Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Many Singers with Vocal Troubles Recently. Who are they and what can you do to not be one of them?

Food for thought:  There have recently been a series of popular singers with vocal troubles.  Is it more publicized now or becoming more frequent?

John Mayer recently had a vocal operation as well as Adele.  A Granuloma (an inflamed nodule or tumor-like mass of tissue) near his vocal cords was removed in an operation and he has been ordered a month’s rest.   After two weeks’ voice rest (along with many other approaches), there was no change for the better, so he had to resort to an operation.  Read more at:

He had the same operation as Julie Andrews.  He is pushing back all performances and going the quiet route.  Vocal rehabilitation greatly helped Andrews with the team from the Voice Foundation in Philadelphia, PA.
Country star Keith Urban is the latest in a long list of musicians to require throat surgery to remove a polyp from his vocal cords. The singer made the announcement on his website, stating the surgery will be minor, although they are not sure how much vocal rest he will actually need.
There are two more artists whose throats have gone under the knife lately: R. Kelly and KISS singer-guitarist Paul Stanley. Kelly had emergency throat surgery to drain an abscess on one of his tonsils in July this year. Stanley is currently recovering from his throat procedure. He commented to CNN on his issues.
Many great singers are suffering the troubles of his or her craft.  Getting looked at by an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) when things are good and again when something feels wrong is the first step to being on top of a healthy voice.  Get a base line and pay attention to what your body is saying.  Also, get a firm foundation in solid vocal technique.  If you are using proper technique consistently and altering things slightly to achieve artistic goals, you will avoid many potential vocal pitfalls.
If you have troubles, waiting it out and listening to the experts as well as one’s own body is the best one can do.  If vocal rest does not solve the difficulty, an operation may be the solution.  The passions of a musician are great, but one must pay attention and listen to their body. 
Everyone is given a different instrument (their vocal cords).  Each one can sustain only a certain amount of strains and stresses.  The life of a performing musician is not easy- there are many vocal, physical, emotional strains and stresses.  Pushing the voice and yourself both physically and emotionally is not the answer.  Stop and listen to your body and trusted professionals.
Your voice teacher and medical professionals such as ENT’s and the Voice Foundation in Philadelphia ( can help.  They have done wonders for singers and other voice professionals (public speakers, lawyers, and other professionals that use their voice for a living) now and in the past.
The question is are these singers and YOU doing the best to listen to your body and paying attention to when things don’t feel right?  Try to reduce the stresses of singing by following good vocal hygiene, getting adequate sleep, and avoiding outside stresses going in to performance.  Avoid the problem as best you can in the first place.  Watch yourself when modeling others and pay attention to what it feels like.  If you don’t like it, find a professional to help you.
What can this do to your head when you sing next?  What about performance anxiety?  Will they have it?  Do you and what can you do about it?  Sign up to receive my newsletter and find out more. As for our professional singer friends, KUDOS to them for seeking out the help that they need and may they listen to the medical professionals who may get them on a pathway to continue to create beautiful music.  Our voices are precious and vulnerable, take care of yours! 
How are you doing with caring for your voice?  Do you suffer from performance anxiety?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Adele's Operation and Vocal Health

Adele recently had laser microsurgery to stop recurrent vocal cord hemorrhage (bleeding) from a benign polyp according to a statement from Massachusetts General Hospital, where the surgery took place.  This condition is typically the result of unstable blood vessels in the vocal cord that can rupture.  The surgery stops the bleeding and has been used in the past on other famous singer’s such as Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler in 2006.  The continual wear and tear to professional singer’s vocal cords can be intense especially if one is battling illness and fatigue. 

Just like an athlete, singers can get injured.  The vocal cord muscles are small and fatigue easily.  Football players get hamstring pulls, broken ribs, concussions.  They listen to the trainers and doctors and take a rest.  If you push through the injury it leads to more trouble.  All are better off it they stop and let the body recover.  Some athletes and singers need to take longer to recover completely. 

An athlete goes through physical therapy and rehabilitation to retrain their body.  A singer goes through voice therapy to retrain their vocal cords and singing voice.  Adele wrote "My voice is weak and I need to build it back up. I'm gonna be starting up vocal rehab [soon] and start building my overall stamina in my voice, body and mind.  Wanting to do something so bad and not being able to is the most frustrating thing as I'm sure you know.”,0,1943101.story

Each person’s voice can withstand different trials and tribulations.  The stresses a singer’s voice endures can be great.  The key to success is in how we pay attention to our bodies and react to what they are saying.  Stopping, getting surgery now while going through vocal rehabilitation and following through on healthy vocal hygiene will save a good portion of Adele’s voice.  She had quit smoking and drinking to save her voice and says “I follow all the advice I’m given and stick to regimes, rules and practices to the best of my ability but it seems to simply not be enough."  Sometimes this is true, but the best hygiene and paying attention to your bodies signals is the best thing anyone can do!

