19 Causes Of Vocal Strain

Judy Rodman

Judy Rodman

By Judy Rodman

www.judyrodman.com and www.judyrodmanproductions.com

It’s 2011- can you believe it? With the new year filled with fresh possibility, it’s a good time to get to the bottom of any vocal strain you are experiencing. The first step is of course to identify the possible cause(s).

Here are the top 19 causes of vocal strain I see in singers and speakers:[private_member]

1. Bad Breathing Technique: Inhaling too high in chest, too much or uncontrolled breath pressure applied to vocal cords.

2. Tight Throat Channel: Tightness where nose, throat and mouth meet at the “post-nasal drip zone”.

3. Yelling: 20 minutes of yelling, screaming or “shooting your voice from your throat” can result in blood blisters, the beginnings of vocal nodes, appearing on the vocal cords. Keep it up and you’ll harden those blisters into callouses, polyps, nodes, or even cause vocal cord paralysis or vocal cord hemorrhage.

4. Acute Viral Laryngitis: This is usually is triggered by an upper respiratory illness, but sometimes appears without other signs of sickness.

5. Acid Reflux (GERD): This is most damaging if it is laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). Dietary changes, nutritional counseling are an absolute must, and possibly medication.

6. Smoking: Smoking causes irritation, swelling and dehydration of the cords. Time to quit.

7. Talking too loudly, too long, without good vocal technique: This can cause serious vocal damage. Many times the first thing I address to correct vocal strain is the person’s speaking voice.

8. Chronic or Strong Coughing: The constant hitting of your vocal cords together is as bad as yelling. You must get to the bottom of the cause of the cough and cure it. Sometimes it’s GERD or LPR, sometimes a short term virus, post nasal drip, allergen or other air-born irritant, sometimes it’s throat cancer. See your doctor if your cough lingers or brings up blood.

9. Bone and joint problems: Lack of strength and flexibility in the spine tremendously affect the voice; pain in neck, shoulders, spine or between ribs can indeed cause vocal strain from breath and throat issues.

10. Muscle tension problems: These trigger tight chest and/or throat channel and “freezing” of anatomy… always detrimental to voice.

11. Fatigue problems: These inhibit good support/control, causing slumping of body with concurrent high, pushed breathing and throat tightness.

12. Posture issues: Pushing of breath, tightness of throat channel and guarding stance.

13. Emotional problems: Nervousness, lack of confidence, numbness, eating disorders, addictions, chronic resentments, inability to focus on communicating. These emotions affect anatomy in ways that can cause vocal strain.

14. Lack of Sleep: Causing once again, slumping of body and breathing/throat issues.

15. Dehydration: The vocal cords need a thin layer of mucus lubricating them to move most efficiently. Not enough water intake results in a thickening of this lining… imagine your boat running aground and you’ll have an idea of what your dehydrated voice experiences.

16. Flabby Core (insufficient physical exercise): This results in slumped posture, unsupported and under controlled breath and tight throat.

17. Singing In Harsh Weather With the Wrong Clothes: Singing in adverse weather conditions (too hot, dry, cold, rainy, snowy/sleety, windy, etc) without the right clothing and water.

18. Endo-tracheal damage from being on a ventilator: If you must undergo surgery, watch for this one.

19. Not Properly Warming Up Your Voice: Great singing is an Olympic event. Warming up with properly done vocal exercises is vitally important before singing full voice. Also, you want to warm down your voice (like warmups but shorter) after a strong performance.

The next step is to do something about the cause. Investigate, experiment, but don’t stop til you get to the bottom of the problem that’s causing your vocal strain. Your voice is that valuable.[/private_member]

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.