ever since you have started having the issue then chances are you damaged something.

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Hey wasp2020. It seems to me that there is something wrong that is going on on your vocal chords.

I would suggest you couple of things to do:

1. Go check out yourself with a doctor that can see if there is some real damage on your vocal chords.

2. After that I would tell you to take a break for at list week or two to give a rest to your vocal chords.

meanwhile I will recommend you to use a lot of lemon drop or those they sell in the pharmacy. You need to keep your vocal chords moisty.

I would say also during day time a lots of herbs tea.. (you can put it a little sugar or non). You can make yourself some other hot drinks like hot milk/water with honey.

3. Don't speak loud. Don't speak too much. talk only for what you need...(you need to give you voice a big rest).

4. After couple of weeks (at list 1.5 - 2) you should consider working for a start only on your breathing.

You need slowly slowly working with someone that will put you again on track. I can tell you it is not going to be easy. I was treating 3 or 4 persons in your state.. It needed a lot of patience from their part. Because it is not like letting you sing straight back again. You should consider also the style of your singing ... If you insist to sing rough music than It will come back quickly... If you need more information you can write me if you want. Good luck and take care!

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Astounding, excellent posts from everyone.

Also, in addition to rest and seeing a voice specialist, you must remember that Frisell's exercises take time. It's not a magic pill. It's real work and I don't mean muscular. I mean mental. You have to get away from the "mean" sound.

That being said, there have been famous singers who had less than perfect vocal mechanisms. According to Dr. Marafiotta, Caruso was prone to congestion, did not have perfectly arranged structure, lived the life of a "rock star," smoking and drinking. But he accomplished what he did through breath management and resonance. And he had doctors, such as Marafiotta, to monitor his health. And he spent every day practicing basics.

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I just listened to the last one. And it does sound like something at the folds. Two ideas come to my redneck brain.

First off, perhaps some soft nodules that are not apparent until the folds have warmed up and perhaps swelled a little, getting blood flow into the nodules and they become more present.

Second, looser tissue in the folds than some other people have. That is, a genetic mutation. Which leads me to a famous singer who has a genetic mutation that he has turned into what some would call a successful career. Steven Tyler from Aerosmith. National Geographic did a scope of Tyler when he was singing "Dream On" and gets to the Ab5 in that song. His folds produce two apertures. One, near the back produces the actual note that becomes Ab5 in resonance. The second aperture or opening closer to the front produces an anharmonic tone 180 degrees out of phase with the first one. The brain of the listener hears this as rasp. So many people have thought that he is doing some special technique to create that sound. He is not. That is Tyler, singing as best he can and resonating quite well and using mic placement. Well, that genetic defect has brought him millions of dollars. ("And now, for something completely different - the man with two glottae." -ala Monty Python's Flying Circus.)

You may have a genetic defect in that regard that does not have to prevent you from singing. The one question that no one asked and so you did not answer is whether or not you are feeling discomfort or pain when you sing. For when you rest and come back and sound almost clean, perhaps that is what you sound like before being warmed up.

I am not a doctor and I think you should consult a doctor. Just to ensure that you are not doing any damage. If you are not doing any damage, then go and be the next Steven Tyler and you will have a generation of wannabe singers trying to figure out how you get that sound.

Take the word of advice from such singers as John Bush, Ronnie James Dio (RIP), Geoff Tate, Bruce Dickinson:

Do what it is that your voice can do and don't do what it cannot do. For example, if you cannot get the pure operatic tone, you may not spend a lof of time trying to sing opera. That being said, you could do it anyway. Bryan Adams did, in his duet with Pavarotti. Adams has a naturally raspy voice and it never stopped him from selling albums and going gold and platinum a few times.

Listening to that clip, you sounded relaxed, on pitch, centered, resonating quite well. Your only concern seems to be the tone of your voice. So, spend lots of time listening to yourself sing. I listen to myself more than anything else. This helps me get over the self-centeredness we all experience, hearing ourselves sings. Most singers, even famous ones, don't like the way their own voice sounds. By listening often, I can gain some detachment from my ego and really listen to what I am doing, good or bad. And listen in different formats, too, which will inform you how to eq what you do. I sound different on i-pod earbuds than I do with my MS-300 headphones. Different things come into prominence.

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If you are satisfied with how you sound & it fits your aesthetic —AND seems stable, not getting worse over time, just flow with it.

Otherwise, I would strongly advise an exam with videostroboscopy and a doc who understands singers & takes time to be thorough. Check my website (Links) or google "gbmc voice referral" for an up-to-date national directory of the best voice clinics.

I have heard double-sounds like this when there is a soft, very fluid lesion on one vocal cord; and when there is some scarring; either one makes one cord or region vibrate slightly differently than the rest. Or there could be some other problem. There is no way to know for sure just by sound, so you need a good exam to have much hope of it being fixed (with voice rehab exercises, medical help, or combo.)

best of luck -

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Thank you so much for the responses everyone. Really, thank you. This is really the most helpful vocal forum there is.

