Jump to content

Huge dilemma

Rate this topic


StephanyM
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hey everyone, my name is Stephany and I'm new here! So pretty much let me tell you about my huge dilemma, and hopefully someone can chime in with some advice =)

So the thing is, I am a teacher and work with groups of about 30 loud and excitable teenagers. Also, I sing and really want to become a great singer, though I don't think my technique is good yet, and there lies the problem. I didn't use to have too many issues when singing (I said too many, which means I always had issues), but lately I've been experiencing a lot of discomfort during my teaching, and I feel it has taken its toll on my singing voice.

This started happening at the end of the last school year, but I thought it would improve once I went on vacations for summer. I rested my voice and I thought it would be better once I started teaching again, but it's not. Actually, I feel it's much worse. During vacations, I didn't really do many vocal exercises because I was afraid of overusing my voice while I needed it to rest, and the same holds true now. I am terrified of doing any exercises and risk harming my voice, so I feel I'm stuck here. I cannot do exercises to improve my technique because my voice already feels extremely tired at the end of the day. I obviously cannot rest my voice completely, either.

I did go to an ENT during the summer vacations to make sure I didn't have any nodules or anything, and he said my cords were fine, but he didn't use a laryngoscope (is that's what it's called?) but instead used a dentist mirror and a penlight. So I'm not sure he was actually able to see my cords properly, and when I called to make the appointment I clearly asked them if they had that device to look at the cords and they said they did, but when I went in, it turned out they didn't. Should I trust his professional judgement, or should I go to another ENT and make sure he can see my cords properly this time?

After I've rested for the night, my voice usually feels fine in the morning, unless I had really abused it the day before, but because I'm obviously doing something really wrong with my speaking voice, it comes right back every day. So my question is, even if the ENT found nodules, I still can't take a vocal rest (they would probably fire me, even with a medical certificate because that's just the way it is at this school), and I CAN'T not have a job right now. So what can I do??? I desperately want to improve my vocal technique, but I'm really afraid of doing any exercises when I come back from work and risk putting more strain on my voice.

Hope this wasn't too long ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My totally not professional opinion...

I'd be worried less about the fact that the ENT didn't use a laryngoscope and more worried about the fact that the ENT didn't have a diagnosis for what exactly is going on. If there's pain, then something must be wrong, even if your vocal folds look fine. I'd go see a different ENT and try to get a diagnosis. Then once you know what's wrong, you can assess your options for how to fix it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Someone who might have insight doesn't spend much time here. Thanos (akward.) He is a teacher of ESL, I think, in his country. His voice is in constant use all day but I don't remember what it was he would do to guard his singing voice against damage.

My job has me answering the phone all day. But it's not the same as "broadcasting" over loud kids.

When I went to school, teachers expected you to be quiet. And there were consequences if you could not or would not keep quiet. After a while, then, it became easier to get along in school by being quiet when the teacher wanted us to be quiet. But I understand the world is different place, now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My teachers would go ahead and send you to the principal's office as a matter of standard procedure. Then, when you got home and your parents found out that you couldn't keep quiet for the teacher, you got your butt whipped. As I mentioned before, we learned that it became easier to just be quiet when the teacher wanted us to be quiet. We could holler all we wanted in outside of activities, of course. Nor was school grim. But there were expectations and standards.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm no professional either, but here are my thoughts.

Maybe what your ENT used was some sort of laryngeal mirror device? I have heard of them used before in older vocal studies, and if you look at the pictures, they still get the full image of the vocal folds.

Anyways, a couple things I would look out for:

It's likely that the real issue lies in your SPEAKING technique, and that is what is really tiring you out and compromising your singing as well. It's well known that many people speak in an unhealthy way. They develop a bad habit of speaking at a very low pitch or in a vocal fry register, and that puts a lot of pressure on their voice. I also remember reading about some vocal researcher or speech pathologist saying that the majority of their patients are actually teachers! So you are not alone in your issues. Teaching is an occupation that demands a lot out of the human voice, and my theory is that, unlike singers, teachers often neglect the importance of good vocal technique because they are more focused on the mental side of things, and that's why they end up getting more voice problems.

Also, you may be going too black and white as far as vocal use vs. vocal rest. Light vocal exercises for a short period of time every day can be a happy medium and that's sometimes better than resting your voice completely because the exercises will encourage it to keep working efficiently, or work more efficiently than before. If you just go on complete vocal rest, your bad speaking habits may remain once you begin speaking again. Whereas certain vocal exercises will train your voice to work in a healthier way.

Start with this video. This guy is one of the top vocal researchers in the country so there is real science behind the exercise he recommends. It is actually therapeutic to the voice in most cases.

Thanks for all your comments guys, I think I'm going to try to find an ENT that works with singing and speaking voices and see what they have to say.

