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How to Prevent Vocal Cord Damage

How to Prevent Vocal Cord Damage 

A Guest Post by Linda Septien of Septien Entertainment

Vocal StrainWhat does Adele, John Mayor, Keith Urban, and Stephen Tyler all have in common! All their careers came to HALT from serious vocal problems. Singing is a sport and the demands we put on our voices can be similar to a serious marathon runner and the stresses caused from daily grind of muscles. Adele who sold more than 10 million copies of “21” cancelled 17 US dates in the middle of tour to have laser surgery because of two hemorrhages on her vocal cords. 

In my practice, this is usually caused by pressing the cords night after night until they explode!  The cords become SO fatigued from either pushing the voice or illness or doing both at the same time that the tiny blood vessels are at risk of breakage. 

Steven Tyler ScreamingStephen Tyler had the same reported problem. After Keith Urban discovered a vocal polyp on his cords, he cancelled his 2011-12 “Get Closer” tour and has been asked to remain quite for 3 months.  Three months? Wow…when was the last time anyone could do that?  ……much less a singer who makes money with the instrument inside our bodies.  John Mayor condition pre surgery was diagnosed as granuloma…trauma to the vocal fold due to incorrect singing over and over and over…He has now quit singing until later this year.

In my recent tour with Demi Lovato, I was amazed at how much she had to sing night after night.  ………. songs, that required vocal dexterity with extensive range and loudness.  My comment to her was that there was no way that any singer can sing night after night after night without resting every two days to regenerate vocal health.  But since singers do NOT make money on recordings any more, one of their only revenue streams are tour support.  Concerts are scheduled back-to-back to minimize costs but the golden goose is killed.

As I have told my students many times…rock and pop singers have LESS problems than our fellow opera singers…they are shocked by this! As an opera singer, you are singing with a 400 piece orchestra behind you with NO microphone and after 3 hours of singing…well…the cords begin swelling, and then begin fighting the singer and then start beefing up for the next marathon. This can be good and bad…There are singers who can sing night after night and if they remain in good health they seem to have minimal problems with their cords.  There are others in good health but two nights in a row and they are gone…gone …gone….You have to follow your body…some of it is just genetic and you are not going to change that. “I was finding myself working harder and harder to do what was once effortless, and having passed through puberty, I was surprised to hear my voice cracking.” Paul Stanley of KISS

Like ALL medical issues, prevention is KEY….and less expensive than surgery.  

Ten Top Causes of Vocal Cord Problems

  1.   Repeated singing with no rests

  2.   Improper Nutrition

  3.   Smoking

  4.   Drug Use

  5.   Speaking over Noisy Environments

  6.   Improper voice training

  7.   Not enough lubrication before, during and after performance (the key is after!!!)

  8.   Throat Clearing

  9.   Yelling

 10.  Bad Monitors (singer tries to hear himself)

The main consideration in vocal cord problems is that the post surgery time can KILL a career.  In this fast back and forth one-off world of songs, your fans are saying, “Next? “  So what are the most important factors in keeping a healthy voice?  

Tips for Keeping Your Vocal Cords Healthy 

  • Finding a good coach is the best thing you can do for yourself.  Be sure that your vocal coach has worked with ENT’s , trained artists who previously have had vocal nodes and understand the traumas of tours.  

  • If there is a change in your voice, whether gradual or sudden, get a strobovideolaryngoscopic examination, which will give an accurate assessment of your vocal cords.  

  • Just resolve that your instrument is INSIDE your body and you are going to have to live with the fact that you can’t do ANYTHING that will hurt it or pay the price.

  • Smoking is just stupid period. unless you want a three note range.

  • Drugs eat into your cords like acid..that’s stupid too.

  • Eating dairy before singing is mainly like swallowing a ball of snot.  Ew…….

  • Talking before a gig is really dumb….no meet and greets unless you plan to not talk…much better AFTER the show not before…your mind should be on your show….

What do Demi Lovato, Forever The Sickest Kids, Beyonce, Jessica Simpson, Selena Gomez,Cody Lindley and Nick Lachey have in common?  All of these performers, along with stars from Glee, Disney and well-known movies and tv shows, have studied with Linda Septien at Septien Entertainment’s School of Contemporary Music.  For 25 years they've helped countless artists define their style and perfect their craft.  


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