Dr. Lee Akst, a laryngologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Voice Center in Baltimore states, "A vocal hemorrhage would stop anyone in their tracks; singers are considered a high-risk group because they use their voices so much.  A hemorrhage is the result of phonal trauma”.

"Every time we use our vocal cords to sing or speak, one vocal cord vibrates against another, and that leads to collisions between them.  Lots of collisions can cause blood vessels to break, leading to bleeding in the vibrating layer of the vocal cord, which in turn causes the area to bruise. The inability of the vocal cords to vibrate is what causes hoarseness, the main symptom of vocal hemorrhages.  The louder you use your voice the more violent the collisions, and the higher the pitch the more frequent the collisions," Dr. Akst said. "That's why singers are at high risk."

Taking aspirin or other medications that thin the blood may make someone more prone to a vocal hemorrhage; the best remedy is rest.   Steam heat, via a humidifier, can help as well.  Do not take a cough drop with menthol to relieve the strain, it in the end will harm you not help you.

"When you have a black and blue mark," Dr. Hopp of Saint Sanai Hospital says, "it usually takes a good week or so to recover. You have to be very careful -- you don't want it to come back because you'll have to go through the healing process again." 

Remedies people typically use for sore throats such as gargling with salt water or drinking hot tea with honey won't work in this instance, since they won't affect the vocal cords.  In some cases there may be an underlying vocal malformation causing the hemorrhaging, Akst says.  But if it's just a case of bruising, then the prognosis is probably good.  The person will sing again.

Moral of the story?  Listen to your body and seek the advice of a vocal professional or doctor if things don’t feel right. Although medical advancements can get us through tough situations, it is best to avoid it all together.

What about John Mayer is up next……

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Adele cancels US Tour for good reason! What can we learn? Take care of your voice and take care of you!

Recent cancellation of the rescheduled US Concert Tour for Adele is cause to really think about how we are treating our own singing voices.  She is doing the wisest thing she can by listening to her doctors and taking a break from singing to get vocal rehabilitation.  Singing is a joy and a means of sharing our souls.  We must pay attention to our bodies and respond to what they are telling us.  If it doesn’t feel good or you are seriously sick, don’t sing or you could face some troubled roads ahead.

"I have a hemorrhage again and it is paramount that I rest and therefore wont be able to come and do these already rescheduled U.S shows 23-year-old Adele wrote in a blog posted Tuesday. I apologise from the bottom of my heart, sincerely I do "singing is literally my life, its my hobbie, my love, my freedom and now my job. I have absolutely no choice but to recuperate properly and fully, or I risk damaging my voice forever…..this is the only thing I can do to make sure I can always sing and always make music for you to the best of my ability.”

When the vocal cords are damaged either from overuse or abuse, they leak and spread under the surface just like a bruise.  The blood accumulating under the surface makes it harder for the vocal cords to vibrate, causing a sudden change in the voice. Like a black eye, the bruise will heal. But recurrent damage can cause scar tissue to build up and cause a permanent change in a person's voice.  "The typical scenario is, a singer will say, 'I was doing fine and then all of a sudden, in the middle of a show or a rehearsal, I had a break in my voice and couldn't sing well anymore.’”  Dr. Gaelyn Garrett, medical director of the Vanderbilt Voice Center in Nashville.  

According to Garrett, anyone can suffer a vocal cord hemorrhage, but singers are more likely to notice minor voice changes. "It can even occur after coughing, or anything that generates a lot of pressure," she said. "There are some patients that just come in with evidence of a bleed from several days ago." Whether a person needs rest or surgery depends on whether the injury recurs and on their voice demands.   For more detailed information go to

What does this mean to you?  Listen to your body at all times.  As a singer, your body is your instrument and it should be taken care of.  Good technique, adequate sleep, plenty of water, a good diet and exercise are essential.  There are good guidelines to follow in my blog  

Also, warm up when you are under the weather and ask yourself if it feels okay to sing and do you really need to do that performance or can it be rescheduled?  If it does not feel good, seek the advice of a voice professional and/or otolaryngologist (ENT).