Something strange happened the past two days, I was able to sing again like old times. It was smooth, it was sweet, it was easy, it was clear, it was like the fry was never there to begin with. The tone and sensations was just like before, and my range and functionality was exactly how I left it (C3-Eb5). And it all felt so easy. I didn't do anything different to do it, really, it just somehow worked. This was like sunlight breaking through the clouds for me, because I'm sure we can all agree that singing feels amazing and I was glad to finally be able to do it again after like half a year of misery.

But like a stupid kid in a candy store, I got greedy and sang for too long. Now today my voice is worn out again, with a bit of that fry creeping back in and out (esp. at the passaggio). Stupid stupid me, I won't make that mistake again (but could you blame me?). I'll take a break, and then stick to frisell excercises for the foreseeable future to really get it down. It gave me hope that my vocal cords does at least have the potential to function normally again, and confidence that I'm making some kind of progress, so now I'm just going to practice.

The reason I even made this thread was because I had signed up for a little open mic thing (which would have been my first performance), hoping my voice would be in shape for the date, but I cancelled shortly after making this thread because it just wasn't working out. So I was in a panic as you can tell from my posts, feeling stressed and anxious, and then dissapointed with myself for missing out on an opportunity. I also wanted to start recording my songs and such. So none of that is a good mix. Now I'm trying to eat better (I'm skin and bones...), have been exercising more consistently, sleeping better, and also have been in a better mood the past week or so for different reasons, so maybe that's all helping.

Now some notes on what you guys have said...While I never sing with rasp vocals, but I finally remembered just earlier, that a month or two before the fry appeared, I was developing too much of a shouty tone above the passaggio, trying to be 'ringier' but with bad technique. That's probably what did it in the end, too hard on the voice in terms of volume and force. I didn't go crazy with it and didn't do rasp, but it was probably enough to wear it down, I probably did develop some real damage. But I did take a few months of break since then and the fry was still there, so I was worried that it was permanent.

As for speaking, I generally barely ever talk, I'm a very quiet guy. I don't drink, smoke, do crazy partying. But about a year ago I noticed that the few times I do speak, I used to talk with too much fry. It was all mental, because I'm pretty shy and try to hide my voice, but it ends up just making it even louder with an awful low fry mumble (especially at the low dips at the end of sentences). I've alleviated that problem a lot though, but I still talk way too low though, at an unstable B2, so I'm working now on having a C#3/D3 base at the very least.

I know what you mean about Frisell, ronsws, I'm in this for the long haul. Frisell is like perfect for me, both the exercises and the results, so it's really no problem for me. I've pretty much restarted my whole singing technique, first did just simple breathing and hums, then started with really light stuff, etc, going through all the motions properly this time. For frisell, I've been doing them for the past while now at a very measured pace and I'm not going to rush myself through this. If even a tiny bit of excercises can help my voice a little bit, it's worth it. It's a bit funny, because when I started out I used to sing falsetto for everything, and then when I finally got some upper connection it was really light and heady and comfortable. So in a way, Frisell feels like common sense to me.

I totally understand the tone argument as well, if that's my voice then I guess I'll have to deal with it (even though it really doesn't suit me...), but it really does feel wrong, uncomfortable, unnatural. like something is hindering and tainting the true voice. It sounds like a robot as well, not even human, it's not even a cool kind of rasp... I don't feel immediate pain persay, but my throat feels like burning shortly afterwards, and I get totally exhausted. Double-sound is a good word to describe it I think, jcazden. Perhaps some small soft node is hardening and fluttering about, like ronsw said. That could explain a lot. Or maybe it is some scarring. Hopefully, if I do in fact have them, such things will fade with a lot of patience and rehab. Thank you so much for the google reccomendation for doctors as well, thankfully one is in Toronto, two hours away. If worst comes to worst and my voice collapses I'll make it a mission to go to him (even though I'm just an amateur, so I'm very hesitant).

I think my problem is a mixture of both physiological reasons and mental reasons. I believe it comes from swollen worn out cords from bad technique, and perhaps small soft nodes like ronws and jcazden mentioned. And mentally, with fearing the rasp, anxiety, and generally being miserable about having lost my voice. I think if I take it REALLY slow, calm, and confident, I'll be able to sing consistently again, hopefully.

I'm grateful this thread exists because I know I scoured the internet trying to find someone who had my too-specific problem, but found nothing but a few reaaally bad yahoo answers. So to anybody google-cacheing this years from now, good luck!

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That's great news, Wasp.

You gave way more info, this time, too. And yes, you could have strained and damaged by not adjusting as you went higher. Frisell is great to work with. Also, read "Resonance in Singing and Speaking" by Dr. Thomas Fillebrown (either zero or nine dollars on Kindle download, I can't remember the price, just now.)

