How to Spot Vocal Strain or Fatigue

Sometimes unsafe sounds that cause vocal damage are hard to spot. Back in October, 2011, British singer/songwriter Adele famously fell quiet due to a vocal cord haemorrhage. At the time, she was forced to cancel a 10-date sold-out U.S. tour, just as her grammy award winning album “21″ was well on its way to becoming the top-selling album of 2011.

A nightmare scenario for any singer, she said she felt like something ‘popped’ and that she instantly knew damage had been done. The injury and subsequent surgery left her unable to speak and having to resort to writing on a notepad to communicate for several weeks.

Luckily for Adele, Dr Steven Zeitels was able to perform the microsurgical procedure to stop a bleeding benign polyp on her vocal cords and have her performing again in 3 months. Zeitels has worked similar wonders with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, the Who’s Roger Daltrey, Cher and KISS’ Paul Stanley, among many others.

Watch the video of the wonderful Adele performing live at the Brit Awards, 8 months prior to her surgery. If you know what to listen for, you know that trouble is coming. It’s important to realise that vocal damage is not always evident when listening to the high intensity or ‘big’ notes – the dynamically softer notes are much more telling.

Listen carefully, preferably with headphones, to the start of the song, can you hear the subtle ‘hiss’ of breath in her voice? This is evidence of ‘vocal chink’ – meaning her vocal folds are being prevented from fully coming together by something thus allowing excess air to escape  – it could just be swelling, or it could be a polyp, as was proven later.

What if you this happened to you and you didn’t have the tens of thousands it would take to have someone like that perform career-saving surgery?

Similarly in Ella Henderson’s ‘Yours’ you can hear marked signs of vocal fatigue. Notice how it is much easier to spot in the lower intensity notes…

When you are facing a long tour or intense period of time in the studio it is vital that you understand how to spot the signs of vocal fatigue and have the tools necessary to heal your voice – which may involve some advanced ‘vocal first aid’.

…it’s amazing that there can be such an improvement in my voice in such a short period of time.

Get in touch for further information or to book a singing lesson with Ana Gracey

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