Best wished to Adele in her recovery and we all look forward to hearing her sing again!  Take care of yourself and your voice.  Watch your technique and always check in with your voice teacher.  Most professional singers check in with a vocal coach periodically to check their technique and sound quality.  They also check in with an ENT if anything feels different.  Please contact me with any questions, visit your ENT or the Voice Foundation at

Most of all, keep singing and sharing your music with the world!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why Singing? The Passion of Singing.

Why Singing? 
Singing is an art form that is an extension of yourself.  It is a means of self expression and creation of beauty so enjoy it!

Sing for yourself, sing for the school choir, sing for your church, sing for karaoke, audition for American Idol or the Glee Club.  Above all do it for yourself and find someone you trust and whose opinion you value to help you make the most of the instrument that was given to you!

Understanding and appreciating art is so helpful when it comes to processing the hard stuff in the world.  Music is a safe place to let out emotions.  An outlet for times you feel powerless and it can be invaluable in your emotional survival.  Art can be such a powerful tool for children to express themselves.    Jennifer Nettles, Sugarland

Extra Reasons to Take Voice Lessons

·                    Increases attention span
·                    Increase focus on task at hand
·                    Improved reading capabilities (both music and reading comprehension)
·                    Analysis of literary content
·                    Value of connection between math and real life experiences
·                    Self confidence and courage
·                    Improve communication skills
·                    Improve breath control (asthma)
·                    More awareness of mind and body connection
·                    Awareness of physical body and taking care of your body
·                    An emotional outlet

For more reasons to take music lessons, visit

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How do you make the most of your practice time for your voice lessons?

Okay, so you are taking voice lessons and you are wondering:
How do I make sure I am making the most of my practice time?

How Long Should I Take Voice Lessons? 

Singing, just like any other instrument, benefits from regular practice and dedication to a craft.  Piano lessons develop muscular coordination in your hands while singing lessons develop muscular coordination in your whole body.  Your body must become in sync with itself!  Sometimes this takes a little while of dedicated practice and it is different for everyone.

We are all different but you get out what you put in to your voice lessons.  Disciplined practice on a regular basis yeilds the best and quickest results.  We all have individual instruments with different starting points, but as a general rule, at least 6 months of dedicated weekly lessons will give you a solid basis.  It is best to keep taking weekly lessons to make sure that you continue to progress vocally.  If after many years of lessons you absolutely must take a break, keep practicing on your own and check in regularly with a trusted voice teacher.  Persistence and consistency is key to singing beautifully.  (See Blog Post The Personal Touch of Private Voice Lessons).

How Do I Know I Am Making the Most of Your Practice Time?  How do you know you are not 'just singing'?

* Voice teachers craft warm-ups (vocalise) for a reason. Always start practice with the warm-ups from your previous lessons as well as a few favorites you know line up your voice well.

* Make sure you have a clear, focused practice space.  Once you have started practicing, do your best to  not answer your phone, text, talk to anyone.  It is your private singing and practice time; stay on task.

* Practice songs with a focus on what your teacher recommended in you lesson in addition to learning new pitches.
            - It is helpful to pinpoint 2 or 3 things you should work on during the week in practice and put it into your own words.  i.e. Breath Control (use your laughing muscles) and Breathe only where you have breath marks!  I do this with each of my students in every lesson.

* Pay attention to what is happening with your voice in the moment.  Make a note of it in both your warm-ups and repertoire.  Write down questions for your teacher to take to your next lesson.

* End your practice time by singing a song that is well set in your voice.  This way you 'warm-down' and know if your practice of the day follow good technique for your vocal development.  It is always fun to end your practice time by just singing something you love!

**  The more active your brain is when practicing, the more you will get out of your practice time and the quicker you will obtain your singing goals!

Happy Singing!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Personal Touch of Private Voice Lessons

The Personal Touch of Individual Voice Lessons

Weekly time spent singing with a voice teacher and identifying what is going on with your voice right now is invaluable.  Outside ears and eyes help identify where you are that day or week and professional guidance and diligent work can take you to the next level.  Although we establish good vocal technique using proper breathing, support, and vowel placement, sometimes it takes time to get there.  Through dedicated practice and patience you can develop a beautiful singing voice.  It is not an overnight (or couple of week) process.

Persistence is the key as your body is your instrument.  Muscle memory develops over time and helps you sing with consistency throughout your range with a stronger, more balanced tone.  Just like training to run a 5K, your body remembers what it should do and needs to do to create a stronger sound.  It pulls on its resources, muscle memory!

