Vocal Health Lessons From Sam Smith
Our vocal cords are tiny. They do a lot for us and can make some incredible sounds but we can sometimes take them for granted.
We think "Oh, one more song won't hurt."
We go back to singing after sickness one day earlier than we know we should.
We stay up late and talk over the sound of loud music the night before a gig.
We stubbornly do too many shows in a row even when we know we're vocally tired.
PUTTING YOUR VOICE FIRST
I get it. We don't want to "let the team down." Sam Smith wouldn't have wanted to cancel a gig or miss out a city on his tour, but a singer's health needs to come first. I was heartbroken for him when we found out he eventually had to cancel the rest of his tour AND get surgery due to a vocal cord haemorrhage. Meghan Trainor had to do the same.
It's devastating to hear when an artist goes through something like this and unfortunately vocal fatigue for touring artists isn't uncommon.
Your body is your instrument, which means your voice is only as strong as your health. A guitarist doesn't need to worry about finger fatigue but if you're singing on tired cords, problems start occurring.
It's up to you (and only you) to draw the line and rest up.
IS TECHNIQUE A FACTOR?
You better believe it's a factor my dear, but it's not the only reason you might start experiencing problems. Sure, if you're straining constantly and borderline yelling in your performances, you'll be well on the way to vocal issues, but even singers with great technique need to be careful.
I saw Debbie Phyland (speech pathologist and voice consultant on a number of touring musicals here in Australia) speak at a conference a couple of years ago and she said "Problems can occur no matter how well you sing."
She also mentioned that 90% of vocal injuries are caused by OVERUSE rather than misuse in this article here.
There's speculation as to whether Sam Smith's technique was the cause of his injury or not, but even if it wasn't, his voice needed down time.
HOW WILL YOU KNOW?
Listen to your body. Are you having to tighten your throat or push some of your notes out to hit them?
Is your voice sounding breathy or husky (involuntarily)?
Do you feel as though you have less control and it's cracking or faltering?
If the answer is yes to any of these, it's time for rest and possibly a visit to your ENT specialist.
If you know you experience some strain, tension or pushing when you sing, you might want to check out my Pimp Your Voice Intermediate course which is designed to iron out the kinks in your technique and allow you to sing more efficiently. effortlessly and confidently.
Whether you have to let the understudy take over or postpone a gig, your vocal health comes first. Your voice is something to be treasured and respected.