Those who wish to sing, always find a song - Anonymous
Vocal injuries are a common occurrence among regular singers. Professional singers often experience one or more injury to their vocal cords due to over-singing or exhaustion. And if you have not gone to any formal singing classes, you will be more prone to suffering such vocal injuries. If you look around, there are many famous singers who never had a singing teacher in their early life. And rose to fame on the sole merit of their talent. But the flip side of this was not getting proper music lessons to learn good voice training habits. Good music teachers will always train you on this important aspect so you prevent the occurrence of vocal cord injuries like hemorrhage or cysts or polyps.
Most vocal cord injuries are sustained because of excessive singing. This can happen if you sing for too long or too loudly without letting your voice rest for sufficient periods of time. Remember that a single incidence of vocal cord injury can end your music career. Other factors that may contribute to such problems include smoking, lack of sleep, aging, etc. Vocal cord problems can be genetic as well. Some famous singers to have sustained serious vocal cord injuries include Adele, Celine Dion, Beyonce, Sir Elton John and Whitney Houston.
What are Some Common Vocal Cord Injuries?
A music teaching course will reveal the importance of the one of the most important and yet overlooked muscles in the body - the vocal cords. Students often attend singing classes without ever understanding the importance of training your vocal cords properly. This is why there are so many incidences of vocal cord injuries that even professional singers need to work on later in their music careers.
Commonly Experienced Injuries to the Vocal Cords
Vocal cord injuries or disorders can be in the form of lesions or inflammation.
Vocal Cord Lesions
Lesions are of three main types:
- Nodule - Commonly known as singer's nodule, these lesions are caused by repetitive overuse of the voice. If you have not received proper training in music classes, you are bound to develop these callous-like growths, inducing the vocal folds to swell and get harder. The overall effect is that you will not be able to sing or even talk properly.
- Polyp - This is a more serious form of injury that may develop after a single incidence of vocal abuse like cheering really loudly for your favorite team to win a game of cricket. Polyps typically develop on either one or both the vocal cords due to a high concentration of blood vessels. Polyps are more like blisters and larger than nodules in size.
- Cyst - These are fluid-filled sacs that get built up due to voice abuse or misuse. Sometimes, your vocal cord glands that produce music may get clogged leading to the build up of fluid and eventually cysts. Mucus retention and epidermoid are two types of vocal cord cysts.
You can detect a vocal cord lesion by noticing a change in your voice. This can be in the form of vocal fatigue or hoarseness or loss of vocal range.
Vocal Cord Inflammation
When your voice box is inflamed, you are said to be suffering from laryngitis. A temporary viral infection or vocal strain may be the root cause of this, which results in a very hoarse or even undetectable voice. Resting your voice and drinking plenty of water can reduce the discomfort caused by laryngitis. And regular vocal exercises can even prevent it.
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Can Singing Cause Vocal Cord Paralysis?
The significance of a good music lesson and a singing teacher can never be undermined. Ultimately. that will make a huge difference to whether you have an uninterrupted and successful music career or a career marred by vocal cord injuries.
What is Vocal Cord Paralysis?
The nerve impulses to your larynx or voice box are sometimes disrupted, causing paralysis of the vocal cord muscles. This will affect your ability to speak and in severe cases, to breathe. If you are familiar with the technique of ingesting food, you would know that your vocal cord prevent food and saliva from entering the trachea. And when this technique fails, you choke. This is why the importance of vocal cords goes beyond just giving you a gifted singing voice.
Causes of Vocal Cord Paralysis
While the role of vocal misuse resulting from long hours of singing without rest may cause vocal cord paralysis, the relation is not clearly established yet. The other possible cause of vocal cord paralysis may include,
- Nerve damage.
- Viral infections.
- Certain types of cancer.
Vocal exercises, voice therapy, and even surgery can treat this form of paralysis.
Symptoms of Vocal Cord Paralysis
In most cases of vocal cord paralysis, only one cord is affected. If both cords are paralyzed, then the condition may not be reversible. Signs and symptoms include,
- Hoarseness of the voice.
- Inability to speak loudly.
- Vocal pitch loss.
- Interrupted speech.
- Gag reflex loss.
- Frequent choking or coughing while eating.
- Noisy breathing.
All these indicate only one important thing - choose your singing teacher and singing classes very carefully. Whether it is an online tutor or at-home practice or a music school teacher, you cannot compromise on the quality of your music class if you want to your training to be solid.
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Vocal Cord Exercises to Practice at Home
Music classes help you lay the foundation to your singing career. They impart training on voice modulation, singing technique, and vocal exercises to keep your voice fit for singing. Your music lessons can also spill over to learning a new technique of voice modulation or playing an instrument like the Sitar or piano. But this doesn't mean that student should only practice their training in school and not at home. There are some very effective vocal cord exercises to practice at home -
- Aahs: If you struggle with the lower tone, try training in your aahs. Stick your tongue out and use small amounts of air to do this. Using a lot of air may be counter-effective to building your vocal cord strength.
- Coo Coos: This exercise technique helps you work on the high tone registers. Students have to hoot like an owl while working on their vocal cords strength.
- Lip Trill: This technique helps you to maintain fold closure by blowing in air through closed lips. The resistance that you will face while doing this is exactly what you will need to strengthen your vocal cords.
- Humming: If you are just starting out with vocal training, humming is the best way for core vocal cord strength training.
- Nng Sound: This is a nasal sound that can be produced by coordinating your soft palate with your tongue. The back pressure, thus created allows students to transition from a low to a deeper voice while singing.
Things to Avoid for Preventing Damage to the Vocal Cords
Just like great sports players have to train their bodies to keep in the game, so do singers. You may put your vocal cords at risk with one small bad habit or a wrong move. Taking care of your vocal cords as a singer is non-negotiable. And it is all part of formal training of students at musical schools and singing classes.
Just like you can do regular vocal exercises, similarly there are certain basic mistakes students should avoid to prevent damage to the vocal cords -
- Do not become dehydrated while singing. Your vocal cords need to remain lubricated in order for them to vibrate. The latter produces the sound that you make while singing. Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water everyday and even more if you are going to perform for a long time.
- Do not consume too much caffeine or alcohol. These are irritants and corrode the throat. They may even cause the muscles in the throat to constrict, thereby damaging the vocal cords. A lot of singers have the bad habit of drinking coffee or energy drinks before stage performances. But it is a myth that they will give you wings to fly on stage. They will do more harm than good to your singing prowess in the long run.
- Do not skip the vocal cords exercises to practice at home that your singing teacher has recommended. Warm up exercises like humming and lip trills are extremely important to build up the muscles in your throat before going out full throttle.
- Do not abuse your voice. If you are a singer, it is almost a sin to scream or yell. You are only going to hurt your voice muscles and risk ruining your singing power for good.
- Do not just sing anything that you want. There are different techniques for different forms of singing. Belting out the wrong number without proper training can be very risky. For example, if you are not trained in Carnatic music, you will not only be not able to hit the right notes, but you will end up forcing some of those notes, which will eventually damage your vocal cords.
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