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Vocal Nodule

Vocal Nodule

A Vocal nodule develops as the result of repeated trauma to the vocal chords.  An example would be if you wear shoes too tight, they are going to rub , get sore and eventually will cause a blister or callous. With regards to your vocal chords, a small, soft swelling will develop at the site of the trauma, and this could interfere with the closure and vibration of the vocal chords causing hoarseness.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of a vocal nodule may include: the voice may become husky and less responsive over a certain pitch range, losing clarity and brightness.  The voice may be slow to warm-up and may sound deeper, weaker and more breathy, particularly in the upper range.  The voice may also start to cut out around certain notes.   Over time this may lead to the speaking voice becoming more noticeably hoarse and breathy.

A soft nodule can usually be treated successfully with vocal rest, voice therapy and good vocal care. A singing teacher or speech therapist can help you with your voice technique, and provide you with carefully targeted exercises to ensure your voice muscles are used effectively, and how you can use vocal care to prevent them from returning

If soft nodules are ignored, then more persistent damage may produce more fibrous scar tissue, which is often referred to as a hard nodule.  A Hard nodule doesn’t respond well to voice therapy and may require surgery.

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of nodules, please don’t ignore them.  The sooner you seek treatment, the better the result.  Speak to your GP about it.  The may suggest voice rest, or seek out voice exercises/technique from a singing teacher or vocal coach.  If your symptoms are more severe, then you may refer you to the local ENT department for further investigation.

In the past surgical outcome for vocal nodules was poor giving nodules the reputation of being the end of your career. However, surgical techniques have changed considerably recently, allowing most vocal nodules to be removed safely and effectively.

Vocal nodule (s) are a nuisance, but don’t beat yourself up about it.  If diagnosed early, then you can work at what caused them and how you can prevent them coming back:

Some self-help techniques to help prevent developing a nodule:

Avoid shouting and whispering

Try not to cough or persistently clear your throat

Keep your body well hydrated and avoid irritants such as smoke

Inhaling steam can help soothe irritated chords.

If you are singer, always warm-up  your voice before you start singing, and don’t sing too loud or too quiet for any length of time.

Listen to your voice.  If it starts sounding croaky, or begins to feel tired or sore, then you are probably overdoing it, so take a break.

Rest your voice whenever possible.

This information is intended for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.

Glossary Of Singing Terms

glossaryofsingingterms

Successful Singing’s Glossary Of Singing Terms:

A Cappella: Singing without any form of instrumental accompaniment.

Accompaniment: The instrumentation that plays beneath the singing.

Accompanist:  A pianist who plays music beneath the singing.

Adducted: The term for vocal cords getting pulled together when you sing high up in your vocal range.

Alto:  Low Female Voice

Aria: In opera, a song, especially a solo.

Arpeggio:  A staggered scale going up and down in small intervals, most commonly on the 1st,3rd, 5th and 8th notes of an octave.

Baritone: Male voice located between bass and tenor in range and tone quality.

Ballad:  A slow tempo, sentimental or romantic song.

Bel Canto: (Beautiful Singing) Singing that focuses on beautiful sound, not on acting or emotion. It’s characterized by ornate vocal style.

Belting: Using excessive air flow and vocal cord tension in an attempt to sing louder

Adam’s Apple: Common term used to describe the part of the larynx (voice box) which protrudes from the front of the neck. More noticeable in men than women.

Blend: In solo singing, the smooth transition between the head and chest voice. Or, when more than one individual is singing, the sound combination between singers, which preferably makes it difficult to pick out one singer’s voice amid the group.

Break: The sudden change in tone between the head and chest voice, caused by vocal tension. When a singer hits his or her break, there may be a sound that is jarring and ugly. This can be avoided with good vocal technique.

Breath Support: Efficient use of the singer’s stream of breath, controlled primarily by the diaphragm.

Catch Breath: A quick, short, unobtrusive breath.

Cave: The round shape at the back of the mouth.

Centred: Everything balanced, working as one.  Getting the greatest amount of power from your voice, using the least amount of effort.

Chest Resonance: The resonance sounds it comes from the chest area.

