Vocal Health

You have to make your own choices about what to do to take care of your voice and weigh them against other parts of your life. There are all kinds of theories and opinions about what is good and bad for singers. Here are some common beliefs on care of the voice:

Bad For Your Voice:

Good For Your Voice:

When should I see a doctor? Here's some information on vocal nodes.

Vocal cords aren't really cords, they are actually folds, which is why the term vocal folds has come into use. The vocal fold is where polyps or nodes (nodules) occur. Nodules are most frequently caused by vocal abuse or misuse. Polyps may be caused by prolonged vocal abuse, but may also occur after a single, traumatic event to the vocal folds, such as yelling at a concert. Long-term cigarette smoking, hypothyroidism, and gastroesophageal reflux may also cause polyp formation. Vocal abuse takes many forms and includes: Allergies, Smoking, "Type A" personality (person who is often tense or anxious) Singing, Coaching, Cheerleading, Talking loudly, Drinking caffeine and alcohol (dries out the throat and vocal folds) I am not in any way trained in this area but the following is excerpted from an article in "Vocals Newsletter" and will at least give you an idea. Here are symptoms that are warning signs of nodes or polyps: Auditory Signs: acute or chronic hoarseness; reduced vocal range; inability to sing at length; recurring laryngitis; a tonal change from a clear voice to one that's breathy, raspy, squeaky, foggy or rough; and the inability to project clearly. Sensory Signs: repeated throat clearing (to no avail); progressive vocal fatigue after speaking or singing; pain in or around the larynx; the sensation or a foreign substance or lump in the throat; recurring throat soreness; tickling, a burning sensation, tension or tightness in the throat; the feeling that talking or singing is an effort; frequent mucus formation; and unusual swelling of veins or arteries in the throat during speaking or singing. Visual Signs: You can't see nodes, only an otolaryngologist or speech pathologist has the training and equipment. in an exam what they see is benign callus like growths that are the body's reaction to undue friction of the vocal fold mucous membranes. Always get a second opinion! There are other things that can have similar symptoms and before ever letting anyone perform surgery on your vocal folds make sure it's really necessary. Nodes can be cured without surgery depending on the severity. For more information and links check out the links at the bottom of the page.

Mental Health

It's important to take care of your emotional or mental health too! As a singer you are opening up your soul to the world by sharing your music so make sure to have a strong and healthy soul! There are also more pragmatic reasons to have a strong mental state as a singer - like having a strong self confidence so that cruel or insensitive remarks can roll off you easier. Here's excerpts from Stephen Chun-Tao Cheng's "The Tao of Voice" about ways for singers to stay healthy: Enjoy loving and being loved. Be peaceful with yourself and others. Be compassionate toward yourself and others. Have few desires. Follow the Taoist direction of appreciating the feeling of contentment. Remember the Chinese proverb, "You are as rich as the radius of your imagination." Let your imagination glow, grow and fly. Recognize and experience suffering as an inherent part of the process of personal growth. Buddhism teaches that suffering will open channels for you to look into yourself as well as understand and sympathize with others on a much deeper level. Appreciate the good qualities in yourself and in others. Recognize your own weaknesses, and take corrective actions. Although worrying is only human, the less you do it, the better, because it can destroy your health. Rather than worrying, discern which problems you can fix and which you cannot. The fourteenth Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, has said that there is no use worrying about situations that cannot be fixed. It is important, instead, to apply your energy and time to problems that can be solved. Your ability to remedy the situation will also help develop self confidence. Remember this popular Western prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things which cannot be changed, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." If you have failed to accomplish what you want to do, think of your life as a long journey toward a destination, and that the failure is only a temporary stopover. Another failure is simply another temporary stopover. You must continue your journey with faith. As Pablo Casals said at the age of 96, "Feel as if you are reborn each day and rediscover the world of nature of which you are joyfully a part." Keep a "smiling heart". In following this Taoist philosophy you will feel your heart and your whole being opening up, unblocking the channels for the flow of your vital energy (ch'i) Laugh as often as you can. Laugh at your own folly as well. Cry if you feel you need to. Cry for sorrow, cry for happiness, cry for any other reason. Meditate regularly. Have at least one good hobby, such as painting, photography, gardening, growing plants, or playing a musical instrument.

Some useful links:

The Voice of Your Life My friend Joanna Cazden is a folk singer as well as a voice therapist. Her site has some useful information:

American Speech Language Hearing Association

The Voice Center

The Center for Voice Disorders (CVD) of Wake Forest University

The National Center for Voice and Speech (has the very informative "Voice Academy" specifically designed to educate teachers about vocal disorders and fatigue!)

If you are a teacher who is also a singer check out this terrific page! (NEW!) The Voice Academy is a special online web tutorial specifically designed to educate teachers about vocal disorders and fatigue.

Please realize that these are just some of the most useful of the many sites I found and I can't vouch for the validity of the information therein - when in doubt, see a doctor or voice specialist.