1. Are you losing your voice on a regular basis?
If the answer is yes, you may be suffering from poor vocal/respiratory health and/or poor vocal technique. You may be experiencing the beginning of a decline in vocal fold function resulting in a “swelling” of your vocal folds or nodules or polyps. Going to a professional ENT (voice doctor) who specializes in the singing voice to get a scope will give you a complete diagnosis. A treatment program of natural medicine and vocal therapy is recommended to realign your vocal technique and get your body healthy avoiding future problems. I use a blend of holistic, homeopathic remedies along with vocal massage and vocal therapy to restore vocal health for my singers.
2. Are your high notes slowly deteriorating?
If you’ve noticed your high notes starting to deteriorate and not be as clear or dependable as before, this is the beginning of a problem. Catching it early is the key. The first step is a diagnosis (see #1 above) followed by natural medicine and vocal therapy. Drinking 8-10 glasses of water will improve the condition immediately if dehydration is the cause – and you’d be surprised to know how often that is the case.
3. Do you feel like there is something in your throat that you can’t clear?
If this is the case, this usually means you have an edema (vocal cord swelling), a vocal cyst, nodule or polyp. Do not delay getting to an ENT ASAP. A lump in the throat or a ball of mucous in the morning is also the symptom of laryngeal reflux.
4. Do you wake up with a sore throat?
Most occasional sore throats are from dehydration. Drink 6-8 glasses of water to ensure hydration and eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies with high water content like watermelon, pears, apples, and veggies like bok choy, celery, etc. Broth based soups and herbal teas are also excellent to beat dehydration.
If you continually wake up with a sore throat and mucous filling your throat, you most likely have laryngeal reflux which is a problem associated with the stomach and diet. For best results see a naturopathic doctor or nutritionist who can get you on the right track towards healing. Taking anti-acids is not effective for treating reflux and only masks the symptoms. Start off by taking Pro-biotics (with acidophilus) to restore digestive health.
5. Do you glottal?
Learn to speak and sing without glottals. Glottals happen on words that begin with vowels or sometimes a vowel in the middle of a word. A technique for this is to put a small “h” in front of every word that begins with a vowel. Glottals are a hard attack that rubs the vocal folds together creating irritation and vocal fatigue and sometimes vocal loss. Try saying the word “anywhere” or “everybody” with a small “h” before the vowel. “H-anywhere” and “H-anybody”. The “h” is a little puff of air that will always protect the vowel folds from rubbing.
6. Do you eat a lot of processed foods?
Processed foods create poor health – and singers need to have strong bodies. Eat fresh fruits, vegetables and salads every day and try to eat organic whenever possible. Fresh foods create living enzymes in the stomach and help to avoid acid reflux. Organic food raises your immune system and promotes overall health. Read “Eat to Live” by Joel Fuhrman (www.drfuhrman.com). Also use natural vitamins and supplements to keep up your general health on a daily basis.
7. Do you talk a lot?
Or do you work at a bar or with children? Talking over loud music or speaking at a loud volume repeatedly can ruin a singer’s voice. Even talking on the phone without using the correct placement can destroy your singing voice.
8. Do you feel pain in your throat when you sing?
Chances are you are straining your vocal muscles. Overtime this will lead to vocal loss. See a professional voice doctor and vocal coach as soon as possible.
9. Do you lose your voice quickly?
Losing your voice quickly when singing is a sign of using incorrect vocal technique. See a professional vocal coach who can help you fix the problem and gain control over your voice.
10. Do you chew gum?
Chewing gum can cause jaw related tension and vocal problems as well as acid reflux. Who needs it?
11. Do you get less than 7-8 hours of sleep a night?
Sleep is # 2 on the list of vocal health. Water is #1. Not getting enough sleep will not only make you tired, it will also make your voice tired.
12. Do you eat fried foods?
Fried foods are classified as acidic foods. They cause acid “laryngeal reflux” which causes vocal problems. The other foods that cause reflux are: marinara sauce, red wine, alcohol in general, chocolate (especially milk or white chocolate), coffee, mint gum, mint, citrus fruits, orange juice (lemonade is ok – it’s actually alkaline).
13. Do you smoke?
Smoke burns the cilia (the tiny hairs that keep moisture on the vocal folds). Smoking is detrimental to singing well. Period.
14. Are you not flexible?
Being in-flexible physically, can contribute to tight muscles in the diaphragm (breathing muscle that supports the voice) and in neck, throat and vocal muscles.
Yoga gets the stress out of your body and helps to maintain a more flexible spine which improves overall health of the vocal instrument and prevents vocal injury. Singers practice yoga a minimum of 3-4 times per week to keep their voice and body healthy!
Get a professional massage at least once a month. Massages are not a luxury for singers! They are a necessity. Imagine an athlete never getting a massage? Same goes for singers. Massage will help keep your body freer of the tension that causes vocal fatigue and problems. See my article on Self-massage to learn how to apply massage to yourself!
14. Are you stressed out?
Staying positive is one of the most important ingredients for general health – particularly for singers. Stress and negative thinking will create tension at the vocal folds and contribute to fatigue and problems. Meditation for even 5 minutes a day will help to lift up your attitude and improve your mindset. Taking a “time-out” from stressful situations by taking a quick walk or watching a movie can help keep you on a positive path and help eliminate negative thinking.
Drink herbal teas such as Throat Coat with licorice root and teas with marshmallow root (good for digestion). Honey Vanilla Chamomile is one of my personal favorites. Mellows me out just right before a show.
If you answer yes to more than 6 questions: You are definitely suffering. Make some changes and get yourself some professional help!
If you answer yes to 3 or more questions: You could be on the road to vocal problems
If you answer yes to less than 2 questions: You are in great vocal health but you can still step it up a bit! Go for it!