I’ve been having trouble with my voice. There, I’ve said it. It’s difficult to admit that after decades of using my voice to make my living, I can’t count on it to be there when I need it.
I have had all of the relevant medical tests. An ENT at London’s LHSC pronounced my vocal cords in perfect condition. A scope of my throat into my stomach showed nothing unusual. My lung function test proved I can put out a candle at thirty paces, or something like that. The only recommendation was to send me for voice therapy.
Recently, my voice hasn’t had stamina. I could only get through a few sentences before having to stop and push myself to continue. It came on when I started to get more freelance work than I’ve ever had. It was thought the two were connected, and perhaps they are, but there’s a bigger reason.
So, I started vocal therapy. Not “how to sing” therapy, but hard-core, medically-based workouts on how I use my voice. The therapist looked at my vocal cord photo in a different way from the ENT’s assessment. (I’d share the picture here but some say it’s gross. I think it’s fascinating!)
My wrenched neck, the one I’ve been dealing with since two collisions several years ago, is causing muscles to pull my vocal cords to one side. They’re healthy and completely functional, but they’re being hampered by the physical condition of the muscles my neck. So what’s the solution?
Lots and lots of vocal exercises. I’ve only been doing them for a couple of weeks and it’s amazing how much they help. After my first hour-long session, I drove home in a daze and went right to bed for a nap. It was exhausting!
And there’s rest. There’s a saying in the radio biz that you work when you’re sick and if you’re dead, bring a doctor’s note. No more! If my voice feels raw or strained, I’m done for the day. Also, no phone calls. No unnecessary talking. (I’m still working on that one!) Full days of vocal rest. I have to take it seriously if I want my money-maker to last.
So, I now make a lot of weird sounds before I start recording, sometimes partway through and again when I’m finished. If I’m alone at home, I do it whenever I want. (It’s startling. It sounds like a sick bird is trapped in the house!)
Clients don’t know. They’ve been getting their work as promised, as expected. Never let them see you sweat! But this has made me sweat and worry, no question. Thank goodness for my therapist and her extensive knowledge about the voice. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned.
Drinking water does not directly affect your vocal cords. Staying hydrated helps your entire body and therefore, your vocal cords, too. Those sprays that claim to save your voice? I have two of them: Entertainer’s Secret and Vocal Eze. They cannot and do not reach the voice box. They might lubricate and even numb the throat. Hot lemon and honey? Wonderful. But again, not a voice fix. Getting enough water, enough sleep and treating your voice like the delicate instrument it is, are what’s important.
What’s hard on the voice? Clearing your throat. It’s awful! I’ve known this for a long time and try hard not to do it. Making weird voices. Vocal fry – that throaty, rough sound that some radio announcers push through. It’s terribly hard on the voice.
Clearly, I’ve taken my voice for granted for many years and I’d like to tell it I’m sorry. Things are changing for the better. Isn’t it ironic that Derek and I, as a team, won the rights to create a 20-hour audiobook just as my voice was at its worst! It’s worth taking the time to repair this damage. After all, there are only so many voice-actor jobs that call for a Harvey Fierstein or Redd Foxx!