If you are pursuing singing, there can be no rush!! There is no reason to wait to begin the journey but no rushing the development! Vocal muscles develop with the natural athleticism they have. If you try too hard or go too fast, it is dangerous. -Susan Eichhorn Young

Our bodies and voices change on a weekly basis (sometimes daily) because our lives are continually changing.  Your technique may be working wonderfully and a few days later there may be some troubles in a particular spot.  You may not notice it on a consistent basis but sporadically.  Has your muscle memory kicked in enough to know what to do when you are not feeling 100%?  Are you an adolescent going through puberty therefore in constant change?  Weekly voice lessons can help you identify what is going on quickly and provide you with solutions.

What we hear while we’re singing just isn’t true, so we are always dependent on someone we trust to take the role of our ‘outside ears’.  Renee Fleming

How do you trouble shoot on your own?

There are a few questions you can always ask yourself:

Have you been eating differently?  Did you stop drinking enough water?  Stayed up late a lot?  Has your posture changed?  Not worked out recently?  Are you stressed?  Did you go to a concert and sing too loudly for too long?  Do you have a cold and need techniques to sing above it?  Find a voice teacher you trust to help you.

For more information regarding voice lessons visit or sign up for my free newsletter.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Follow Up to Singing and Exercise: Cardio and Yoga

So, how did you do?  I have added at least 2 sessions of cardiovascular exercise and 2 sessions of yoga and/or pilates to my weekly routine for the last month.  I have more energy in general and am more focused on my daily tasks.  I have more motivation to try new things and get more accomplised.

I am also more focused when I practice.  As a singing teacher, I know it means a lot more to practice well in less time than to spend 1 hour just singing.  I am able to spend time perfecting a phrase and with more ease than before.  Being more in tune with body, I can diagnose the problem quicker and solve the problem faster (i.e. my posture is not in alignment, so by fixing that, I improve my sound).  I can sustain phrases longer in my repertoire and feel more grounded when I sing.  My nerves are even a little better when I perform for others.

How has increased exercise and yoga impacted your life and your singing?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Singing and Exercise: The yoga connection

Exercise such as yoga aligns your spine, improves posture, calms your mind, and strengthens your whole body which is all beneficial to singing.  Pilates focuses on strengthening your body from the inside out with much emphasis on ‘the core’ or abdominal muscles which are the powerhouse of a singer.  Both pilates and yoga are practices that help you to be more in tune with your body and pay attention to the needs and comfort of your body and mind.  Because your body is your instrument, it is essential to be in tune with it and take care of it. 

As a singer, your body is your instrument, so take care of it by exercising and eating well.  Both aerobic exercise and yoga help posture for singing.  You will  have more control over your breath, be able to sing longer phrases, have more endurance, and feel better about yourself.   You will also be more in tune with your body and, just like an athlete, the more awareness you have over you body, the greater your success.
So, get out there in the warm air and exercise, eat the fresh foods of summer, and balance your mind and body and make your singing the best it can be! 

What do you think about the connection between exercise, diet and singing?

Join me in an experiment! 

Add both Cardio exercise 2 times and yoga 2 times to your weekly routine for the next 2 weeks.  Practice sometime during the day following the activity and notice how you sing.

Does it change your singing?  Improve your breathing?  Increase your focus?  Make singing easier?  Make you more in tune with your body so that you fix and problems quicker?


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Singing and Exercise- How can working out help your singing?

Singing and Fitness (Healthful Habits)

As a singer, your body is your instrument, so take care of it by exercising and eating well.  Exercise has many benefits for your singing.  Keeping in shape helps posture for singing and improves breathing.  You will have more control over your breath, be able to sing longer phrases, have more endurance, and feel better about yourself by working out just a few days a week.   You will also be more in tune with your body and, just like an athlete, the more awareness you have over you body, the greater your success.

Moderate aerobic exercise on the days that you sing warms up the body and voice and gives you energy and stamina.  Cardio activity such as walking or jogging and yoga or pilates help you breathe better and keeps you grounded.  Exercise is one thing you can control if you are in a show or have a busy performing schedule.  It is also something you can use to balance yourself if you feel overwhelmed.

Walking is a great form of exercise because it gets the body warmed up (and the voice to a certain extent).  It gets the lungs working how they need to in order to sing well by cardio activity and getting the heart rate up.  When walking or jogging, breathe as you do for singing.  Keep your breath low and expanded in the lower back and low abdominals, your sternum and ribcage flat and a low larynx with an open throat.  Be aware of any straining in your jaw or neck. 

