Warning Signals ALL Singers Need To Know
The great thing about the voice is that it will tell you straight away when it doesn’t like something. There are generally lots of gigs in the lead up to the end of year celebrations. These warning signs may indicate that you are over-extending your voice or your technique needs a tune-up.
When You’re Warming Up, Practicing or Performing
A little flip when trying to sing high: not the same as a register change in the middle of your voice. This little flip generally means you’re trying to sing higher than your voice is ready for; The desire to clear the throat or cough (when you don’t have a cough); A scratchy, mildly uncomfortable feeling in the larynx.
Don’t ignore these. If you listen to your voice at this stage you can prevent further deterioration. The main stressors for the voice are:
Singing too high for your voice type;
Singing too low for your voice type;
Singing too loud for your current limits;
Singing too long for your current level of stamina.
Combine any of the above and the vocal stress is further compounded.
Straight After Singing
A negative change in the voice: e.g. being lower, breathier, huskier or rougher-sounding;
Reduced vocal range: most usually in the higher range, but sometimes the lower range for certain types of singers.
With these signs, you may need to rest the voice for anything up to 24-48 hours, depending on the level of over-extension. If it is happening too often, you may need help from a reputable vocal coach on how to remedy the situation. No pills, no potions, no quick fixes, no special diets.
If the voice does get over-extended on a regular basis without the chance to adequately recover, then you also may experience the following:
Reduced vocal stamina;
Increased warm-up time;
Difficulty accessing clear, high, soft voice (or the high, light range may disappear altogether);
Momentary silences (gaps) whilst singing or speaking;
Increased vocal effort or the desire to push the voice more to get it to comply.
If these symptoms last more than a few weeks then you may need to get your voice checked by a laryngologist (throat specialist) who has experience dealing with singers. In the UK, singers should try to be seen in a voice clinic (available on the NHS in locations all throughout the UK).
The great thing about the voice is that it will tell you straight away when it doesn’t like something, but you do need to be aware of how it tells you and not ignore it. Remember, your voice is your best friend, not your enemy. Treat it with the respect it deserves and you’ll enjoy a lifelong, productive relationship.