Steps to get back to singing healthily
Light movement is good for healing – says Tom Burke.
If you are recovering from laryngitis, you are probably more than eager to get your voice back for your up-coming gigs or rehearsals.
Singdaptive went to speech language pathologist and voice teacher Tom Burke to find out how to start singing again after laryngitis:
Light exercises help the voice to heal
Many years ago, patients would be kept in bed after knee surgery, but now we know that was a bad idea. Today, doctors encourage movement after knee surgery as it helps with healing and reduces swelling.
The same concept can be applied to the voice: light movement is good for healing.
This is why I recommend gentle and light vocal exercises lasting only a few minutes. These should be done a couple times a day.
In other words, it’s not about sitting down for twenty minutes to work on your voice. It’s all about finding opportunities throughout the day for brief vocal exercises specifically designed to be gentle.
As the vocal fold swelling subsides (as you recover from your illness) you can increase the frequency of your vocal exercises.
Total voice rest is rarely recommended in any circumstance, except in the case of vocal fold hemorrhage.
Light exercise #1: Hum with hand over nose and mouth
Place one hand with your fingers together over your mouth and nose.
Now hum at a comfortable pitch, sliding up and down a few times.
This exercise creates gentle back pressure on your vocal folds, which relieves tension and improves efficiency of vocal function.
This is an example of a semi-occluded (narrow) vocal tract (SOVT) exercise. SOVT’s are gentle on the voice and this exercise is the lightest and gentlest.
Light exercise #3: M – N – NG humming
Hum a comfortable note with the sound “m.” Your tongue will be low in your mouth.
Now hum again, with your lips closed, but make the “n” sound inside your mouth. You are now humming with your “m” and your “n” together.
The tip of your tongue should touch the roof of your mouth.
Lastly, hum again while making the shape for an “ng” sound inside your mouth. Try to keep the “m” and the “n” as well. Now, the back of your tongue is raised, and you are combining the “m,” “n,” and “ng” shapes.
You are now ready to use these three different humming shapes while you slide your voice up and down.
Divide your vocal range into three chunks: low, middle and high. Use the “m” hum for the lower third of your range, use the “m plus n” hum for the middle of your range, and the “m plus n plus ng” for the highest third of your range.
Do up-then-down vocal sirens – one for each part of your range.
Test yourself daily for vocal fold swelling
I recommend singers do vocal check-ins every day to monitor how much swelling is present in their vocal folds.
When you have been sick, your daily vocal check-ins will tell you whether your vocal folds are back to normal or still swollen.
The three tests I recommend are, lip trill sirens, gradual aspirate onsets and high, quiet voice exercises.
Swollen vocal folds need time to heal fully. As you heal from your illness, commit to these exercises to help your voice return to normal and avoid any excess tension.
Reduce your speaking and singing load as much as you can, until your voice is fully recovered.
Note: If you have experienced changes in your voice that last more than two weeks, see your ear nose and throat doctor. If your voice suddenly stop working in the middle of signing a note, stop singing and see your doctor, as this could be a vocal fold haemorrhage.
Tom Burke is a speech-pathologist and voice coach for Broadway, Film, TV and Google. He developed the world’s first online vocal conservatory, Broadway VoiceBox with members in over 19 countries and growing fast. Find out more about his work here: tomburkevoice.com/voiceboxintro