We often talk about the importance of protecting your vocals when singing. Giving you the tools and techniques to sing safely is one of our top priorities here at London Singing Institute. Vocal damage can be experienced by even the most professional singers, however, so it’s important we learn to recognise it and know how to prevent it. Here are some vocal damage symptoms to watch out for, as well as lifestyle factors that will affect your vocal health.
What Is Vocal Damage?
We’ve all experienced a little damage to our vocal cords from time to time. Whether that’s after a drunken karaoke session, an energetic football game, or while getting over a cold. This often presents itself as hoarseness, tightness in our throat, or, sometimes, more serious conditions that affect our larynx and ability to speak. Most mild vocal injury will heal on its own with proper vocal rest and hydration, while some can cause long-term issues. It’s important we learn to listen to our bodies and recognise these vocal damage symptoms.
Signs to Look Out For
Pain or Discomfort – if you feel pain or discomfort in your throat and neck, it could indicate improper vocal technique or, in some cases, vocal damage. When this happens, it’s likely that you are putting unnecessary strain on your muscles. If you are using your vocal cords correctly, you shouldn’t feel any discomfort in that area and your vocal coach or vocal therapist can show you how to do that.
Persistent Hoarseness – a bit of vocal hoarseness after a late night of partying or while getting over a cold is normal. If your vocal hoarseness persists for two weeks or more, it could be a sign of vocal damage. As with all medical conditions, early detection is key, so book in to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Vocal Fatigue – consistently overusing your vocal cords can lead to chronic vocal fatigue. If you find that your voice gets tired after one hour of singing or after a full day of talking, it might be that you’re experiencing vocal fatigue. This may be caused by tissue damage and requires specialist attention. Don’t hesitate to book an appointment with your doctor as soon as you notice it happening to you.
Depending on the extent of your vocal damage, there is a range of possible treatment options to help you get back to normal. As mentioned before, mild vocal injuries will go away by themselves. It’s important you don’t push your voice any further and allow for plenty of rest and recovery. If, however, your vocal damage is more serious, it could present itself as nodules or callus-like growths, fibrosis, polyps or cysts. In this case, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as steroids or even surgery. Should this be the case, what you do during recovery will have a serious impact on the rest of your vocal career. Don’t rush into your normal routine straight after surgery. Instead, follow your doctor’s advice, take care of your voice and allow it to recover fully before returning to singing.
Of course, no one wants to experience vocal damage symptoms! They are uncomfortable, they can stall our progress and, in some cases, take a long time to recover from. Sadly, they happen to the best of us and there have been many well-reported cases of vocal injury in professional and famous vocalists. So, what can you do to keep your vocal cords healthy and supple?
Clean Up Your Lifestyle – you are your instrument, which means lifestyle changes have a direct impact on your vocals. If possible, we would highly recommend you quit smoking and reduce alcohol use. It’s especially important to avoid alcohol and caffeine before performing or practicing, as these drinks dehydrate your vocal cords. Be mindful not to consume too many acidic or fatty foods and drinks or drinking carbonated liquids before you sing. Over time, you’ll notice specific foods and drinks that affect your singing the most and you’ll know when to avoid them. Always listen to your body’s signals.
Warm Up – begin with a gentle warm up and slowly work your way up to more complex exercises to prepare your voice for singing. This way, your vocal will be ready to go as soon as you start practicing your songs, preventing unnecessary straining. A proper warm up will also bring noticeable improvements to your vocal performance.
Take Breaks – we recommend taking a 10-minute break for every 60 minutes of using your voice consistently. You may find, as you begin your singing lessons for adults, your practice sessions won’t last longer than that and it’s absolutely fine. You will gradually build up your vocal stamina – for now, the most important thing is that you don’t get ahead of yourself and unintentionally cause some damage.
Be Aware of Any Discomfort – stop singing as soon as you feel any pain or discomfort. It’s so important to listen to our bodies and avoid pushing through irritation. Seek advice from a qualified vocal coach or vocal therapist who can identify the issue and help you apply better vocal techniques to avoid damage.
Learn Proper Vocal Technique – proper vocal technique is key for preventing vocal damage symptoms. Your breath is the foundation of your voice, so, often, if your breathing doesn’t support your vocals, it can lead to straining or injury. Amateur singers are also tempted to sound like professional vocalists, but without the stamina and vocal technique, you can really damage your voice during complicated belts, especially, if they’re outside of your range. While there is plenty of useful advice online, a vocal coach will give you a proper assessment and ensure you employ these techniques correctly.
Prevent Vocal Damage Symptoms with A Qualified Vocal Coach!
We are here to give you the tools to have a healthy and long-term singing career! At London Singing Institute, we specialise in teaching adults from beginner to advanced level. No matter the stage you’re at, we will provide you with professional advice and support in an encouraging environment. Grow your confidence through our personalised lessons, knowing you are employing proper vocal technique and developing your own unique sound, while evolving as an artist in your own right. Contact us today to enquire about our lessons in jazz, pop, classical, musical theatre, rock, blues and any other genre! We teach in-person, online, in groups or individually.
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, Singing advice