Thanks for staying tuned, and for sending in such great questions. We love seeing your responses and inquiries, and for all of the energy and enthusiasm you’ve generated during this initiative. I’m going to try to answer as many of your questions as possible.
But first, I’m going to start by listing all of the great questions you’ve asked which I’m NOT going to answer, because they are questions that your voice teachers and coaches are better equipped to answer! I want to emphasize how important I think it is that you get information from experts in the areas of their expertise – which is to say – doctors can be great at answering questions about medicine and surgery, but I am not an expert in vocal technique or sound production. Similarly, your voice teachers may have opinions about reflux, allergies, and medications, but I am specifically educated to answer those kinds of questions. Admittedly, there is inevitably some overlap between form and function, between anatomy and physiology, and when we have to make decisions about things like considering an operation to address vocal fold pathology, I believe these decisions are best made collaboratively, with the input of everyone on your vocal squad. But for the purposes of this forum – and because it’s the space in which I feel best positioned to speak – I’ll focus on answering the questions about medical and/or surgical aspects of voice that you all sent to us!
So, these are the questions I’d encourage you to direct to your voice teachers and coaches (note, this includes the questions about vocal stamina and endurance, which I may partly address later when I address your questions about vocal rest – but fundamentally, I believe that understanding your own stamina and endurance has mainly to do with developing and understanding your singing mechanism and technique):
How tired should I be at the end of a long day (4-8) of singing? Should I be slightly hoarse?
Best ways to warm up belting voices without hurting the voice?
What is a healthy way to do physical workouts without causing tension in the neck area?
My voice doesn’t hurt but I’ve lost my higher register for the last month!! Help!!
How do you regain lost range after a long singing hiatus? (a few years!)
Tips for a soprano learning to belt safely?
Can vocal chords adapt to stress with a certain training to extend tone ranges forever?
Tips for healthy belting?
When does singing get unhealthy? (e.g. too much air, too much mass?)
What can I do to keep up my vocal endurance through a long run of shows?
I’m learning how to belt and after 30 mins lesson, I feel pinching in my throat. Help!
Is it okay to do vocal exercises daily, or should you take breaks?
How do you know you’re singing in the safest way?
How can you relieve tension? (like in your jaw)
How much singing is too much singing?
Should your throat hurt after you belt or sing? Like lowkey?
What are some vocal exercises that you can do while you are trying to get over fatigue?
What are the best ways to release tension in the throat or to lower the larynx when singing?
Is it normal to feel vocally tired after singing for an hour or two?
What are the best vocal recoveries to do nail (besides vocal rest)?
If you’re not supporting your voice, could you damage your voice and does tea help damage?
Many of you asked questions about various forms of hydration:
Is it best to sip or guzzle water to promote hydration for the voice?
Any natural remedies you recommend during winter months when it’s dry?
How do you best deal with singing in cold, dry climates?
Tips to keep your voice from drying out?
Does steaming really do anything?
How can you steam without one of those expensive steamers that bway ppl have?
Is a nebulizer good and safe for everyone to use? How often should it be used?
Does steaming actually help the voice, or just work as an anti-inflammatory mechanism?
There are many general health benefits to maintaining good overall hydration (i.e., drinking enough water), but it is especially important with regard to the vocal folds, because good hydration helps keep the vibratory layers of the vocal folds (beneath the surface) soft and supple. Steam is hot, aerosolized water, and the reason this can be helpful to singers is because it can moisten and lubricate the surfaces of the vocal folds. Remember that when you drink, the liquids that you drink do NOT make contact with the vocal folds – in fact, the body works hard to keep fluids away from the vocal folds, so that they don’t go into your lungs! But, because it is aerosolized, steam can indeed reach the vocal folds, and lubricate their surfaces. This is a temporary effect, so often performers find it helpful to do 20-30 minutes before a show and/or when warming up. If you use a steamer regularly, it makes some sense to invest in a portable one, but steam is just boiled water, so any way you can think of to make that happen wherever you are is equally good!
A few of you asked questions about vocal fold nodules:
Is there any way to catch problems like vocal nodules before they get too serious?
How quickly can vocal nodules develop? What can I do to prevent them?