I really like what you said about me going too black and white with technique, but again, I'm just terrified of overusing my voice with vocal exercises. Then again, I tried this exercise. I was used to doing sirens on NG, M, Z, V but I feel that lately, my range is quite disconnected, and it wasn't so bad before, but it might just be a lack of training because I have honestly stopped doing much training for the past month because of my fear of over-straining my voice. I have worked with a couple of different vocal technique books and I do have a vocal teacher (though this past month I haven't taken any classes because I started working again and she's in Europe and we haven't found a time that suits us both, hopefully when they move back from DLS, we will find a way, they're Skype lessons) but it wasn't so bad as it is now. I tried the straw right now (hadn't done that before) and it was very hard to keep the siren steady once I went up. I didn't feel it tired my voice, which is good, but I'll need to get those thin straws, cause I was using the regular soda-size straw, so let's see if it's better with the stirring one.

Ron and Owen,

Regarding how quiet or loud the students are, even if they're completely silent (I'm quite lucky there, because it's a Catholic all-girls school, so the environment is much quieter than at other schools), it's still impossible to expect the teacher to speak as though she was speaking to one person in a small room. My girls are usually quite respectful, but you have to understand that they're human beings, so they breathe, they cough, they borrow erasers, they blow their noses, they move, they turn pages, and all this, times 33 in some cases. So yes, you do have to raise your voice, no matter how quiet they are. Plus, you have all the noise coming from outside (this school is located in a very busy neighborhood, with a lot of traffic, a lot of people, a university nearby, so picture that), plus sometimes the younger girls from elementary school go out in recess when you're teaching high school, or another class is doing Physical Ed or playing sports, so it gets very loud outside as well. And it's funny that you mention someone here being an ESL teacher, that's what I teach too!!! I'll see if I can email Thanos for any further advice!!!

Because what I teach is a language, there's a lot of pairwork required, since they have to get used to speaking it, and you can't expect 33 people to raise their hands every single class, so they get together, they do the role-plays they're supposed to do, and once they're done, obviously the whole class is speaking, I need to make myself heard over girls who are laughing about the activities (I do try to make them as fun as possible) so that they are quiet again and we can move on. Just imagine yourselves being in a very boring class in which no interaction with your peers is allowed. You would probably not even try to learn.

So as you can see, it's not really a matter of the students being quiet. A teacher has to raise their voice. Period. I did work at a call center for 3 years when I was a student, so it doesn't really compare. I never went hoarse, even when I was on the phone for six hours, with terrible connections, people who couldn't hear you, etc.

So I'll go to another ENT and see what they can find. I'm pretty sure my vocal technique is bad at the moment. Even when I sing, I strain a lot. But that would be an issue for another post I guess?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see, Stephany.

In electrical work, I have been a teacher. On the job, and professionally. And my experience was probably different than yours. I will email you so that I don't derail the thread.

How did you handle that? It would be great to know!!!

I have taught groups of adults as well, though much smaller. Up to 10 or so. It's a lot easier on the voice. And I actually enjoy working with adults more, so I might try to find a job at a Language Institute, which is what I've mostly done. I thought working at this school would be great for my personal growth, but I think I'll have to see what matters more, my personal growth or my voice. Singing is one of my biggest passions in life, and I don't want to risk damaging my voice for any reason.

I was trying to find Thanos to email him, but I can't :( Is that his user name? I still need to know how to search for members. Can anyone help me here? :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stephany - I understand your dilema. Assuming your ENT is correct that there is nothing wrong with your chords there are a few things you can do.

If you aren't already, you need to warm up with semi-occludeds before class for sure. The straw exercise or lip rolls, "ng", etc.

Then make sure you are speaking in the right pitch range in your class - not too low. When speaking - you need to watch that you're not holding back support. Sometimes when people try to "take it easy" on their voice, they accidentally hold back on support - that can be detrimental as you may be putting even more stress on your voice.

I don't know if you have to yell in class to get the attention of the teenagers? If you do, maybe you should try a bell or some other device, so you don't have to use a yelling volume during class.

As for your actual singing workouts - make sure you start with the semi-occludeds again.

Lastly - seeing that you need this job, you should seek out a speech therapist. And - a good voice teacher that knows what he / she is doing.

You need a vocal workout that is tailored to your situation. If your voice feels good in the morning try shifting your vocal workout to the mornings instead of after class. If you do a good healthy workout before class, this will set you up for great speaking during the day.

It sounds like this will be easy to overcome - you just need to "meter" in the vocal workout (a very healthy workout) - starting short (15- 20 min) and gradually increasing the duration over time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with Geno--the first person to see is a speech therapist instead of an ENT, as an ENT already has said you're probably fine in vocal cords. ENTs who work with singers may be involved more with opera singers and are likely far more expensive.