Chest Voice: Also known as “chest register.” The lower notes of a singer’s range; in the same general range as the speaking voice. When singing in the chest voice, the vocal cords become naturally thick, and the resulting sound is generally associated with deep, warm tones.  Achieved by using resonance and voice placement.

Consonant: A speech sound produced as the result of a temporary partial or complete constriction of airflow (b d f g l etc)

Diaphragm:  The dome shaped muscle attached to the bottom of the lungs that separates your chest and stomach cavities. Its main function is to initiate inhalation.

Diction: The clear pronunciation of words. This requires attention to both consonants and vowels. Different types of music may require more or less diction; for example, in musical theatre, it’s essential that the audience understand the lyrics, but in jazz or blues, the singer may occasionally slur words on purpose in order to achieve a desired sound. Good diction helps produce good sound, however, so all singers should pay attention to it.

Dynamics: The variations of soft and loud singing in a given song.

Epiglottis:  The leaf-like cartilage that separates the functioning of your oesophagus (channel to stomach) from the functioning of your trachea (channel to the lungs).

Exercise: In singing, a device (a note or sequence of notes sung in a certain manner) used to condition and/or strengthen your vocal muscles to work with the proper airflow.

Falsetto: (False Singing)In male singers, a high register (actually, sung in the female range) similar to the head voice. However, unlike the head voice, falsetto cannot blend with the chest voice.  Female’s can also sing in a falsetto range.  It has a Minnie Mouse Sound about it

Flat:  To be under the correct pitch, not quite in tune.

Forced:  Singing that is forced may sound strained, and is accompanied by unnecessary tension in the throat.

Full Voice:  As loud as a person can sing without creating imbalance between airflow and vocal cord tension. Also refers to a tone that has a balanced resonance quality.

Hard Palate: The hard area of the roof of your mouth, just behind your teeth.

Head Resonance: The Resonance is created within the head cavity. Chest Resonance is created within the chest cavity.

Head Voice: Also known as “head register.” Singing in the higher part of the range. While singing in the head voice, the vocal folds are thin; the head voice is usually associated with light, bright sounds.  Falsetto is resonated in a head voice.

Imagery: The situations, people, or emotions a singer pictures in his or her head while they sing, in order to achieve emotion and a good level of acting in their songs. Imagery may also be used to help a singer achieve better vocal technique.

Intonation: The relation of one note to another, and the relative pitching of each note. Could mean singing in tune or not.

Karaoke:  A music entertainment where the singer sings along to a pre-recorded track and follows the lyrics on a video screen.

Larynx:  The organ at the top of your trachea (windpipe) made up of cartilages, ligaments and muscles. Inside, attached from front to back are your vocal cords. Certain muscles of your larynx affect the tension of your vocal cords as they work with air from your lungs in producing vocal sound.

Legato: Singing as though all the notes were tied together; the notes flow together smoothly.

Major Scale: A diatonic scale with notes separated by whole tones except for the 3rd, 4th, 7th and 8th.

Mask: The area around and including the eyes which is often used to create head resonance.

Metronome:  A mechanical or electrical instrument that makes repeated clicking sound at an adjustable pace.  Used fo marking rhythm in practicing music.

Middle Voice: The middle range or register of the voice when singing or speaking.  Achieved by resonance and voice placement.

Minor Scale: A diatonic scale with notes separated by whole tones except for the 2nd, 3rd, 5th & 6th.

Nasal: When the voice is focused purely around the nose and nasal area.

Nodes:  A type of polyp on the vocal cords that prohibits good singing. When vocal cords get irritated (from fatigue, poor technique, an infection, etc.), they swell. Singing repeatedly with swollen vocal cords causes nodes. The only way to know if you have or are developing nodes is to go to a throat specialist (ENT). If you have frequent hoarseness or a constant sore throat, see one immediately. Treatment is usually rest, although surgery may be required in severe cases.

Over breathing: Taking a huge breath in and then constricting the lungs, making it difficult to sustain a note.

Phrasing:  Refers to the breaths or “stops” in-between notes. Natural phrasing will include “stops” after all periods, commas, semicolons, or colons. Additional phrasing may be necessary for the singer to take catch breaths                                    or to achieve a certain style. It’s an excellent idea for singers to sit down with sheet music in hand and                                                 mark their phrasing before they begin to sing. This helps prevent unexpected losses of breath and                                                       awkward phrasing that draws attention to itself.