Join me in a challenge, add cardiovascular exercise at least 2 times per week and then sing for the next two weeks.  What effect does it have on your singing?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Allergies Get the Best of Us!

Ah, spring!  What a lovely time of year!  Unfortunately as we watch nature in bloom with flowers and budding trees, many of us are blossoming with sneezing, wheezing, and watery eyes from our allergies!  This can interfere with our singing in many ways.  Our breathing is affected, we sound like we have a cold, and we are tired.  When not taken care of, often our allergies bloom into colds.  You can avoid all of this by following the Healthy Singing Tips in my blog Healthy Singing and a Healthy You (April 2011)! 

Specific things you can do to take care of your allergies are:

- Use a saline nose spray in the morning and evening
- Avoid being outside first thing in the morning
- Take a shower before bedtime to wash away any allergens on your hair and skin throughout the day so that you are not sleeping with the irritants
- Make sure that you are taking any medication for allergies that have been suggested by your doctor
- Drink lots of water
-Sing a little bit everyday.  Gentle warm-ups such as humming and staccati note patterns can often
  help you break through any allergy mucus
- Sing early in the day and it will help your speaking voice too as you will think about your breath support

How do these tips help you with your singing and managing your allergies?  Do you have any ideas to share that help you to sing in the allergy season?

Next up: How saying physically fit improves your singing voice.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

To Sing or Not to Sing?

To Sing or Not to Sing?

At this time of year, we often get sick despite our best efforts.  Should you try to sing while under the weather or is it best to keep quiet?  It all depends on the illness, how your body feels, and the exact circumstances.  It is always wise to test it out to decide.  Sometimes it might not feel great to talk, but when we sing a little, it feels okay and actually helps our speaking voice to feel better.

If you think it might be okay but are not sure, try the following things to help you decide:

  • Hum a little bit in all parts of your range.  Start with one and two note patterns and then try humming over a series of pitches.  How does it feel?
  • Sigh or siren sound through your entire range.  Can you slide easily through the whole range?
  • Do a few 5 note descending scales on your most comfortable vowel.  Try it on ‘ee’ if you feel like you cannot sing through the flem or ‘gunk’ in your throat.
  • Sing a series of staccato notes (short pitches) on ‘ha’ as if laughing.
  • If it doesn’t hurt, do your normal series of warm-ups.
  • Re-check yourself. Still okay?  Then sing a song that is very settled in your voice.
  • If it still feels good, continue practicing or consider performing.

** Trust your instincts.  If it does not feel good to sing, DON’T SING!  Proceed with caution and stay in tune with your body’s signals.  When in doubt, get the opinion of your voice teacher.  If you have a performance and it can be rescheduled, do so.

  • At the end of practicing, warm-down with sighs and hums.
  • Get enough sleep and drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.  Use saline nose spray and a humidifier. 
Your illness may actually be caused by allergies.  Did you find this helpful or do you have anything to add about singing when slightly under the weather?

Stay tuned for tips on how to keep singing with allergies.

Healthy Voice and a Healthy You!

Healthy Voice and a Healthy You
As a singer, your body is your instrument, so it is important to take care of yourself.  In the winter months, many people work hard to not get sick and need to learn when and when not to sing.  Your voice is a delicate instrument you use everyday – take care of it and it takes care of you by allowing you to do what YOU want as a singer and artist.
Proper hygiene is only one of the ways to make sure you can sing well throughout the year. Here is a list of things to remember about your vocal health:
10 Things to Remember 
1.        Hygiene
-          Regularly wash your hands and minimize touching your face
2.       Hydration
-          Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day
-          Avoid or minimize caffeine, it dries you out!
3.       Rest
-          Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night!
4.       Avoid Unnecessary Medication
-          Decongestants, Cold Medications, Inhalers are drying agents.
Avoid them unless absolutely necessary- Use Nasal Saline Spray!
5.       Stay Physically Fit
-          Exercise often (3-5 times weekly)
-          Walking, swimming, running, yoga, and pilates are all excellent for singing!
6.       Sing Well
-          Good posture, breath support, correct range and appropriate repertoire
7.       Speak Well
-          Support your speech as you would your singing
-          Avoid talking too much
-          Don’t yell or talk over loud noise!
8.       Moderation of Singing and Speaking
-          Try not to talk too fast, too slow, too high or too low in pitch
9.       Don’t sing if you are ill!! Test yourself.  (See next article)
10.   Make time for a little relaxation and de-stressing time!
**  Above all take care of yourself and pay attention to your body signals!  If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it!

What do you do when you are not feeling 100% and need to sing?