Is it possible for the vocal cords to recover by themselves after injury?
Vocal fold nodules do not arise suddenly; they tend to develop over time, and represent a kind of wound healing response to phonotrauamatic injury. The best way to start to navigate concerns about vocal nodules (and, I believe, any concern related to the voice) is with the guidance of a multidisciplinary voice team. At the NYU Voice Center, and other leading voice centers across the country, singers are cared for by laryngologists and speech-language pathologists, and we communicate directly with your voice teachers and coaches so that everyone has the same information and understanding of the state of your voice.
I have written in previous posts about my belief that we do not make decisions about a voice and a singer based on one piece of data. A laryngeal examination (scope exam) is one piece of data. It is important that that piece of data is considered alongside all the other data about the health of your singing voice – including but not limited to, the acoustic and aerodynamic characteristics of your voice; stamina and efficiency; genre, style, and repertoire. One of the many reasons I’m so invested in this partnership with Fit for Broadway is that I believe it is essential that we change the culture, the paradigms, and the beliefs we have about what it means to be vocally healthy.
Indeed, there were many questions that revolved around the theme of staying healthy while vocally busy, and how to recover vocally.
What’s the best way to keep your voice healthy when doing 2 show days?
Best daily remedy keeping a clear and healthy voice?
How can you heal your voice within a few hours before a show?
When sick or with swollen chords, should we warm up and sing for rehearsal or vocal rest?
When should you go on vocal rest? How long before a show, should you when you’re sick?
How do you properly vocal rest? I feel like I’ve heard a lot of different things.
How resilient are our vocal folds / what’s the best way to maintain beyond steaming?
What are your go to remedies for 5 show weekends?
What can I do to be sure I am singing safely? How can I keep my vocal chords healthy?
What’s a way to rest your voice without actually going on vocal rest?
Best tips for someone studying voice in college? Staying healthy, prioritizing, when to rest, etc?
When do i have to “check up” at the ENT?
I think that one of the only pieces of universal advice that I have for singers is to maintain an awareness of the balance between vocal activity and rest. That may seem simplistic to you, but I believe it is the most central and important thing that busy singers should bear in mind. This is the crux of the reason Fit for Broadway and NYU Voice initiated this series – to heighten your awareness of the athleticism of a singing voice. (And I encourage you to go back and read, and re-read, posts 1 through 3!) In that context, I believe that the most important principle in long-term health of a busy singing voice is protecting time for vocal recovery and rest. There are no shortcuts. There are no quick fixes. I would, in fact encourage you to be suspicious of practitioners who promise shortcuts in the long game.
Similarly, each singer is an individual, so there are no hard and fast rules about when to rest the voice. This is another decision that is often best made with some guidance from a good voice coach or teacher. In general, I think that if you start to experience pain in the throat while singing, or you feel especially fatigued, or you start to hear disturbances in the sound of the voice, it may be wise to rest the voice, and consult a laryngologist for an examination so you can make a decision about how to move forward. Voice rest can be helpful, but too much voice rest can also be counterproductive (see again our earlier posts for additional explorations of this theme!).
Finally, I would reiterate that I believe that all singers should have a squad. It can be difficult and daunting, sometimes even scary, to navigate these kinds of decisions by yourself. Having great minds and ears listening to your voice – especially from people who know your voice and work over a long period of time – is the best asset in keeping your voice healthy in the long term.
Thank you again for your energy and enthusiasm! Our doors are always open at the NYU Voice Center – come visit us! (And, though your response to our FFB x NYU t-shirts was incredible and nearly cleaned out our inventory – there are a few shirts left! Grab your own swag and let everyone know that you’re a vocal athlete!)
Contributed by Paul E. Kwak, MD
To get your limited edition, FFB x NYU Voice Center “I’m on Vocal Rest” shirt, email email@example.com (limited sizes left in NYU X FFB). To learn more about the NYU Voice Center, visit www.nyuvoicecenter.org
“I’m on Vocal Rest” is an original Fit for Broadway Apparel design. We are so grateful for to be a part of this mission with NYU Voice Center and believe this message is worth spreading in our global community!