And yes, plenty of rest and re-calibrating what it is you do with your voice. That is the ticket. The hardest part of all of this is not the actual physical effort of the exercises. It's the getting rid of bad habits. For that requires changing one's mind, the hardest thing of all.

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wasp -- you might like the "visualizations for singers" CD/mp3 i made a few years back, its got voice-oriented relaxation & affirmations to help with the mental-stress component, plus ways to rehearse mentally while you're being nice and careful with actual singing.

Look for it on Amazon or click through my website (www.voiceofyourlife.com). Let me know if you have any trouble with access -- cheers

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  • 4 years later...

Wasp2020, I'm experiencing this exact same thing. It came on after I was able to hit whistle tones when I was sick, and I was practicing trying to hit them, and now I'm unable to sing in my mid to lower register without this unintentional vocal fry. I've been singing my entire life (I'm 34), and I'm freaking out. My voice is my money maker. Did it ever get better for you? I need some hope. I don't have insurance or any extra money to see a professional right now because I'm moving to NYC in a month (to pursue singing) - and I just can't believe this is happening right before I'm moving to go sing, of all things.

I'm hoping you're still around and can tell me if your voice got back to normal, and if it did, how long did it take and what helped it?



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All I can say is to give your vocal cords some rest, and do certain exercises to help their recovery. Seeing as both of you are having trouble transitioning or singing down lower cleanly, I'd suggest the sobbing vocal repair exercise. This entails entering your laryngeal tilt; a part of your upper extension below the whistle tones. It's the one that you talk to little kids with. It's a lot cleaner and clearer than falsetto and you can hear the difference n that there's no air. If you can't get it, think of talking to a little puppy, saying "You're so cute!" as high up as is comfortable. Then, retaining that tilted position, lower your larynx and and raise the dorsum of your tongue to the roof of your soft pellet and make sobbing sounds by retracting and making the sound "mmmmm", going from as high as you feel comfortable with to as low as you can, dropping your larynx as low as you can as you go, then repeating in rapid succession so that it sounds like a dog whimpering. This begins the repairing process for your mid registers. The vocal science behind it is that when you tilt your larynx and then lower it as far as it can at the same time, it gives them a good stretch and increases the flexibility and decreases (after a while) the thickness and therefore the potency, inflammability and hardness of nodules and polyps, while helping the vocal cords retain plasticity while you're mostly resting them. Raising the dorsum of your tongue helps this stretching and the soft "mmmm" sounds doesn't cause too much strain.

It's important that while you're recovering, you do not strain by singing high in your chest voice without immediately transitioning into your thin folds. I know this because a friend of mine encountered a similar problem when he and I sang in a particularly grueling set of shows (what a coincidence, we both got into the same shows) and he had to go to see professional pathologists and some recommended that he do this, especially while steaming for best effects, and there was immediate improvement, but it lasted a couple of minutes max, but after a few weeks he was good as new.

I'm not 100% sure about recovering lower registers, because I've never known anyone who lost theirs. But I'd suggest that you micro siren down from where you feel the vocal fry coming, in your modal register for as long as you can, the reasoning behind this is that 1) If that fixes breaks, I don't see why it can't repair temporary breaks caused by fatigue and or damage, especially after you gave your vocal cords a good warm up and stretch, and 2) I'd assume that the reason the vocal fry is coming out of nowhere is because your vocal cords lost their flexibility due to the size/hardness of any developed nodes or polyps and there was a need to flip into that register to hit lower notes, so going near it will allow for your attractor state in your modal register to re-accustom itself to those notes, espcially seeing as low notes are based on size of vocal cords and not their flexibility when vocal cords are healthy and warmed up.

Despite the fact that these exercises can (hopefully) help to repair your voices, it's important to remember not to strain them; your voice is delicate! The voicebox feels big but it's the size of your pinky nail, so look after it and always adhere to good technique, don't reach for high notes when you're sick (because vocal cords get swollen when you're sick) and don't overdo it in terms of how long you sing.

That being said I wish you the best of luck and I hope it all works out in the end.

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Joe, thank you so much!! That is wonderful information and help, truly, I can't thank you enough. I found an ENT who takes my insurance so I'll be getting scoped in 2 weeks, just to make sure there's nothing seriously wrong. I'm so grateful for your response, thank you :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I wanted to post a reply for anyone who may experience this or be interested in what happened with my voice. I went to the ENT today and got scoped. I knew there was something not right, and it turns out I have a vocal fold hemorrhage. The ENT said he doesn't think surgery is necessary, but that I do have to be on extreme/strict vocal rest for a month. He said that he saw a singer awhile back who had one larger/worse than mine, and she recovered fully without surgery from just vocal rest. I'm praying that I recover. I'm moving to NYC in 2 weeks to pursue singing, and I just can't believe this is happening right now. I don't know what I will do if I don't recover - that isn't an option. My voice is my life, so I HAVE to recover. :(

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