Pitch:  The sound of a particular note. When pitch is referred to, it’s usually in reference to being “on” or “off” pitch. “On pitch” means the singer is singing in tune. “Off pitch” means the singer is either flat or sharp.

Placement: A singing technique that uses the sensation of vibrations in the head to achieve healthy sound that resonates and carries well. Most healthy singing is done in what is often referred to as “forward placement” (or “the mask”), with vibrations behind the teeth/lips, on the cheekbones, and sometimes the forehead and/or nose. The resulting sound is full, not nasally or thin.

Projection:  Generally, the ability to be heard by the audience. Sometimes also refers to the ability to communicate emotion to the audience, as in “she projects great sadness.”

Pure Note: A clear, sustained note with a controlled breath and without vibrato.  To create a true pure note, everything needs to be in balance.  Placement of the note and vowel, diaphragmatic control and vocal cords energized yet relaxed.

Range:  Refers to the notes that a given performer can sing comfortably.

Repertoire: The songs a singer knows and can perform well.

Resonance:  Occurs naturally when the voice is free to travel through the cavities above your vocal cords, where it is modified and amplified before leaving your mouth. It determines the final quality of your tone and makes your voice sound different from anyone else’s.

Reverb:  A termed used by musicians, and sound engineers for reverberation.  Usually created by a machine, or mixing desk, it gives the voice more colour, tone and presence. Usually used in studio’s and live performances.

Scale:  A series of notes differing in pitch according to a specific scheme (usually within an octave)

Sharp: To be above the note (often the result of oversinging) when you can’t hear yourself properly, so you are not in tune.

Sight Singing: The ability to look at sheet music and read sing it with near-perfection. Most professional singers can read music and sight read with at least some accuracy.

Siren Sound: Making a sound like an old-fashioned war siren.

Soft Palate: The fleshy part at the back of the mouth.

Solar Plexus: Located at the centre and base of the ribs, the soft part just above the stomach. The centre of diaphragmatic power.

Soprano:  High Female Voice

Staccato: The opposite of Legato. Each note is separate from the one before and after it.

Swallowing the Note: Pushing down too far on the larynx, strangling the vocal cords.

Tenor: Highest male voice

Tone: The quality of your voice that results from the resonance reinforcement of the tone initially produced in your larynx.

Transpose: To change the key of a song; to lower or raise the notes of a song or a portion of a song.

Vibrato:  A slight, but regular fluctuation in your tone. Caused by the normal relaxation and contraction of the vocal muscles as they are activated by alternating nerve impulses. Gives and “energy” to the tone during the vibration process.

Vocal Cords: Two muscular folds that connect from the inside front to the inside back of your larynx. Their change in thickness and vibrating length, due to adjustment in tension, affects the pitch and intensity of your tone.  Also called “Vocal Folds.”

Vowel:  A specific resonance structure through which a tone is sustained. Produced primarily by altering the size and shape of the mouth cavity and changing the position of the tongue, which determines how the resonance cavities will reinforce certain frequencies of the initial cord tone. The result of each alteration is a recognizable sound – Ah Oh Eh Ee Oo.

Warm-up:  Anything that helps the singer prepare for a rehearsal or performance. Typically, a warm up consists of vocal exercises, such as running scales.

 

clarity trio summer

Audition Advice

Audition Advice

Whether you wish to be the next superstar, or just want a place in a band, choir or musical production, having a successful singing audition will help you achieve your dream.   So many people turn up for auditions totally unprepared and are just setting themselves up for failure, yet with a little bit of homework, you could greatly increase your chances of being selected.

 Know what you are committing to

Some groups/shows/competitions require more than others.  For example a local choir probably meets one evening a week, and if you could put in some extra practice now and again, that’s great.  A TV talent show on the other hand could tie you up for several months.  Eg. Lets say you get through all the selection process and you get to appear on the live shows,  you will spend lots of time away from home/work in rehearsals as well as the shows.  Can you commit yourself to that?