Or, try this instead. Singing and talking resonance work similarly and both have the effect of significantly increasing volume. It takes some time to understand how to effortlessly increase resonance, by adjusting vocal apparatus shape--soft palate, jaws, lips, tongue, mouth size opening, more. Gradually, you'll increase both speaking and singing resonances' volume.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It would probably help you to increase the twang in your voice. You can use the search feature on this forum to learn more about twang if that's a term that you're not using yourself.

But to sum up, if you speak like a mix between a duck and Yogi bear, you'll sound like the female equivalant of Morgan Freeman and everyone will hear you without you having to shout too much. Hmmm, that sounded a bit weird. But true. Seriously, if you speak more like a twangy girl from Texas, your voice will carry much better and you'll use less energy to get hear than if you simply shout.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Discomfort is not normal. If you insist on it, even if you dont have physical problems right kow, you can count on developing some on the near future.

Find another doctor, the laryngoscope can not be replaced by a dentist mirror. And explain yout situation. Hopefully you dont have any problems yet and speech therapy will be able to improve the situation.

AFTER you have your professional activity going well, then proceed into finding a coach and trainnin. DONT do any kind of exercises or warmups on your own until you have a proper exam, with data and a diagnosis clearly stated. Doctors are paid to do this, not to guess stuff out of the blue.

Until then, suspend singing, rest as much as you can and keep well hydrated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Owen is absolutely right here.

I might add that sometimes when you feel that your voice is in a bad shape, you can do very light vocal exercises scattered throughout the day to get your voice back in shape. That happened to me one. I woke up and could hardly speak due to the flu or something that I can't remember, but after doing light scales many times during the day, I had my voice back when the gig came late that night. I got that tip from Mark Baxter, btw.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

follow this order.....a good ent first, his job is to then not recommend, but prescribe voice therapy. get the folds examined first....

rule out nodules or polyps by a doctor that does more than a mirror exam....you want those folds photographed!!

contact joanna kazden for a top notch ent recommendation.

sadly, your profession makes you very susceptable to nodules...even more than a singer!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It would probably help you to increase the twang in your voice. You can use the search feature on this forum to learn more about twang if that's a term that you're not using yourself.

But to sum up, if you speak like a mix between a duck and Yogi bear, you'll sound like the female equivalant of Morgan Freeman and everyone will hear you without you having to shout too much. Hmmm, that sounded a bit weird. But true. Seriously, if you speak more like a twangy girl from Texas, your voice will carry much better and you'll use less energy to get hear than if you simply shout.

Hi Jonpall, actually I've tried twanging but I guess I'm not doing it right because it also hurts my voice.

I'll follow your suggestions guys, and see another ENT and have him recommend a good voice therapist. I found out about an ENT who specializes in singing, so I'll book an appointment. I don't know if she works with opera singers, but there aren't really that many ENTs who specialize in voice use, so I'll have to go with her. Hopefully it won't be that expensive. =)

Before reading your suggestions to try to rest my voice, I did try the straw video. It felt great while I did it, and I used it as a warm-up before teaching today. I still got a lot of discomfort towards the end of the day, though. Obvioulsy I can't expect to solve my technical issues with one simple warm-up. Hopefully it'll come in time. However, something funny (for lack of a better word) happened. After doing the exercises, I felt a lot of buzzing in my head, and it only really stopped a couple of hours ago after I came home and rested. Has anybody experienced this before? Is it me discovering good resonance, or is it something not desirable??? It was very uncomfortable in my head; it almost felt like a headache, but if it's just until I get used to my head resonating, I'm fine with it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

you'll sound like the female equivalant of Morgan Freeman and everyone will hear you without you having to shout too much.

Just great ... that gave me a mental image that's going to stick for a while.

:rolleyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

ok hear me out here im very certain of this. Ive studied to teacher and had masterclasses about speech in the classroom and why Women in general get more vocalproblems. Ive also got à similar problem whilst working in à store. speak low and supported, comfortably low. vocalfry is unsupported so no fry.

The higher you speak the more wear on the folds, the more vibrations. Every day the average female teachers folds vibrate around à million Times' more Than the average male teacher. most females speak to High in general, to sound cute and pretty.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I disagree, what you describe is hyperphonation. it's à vocal disorder yes, it can happen yes. And yes there are alot of headusers that get nodes, aswell as growlers, operasinges and so on.

what you should do is finding an optimum speakingpitch not to low or high but comfortably low. To low is bad aswell as to high, same with to soft or to loud.

Belting is not more dangerous Than any other style if done correctly.

There is also à big diffrence between Talking and singing, just because your singingtechnique is Great doesnt mean your speech is so.

Ive had "speaking to light and bright" as à vocaldisorder it tired out my folds and i would crack like à chicken at the end of the day. Funny part is i actualy did it cause i read it on à forum.

i went to one of the best speechterapists in our university never had à problem since.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...