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Can't "belt " without coughing

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The type of singing I do requires a full-throated delivery. In the past I could "belt" without any physical problems, e.g. throat -tightening. For a year now when I try to "push it" and get more volume, my throat gets a tickle followed by the urge to cough. I can't seem to keep my throat open. Anyone else ever had this problem?

I felt that my difficulties might be connected to a series of sugeries, including open-heart, that I had to endure in the past couple of years, but I've seen a speech therapist and a voice teacher and neither thinks there is a connection. I still have plenty of lung power ( despite advancing years),and don't think my chords were compromised by the 3 intubations. Faulty breathing technique is possible I suppose but I've had plenty of singing instruction, drink warm water during a gig, and , again, I USED to be able to belt without basically gagging.(very frustrating) Any ideas as to why this happens would be greatly appreciated. THANKS

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singing speech therapist here --

try using a little LESS breath pressure, and also see if you sing better after a thorough neck massage. If no change either way, get a video-stroboscopic exam from an ENT who really knows singers. Worth traveling to get to such a clinic.

When I see or experience this kind of problem it is usually one or more of the following:

1) acid reflux irritation;

2) subtle vocal fatigue, which can come from pushing too much breath past cords that can (no longer?) handle it;

3) reduced pharyngeal space, from chronic tension in the back of neck and/or jaw.

From what you report about surgeries, it is possible that you have a very subtle weakness in one or both cords, from intubations OR from the heart surgery itself (The laryngeal nerve on left side actually descends to loop around aorta & then goes back up to do its job. Crazy!). This kind of problem can be "sub-clinical" e.g. too subtle for average ENT/SLP to notice, if it only impacts your singing voice at high pitch/loudness; so go to see someone who will take the complaint seriously. You might also be compensating, without knowing it, by pushing more breath support—which in this case would make the situation worse!

Meantime try using a little less air (rebalance the air-pressure-to vocal-cord efforts), steam more often (in case cords are dry), and feel free to contact me directly if I can help you find a specialty voice clinic, or if you'd like to set up a consultation on Skype.

cheers -Joanna

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