For this blog I want to revisit a previous blog (but shorten it this time!)
A really nice guy recently arrived into the studio. Super hardworking, gigging Pro that had come to The Vocal Academy directly from his ENT Consultant. Fortunately for him he hadn’t developed nodules or polyps however he was still dealing with chronic swelling of one of his vocal folds (vocal cords).
On the telephone the singer was understandably worried about when he would be able to get back singing. Gigging 7 or 8 gigs a week will take a toll on anybody and after 10 years of this schedule a combination of fatigue and imperfect technique had finally caught up with him. Over the telephone it is impossible for me to advise one way or another.
He arrived into the studio at the next available slot and we had a chat. He explained to me the background to most of the above and again asked if he should continue to work or if he needed to rest. For me this question should be answered by the ENT (as I told him) and asked him how the Consultant answered him.
He offered that the Consultant advised him he should really see a Vocal Technique Instructor, as he understood that it was partially the result of imperfect technique that had the singer where he was. Given that there is no serious medical issue he advised that it would be best that he rest but it was up to the singer. Hence I got the job.
So after our chat we had a listen to the singers voice and it was obvious that he was quite weighty through his first passage. Using both air and volume to force the journey through the first passage. He actually had a beautiful voice but you could hear why his problems had caught up with him.
In this case however it is definitely conceivable that his schedule most likely is as much to blame for his problems.
Again. Should he take a break completely or can he work his way through this?
Simply, it’s not my place to instruct somebody to give up their only source of income for 4 or 6 weeks and I was genuinely uncomfortable to tell the singer to do this given I have no medical training. I merely have a qualified understanding of how the voice works and training in how to help a singer achieve better balance in their voice. Our job as Vocal Instructors is to listen for imbalances and help the singer find the most efficient way of singing beautifully with a balanced voice. If a singer sings with balance, they are giving themselves the best chance to build a healthy and sustainable career.
In the moment, we gave our singer some tools to help him to ‘lose weight’ in his upper chest voice and through the first passage. Now he has a vocal reference. In simplistic terms, it’s his job now to use those tools to work back and forth from chest to head and back to chest in a way the he doesn’t feel the need to push his voice. How well he does this will determine how quickly he progresses to performing his schedule without the need to push his voice.
I can understand the reticence of the ENT instructing the singer to rest completely when it is the singers’ only source of income. I think the best way to answer the question is to say that the best way for the singer to heal is to take complete rest for 4-6 weeks. That the singer will not necessarily cause lasting damage by continuing to perform but that they are opening the door to lasting vocal problems. Ideally, the singer should rest. Rest followed by retraining in a safe and healthy technique and then back gigging. How the singer manages these three components is ultimately up to her/him.
The real answer however lies in prevention. The cost to see an ENT with a vocal problem could be – give or take – the cost of around 10 Vocal Technique Lessons. These 10 Vocal Technique Lessons may even negate the need to ever require an appointment with an ENT AND it will improve your performance. Of course, there is the chance you may never require the need to see an ENT however if that is a gamble you are prepared to take with you career it is of course entirely up to you.