“Singing is like a celebration of oxygen.” - Bjork
The human voice is an interesting musical instrument that’s affected by tiredness. By overdoing it in a singing class or smoking, for example, you can end up with vocal irritation or inflammation, which can hinder the vibration of the vocal cords.
To fix this, you may need some vocal rehabilitation or therapy.
Most people will sing, be it in their car, around the house, or at a party with their friends.
So how can you combat voice loss?
Here’s some advice for fixing your voice.
In this article, we're going to look at the causes of vocal fatigue, ways to preserve your voice, how to stretch your vocal cords with the straw technique, exercises for improving the vibration of your vocal cords, vocal gymnastics that you may find useful, and why you may need to consult a medical professional about your voice.
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The Causes of Vocal Fatigue and Voice Loss
Firstly, many factors affect your voice. The human voice is produced by air from the lungs and the larynx. The lungs, abs, diaphragm, vocal cords, and oral cavity. The air from the lungs vibrates the vocal cords while the muscles of the larynx adjust, thereby altering the sound produced.
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Throughout your life, your vocal cords will change, naturally or otherwise, which can lead to vocal fatigue. This results in you being unable to produce various frequencies and you’ll need to train to improve your vocal technique.
Several factors can affect your voice:
- Viral or bacterial infection leading to inflammation.
- Overuse of your voice.
- Bad vocal hygiene: smoking, dry air, air conditioning, urban pollution, etc.
Smoking is one of the main causes of hoarseness and voice loss.
Nicotine reduces the elasticity of the vocal cords which gives smokers their distinctive voices.
Additionally, your voice will change if your breathing is bad. Exercising can improve your abdominal breathing and airways in general and combat a changing voice.
Inflammation in the larynx, nasal cavity, bronchitis, etc. will also modify your voice.
Depending on the situation, there are many ways to preserve your voice.
Stretching Your Vocal Cords with the Straw Technique
If you’re suffering from vocal fatigue, hoarseness, or voice loss, there’s one thing you should do first: rest your voice for 48 hours. Of course, this isn’t always possible, especially if you perform regularly or work in a job where you're expected to speak regularly.
There are also natural remedies such as herbal teas, honey and lemon, and lozenges that can help. However, if none of these work, you could always try the straw technique. It was first mentioned in 1902 in a German article on the voice and built upon in the 1960s in Finland.
You need to get a narrow straw and sing into it. This involves doing sliding to the top and bottom of your range into a straw and singing notes at a high volume. Do this for 3 to 5 minutes, then try speaking, then sing again.
The singer will feel more comfortable as if their throat has been cleared. This activity stretches the vocal cords and reduces the pressure required to vibrate them. It allows you to make sound with less effort.
With vocal fatigue, the vocal cords can swell. This means the singer closes their throat when they sing which causes the cords to swell further. The straw technique is something that every singer should try.
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Two Exercises for Improving the Vibrations
Why isn’t my voice as harmonious as it was before?
You don’t need to go rushing off to a speech pathologist or ENT specialist. Similarly, don’t go diagnosing yourself online as it’ll say you have an awful illness. Here are two ways to improve the quality of your voice.
This technique was invented in Denmark in the 1930s and allows you to reduce the force applied to the vocal cords and increase the vibrations.
Say the letter “V” and hold the note. You’ll feel the vibrations between your teeth and around your lips.
Slide through your range at a moderate volume. Make sure you’re using your abdominal muscles as you breathe out. Relax these muscles as you breathe in.
You don’t need to sing complicated things to see an improvement; singing the “V” sound is a good way to improve.
The “M” Exercise
This technique is from “Resonant Voice Therapy” which was developed in the 2000s.
You just need to make the “M” sound and feel the vibrations around your nose as you do. Then make a strong “E” sound and hold the note and feel the vibrations in your upper teeth. Finally, make an “ooh” sound and feel the vibration in your lips.
You then need to sing notes using these three sounds, one after another and find a comfortable volume.
Focus on the vibrations as you slide from high to low. This will help you find your vocal range.
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Vocal Gymnastics for Finding Your Voice
Not every vocal exercise is suitable for every singer so you’ll need to look at different techniques and see which ones work for you.
With that in mind, here are a few for different situations.
If Your Voice is Stuck in Your Throat
Do some facial gymnastics each day. This will help you free up your throat by using your lips and stomach to help you sing.
Say “key-ooh-eeks” and exaggerate the articulation of “key-ooh” with your lips perfectly rounded and a huge smile as you say “eeks”. Repeat this around 30 times. Then start singing it to a melody.
Your vocal cords won't tire as much because your lip muscles will do some of the heavy lifting.
If Your Voice Doesn’t Carry
Read a text aloud 5 to 10 times a day without saying the consonants. This will help you to become aware of their importance.
You’ll notice that by removing the consonants, you’ll vibrate your voice more, allowing you to increase its intensity without tiring.
Then read the text again with the consonants.
If Your Voice is Too Soft
Place both hands on your bellybutton and think of something that makes you angry. Read any text as you press your hands onto your stomach to bring the sound up. Hammer the consonants with your mouth wide open and fully express the emotions from your stomach.
Consult a Vocal Healthcare Professional
What if these techniques aren’t enough?
You might want to see an ENT specialist or speech-language pathologist.
The specialist can use laryngoscopy to have a look at the state of your vocal cords and your vocal health and keep an eye out for possible conditions.
Catching certain conditions early is a good way to avoid them worsening in the future.
They’re useful in the event of the following:
- Vocal fatigue
- Voice deepening and loss of register
- Unstable voice
- Lack of flexibility
- Nodules, cysts, polyps, etc.
A diagnosis from an ENT specialist can help you get to the bottom of dysphonia, too. It’ll also help you better understand how to manage your vocal training and performance. To manage your voice, you might need medical help.
As a doctor, they can provide you with therapeutic, medical, or surgical solutions. They’re a vocal rehabilitation professional after all.
If you want to sing well, you need to make sure that your voice is well looked after. If you damage your vocal folds, you could end up hoarse, develop voice disorders, etc.
If you want to work on your voice and improve your singing, you might want to consider getting a vocal coach or private tutor on Superprof. They can help you improve your singing, take care of your voice, and provide bespoke singing tuition. There are three main types of tutorials on offer and each one comes with many advantages and disadvantages.
Face-to-face private tutorials are just between you and your tutor. The sessions will be tailored to you, your needs, and your strengths and weaknesses. Of course, since the tutor will be dedicating a lot of time to you and your tutorials as well as tailoring them to your needs, this type of tutorial tends to be the most costly. However, it's also the most cost-effective.
Thanks to the internet, webcams, and video conferencing software, you can also get online tutorials. Again, these tutorials are just between you and the tutor with the main difference being that you're not in the same room. With fewer travel expenses and the ability to schedule more tutorials each week, the tutor can charge a more competitive rate for these tutorials.
Finally, there are group tutorials. These are more like your traditional classes with several students and one teacher. The cost of the tutor's time is shared between all the students in the class so you can expect to pay less per hour for these tutorials. Unfortunately, this means the tutor can't spend as much time focusing on you and your singing.