Care of the Professional Voice
Your Performance, Your Tour
A good performance relies on having a team of professionals upon whom you can rely.
From the perspective of vocal health, this includes a laryngologist, a voice coach, and often a voice therapist. With reliable, pre-tour care, you will have someone who can guide you as to how to protect your voice during performances. It is critical to have a healthy examination done early, so that if you do get injured, comparison is possible. It also enables your laryngologist to communicate with laryngologists in other cities, where you are touring, sharing videos to improve the care you receive.
Regular Voice Evaluations
The best way to protect your voice is to know when you are at risk for injury. This requires a close relationship with your laryngologist.
Knowing your voice enables your doctor to recognize problems. Some incredible performers work with a small mass on a vocal fold or a small gap between their vocal folds. This same performer might get a minor injury and present to another physician. That physician, not knowing the patient and their history, may see the mass as the source of the problem and suggest its removal. This may lead to devastating consequences.
That is why it is so important to have a laryngologist see you when you are healthy, so that mild abnormalities can be put into safe perspective.
Just as important as having your vocal folds evaluated regularly is having a check-up before touring and performances. Inevitably, in the weeks before tours and shows, the vocal demands of a performer have increase considerably. Rehearsals increase in duration and frequency, which can cause increased vocal swelling and strain. Added to that are the frequent press engagements, phone negotiations, and communication to support staff including back-up singers, choreographers, and countless other individuals.
A small injury at the beginning of your tour can increase in severity over the course of a multi-city tour or while doing several shows a week. Pre-performance checks enable early identification of injuries or risks to your vocal health.
Speaking and Singing Therapy
Every performer needs a well-trained speech pathologist on their vocal health team. A speech pathologist is very different from a voice coach, though both are essential to a successful career.
Speech/voice therapy focuses on the use of the speaking voice. Many singers have excellent singing technique but speak with poor technique. This includes poor postural support, inadequate breath, and an increased rate of speech. These technical issues worsen when speaking over noise (restaurants and bars), or when speaking for long periods of time (vocally-demanding jobs). Your singing voice is being put at risk throughout the day as you are going about your daily activities.
However, the reality is that you must speak and so we need to ensure that your speaking technique minimizes the risk of injury. It is an element of pre-performance evaluation that can be the difference between an effortful and effortless performance.
Interestingly, other professional voice users, such as public speakers, preachers, politicians and lawyers, often benefit from singing voice therapy. Singing therapy teaches excellent techniques for breath control, abdominal support, and use of upper airway resonators. This helps projection and timbre, elements that are critical for powerful public speaking.
Not all speech pathologists are of the same caliber. You want to work with someone who has narrowed their focus solely to voice as this person is more likely to have learned about the newest and most effective vocal techniques. The advantage of such a person is also that they will be able to fine tune their therapy to suit you as an individual. The danger of a general speech pathologist who does not have the depth of experience in voice is that they will use the same “formula” in all patients. Just as different patients respond to different medications, each patient needs individualized vocal techniques to maximize their vocal abilities.