Once upon a time, I faced a singer’s worst nightmare: Nodules.
For those of you who don’t know, nodules are basically callouses on the vocal folds. Pesky little bumps that create an airy sound, limit your vocal range, and cause a buildup of phlegm.
I was devastated.
After all, the common belief around nodules is that you, as a singer, have done something bad to cause them. Your technique was bad or your care for your voice was bad or some other thing that you did wrong.
And I believed these things too.
However, as I learned through the voice therapy I underwent after discovering my nodules, I learned there are actually three causes of vocal nodules. Misuse, abuse, and overuse. Misuse is constantly using your voice in subtly unhealthy ways. Abuse is sudden forceful trauma such as screaming or yelling. And overuse is simply using your voice too much, be it singing or speaking.
Most of us classical singers think that nodules are only caused by the first two. We work so hard to develop good vocal technique that is supposed to save us from that kind of vocal problem. However, I was a prime candidate for overuse.
At the time I discovered my nodules, I was in my senior year of college, frantically learning music for my recital (which I wanted to do a semester early), and cramming in all of my coursework that required lots more singing. I would get into the practice room and sing through my music over and over again. I would see other singers spend lots of time in the practice room, so it seemed only logical that to be truly prepared, I had to as well.
As far as silver linings go, the silver lining on me developing nodules was actually pretty great. As I underwent voice therapy (and I had the good fortune to have access to one of the best voice centers in the country), I was thrilled to discover that my therapists didn’t want me to stop singing. Instead, they wanted me to practice smarter, not harder.
Good vocal health means practicing smarter, not harder. #practice #vocalhealth Click To Tweet
This resulted in the practicing tools and methods that I use today, and that I teach in my course A Singer in the Practice Room. These methods combine score study, time management, and focused vocal practice to help me learn music faster, smarter, and in a healthier way. And that’s exactly why I created the course – to help all of you do the same.
I know the concept of developing vocal health issues can be terrifying, and you’ll want to do everything you can to prevent it. I want you to know though that sometimes doing less is more. I also want you to know that there is no judgement on your character or your ability should you develop a vocal health issue. It might just be that you need to work smarter, not harder.
Have you ever had a vocal health issue? What was your experience like? What methods did you develop to help you work smarter rather than harder while you healed? How do you practice to maintain good vocal health?