You will greatly improve your chances if you are available, as a director is going to want someone reliable, as often the rehearsal couldn’t go ahead without all the team being available.

Select the right song

Choosing an audition song is difficult.  It needs to show off your voice and your singing abilities, suit the genre of what you are auditioning for, and possibly it needs to stand out from the crowd.

Your song shouldn’t be too easy, but also don’t pick something so difficult, that you struggle to sing it.

Also have a back up song, just incase you are asked to sing something else as well.

Something else to mention here about choosing audition songs.  If there are several rounds to your audition, then reserve one of your better songs for later in the selection process.  It will help pace yourself, and you know you can pull an Ace out of the bag when you need it most.

Make sure you know your song (s) off by heart, inside out and back-to-front.  Auditions are nerve-racking situations, don’t make it worse for yourself by forgetting your place or your lyrics

Be Prepared

An audition is not just about choosing the right song.  Do yourself a few favours and research what you are auditioning for.  Use the internet, to research about the group/competition, listen to the songs, watch video clips and possibly buy the sheet music to learn if it’s available.

Practice looking confident.  It will help you when your nerves kick in during the audition.  Walk tall and with purpose. Practice a few smiles and poses in front of a mirror. Learn to make eye contact, it will make you look sincere. If you practice enough, it will become second nature to you.

If you are using sheet music or backing tracks for your audition. Make sure they have your name on it, and that they are clearly labeled.  If you are using a musical score, make sure the accompanist can clearly see where you want to come in, and where you want to end (usually 16 bars).

If there is a dance element to your audition, make sure you have your dance kit packed ready, and don’t forget your shoes.  Also don’t forget a hairbrush and makeup if you wear it, etc to do some touch ups before your audition.

Auditions can be long days.  Make sure you take something to eat and drink.  There’s not always facilities to buy something when you get there.

Try to have a good night’s sleep the night before your audition, so that you are feeling your best, rather than having a night on the tiles.

Plan your journey so that you arrive in plenty of time for your audition.  There’s nothing worse than being late and completely missing your slot.

Make sure you have some warm-up scales on your mp3 player, to that you can warm-up your voice before you go in for your audition.  Some auditions have a place available for this, otherwise opt for the next best thing – the toilets seem to be a good a place as any, as many TV auditions seem to show.  By warming up your voice, it will help prevent your voice from cracking and croaking, it will also help calm your nerves and give you something to focus on.

Be presentable

Your appearance does make a difference and how you present yourself will show the auditioner(s) how seriously you want to be taken. Make sure what you are wearing is comfortable and allows you to move (and breathe in some cases!) to give your best performance.  Don’t wear killer heels unless you can walk or perform in them confidently.  You don’t want to be the one remembered for falling over.

Make an effort to look nice, but don’t go overboard.  Unless there is a dress code, smart casual usually works, a bit of makeup if you wear it, clean shoes, neat hair, and cover up too much flesh.  The auditioner want to see you, and what you can do, not how expensive your revealing dress is.  Also don’t use gimmicks like fancy dress costumes.  They will just make you stick out, and look like you’re not taking the audition seriously.  Also – you not going to get the part just because you own part of the wardrobe.

Be personable

Your audition can possibly start from the time you arrive at the venue, especially so in the case of TV talent shows.  You are being assessed by researchers, who are out looking for who/what they want long before you even get to sing.  You should always be pleasant, friendly and eager to be there.  Try to be approachable at all times.

When you are eventually called in for your audition, smile, look at them and say hello.  You will be guided as to where you need to stand and when to start.   Sing to your auditioner, make a little eye contact, but don’t stare them out so they feel threatened or uncomfortable.

The auditioner may well interrupt you before you have finished.   It is usually because they’ve heard what they need to hear.  They may or may not ask you for a second song if they’re not quite sure about you.  This will show them how much you’ve prepared for this audition.

When you have finished, they may give you some feedback there and then as to how you done, or what you could do to increase your chance for next time.  Listen to what they have to say and take it on board.  Don’t be rude or defensive.  They are only trying to help. Also don’t forget to thank them for their time.  It’s a long day for them too.

Aim high and work harder

Be prepared to work harder and longer at what you want to achieve.

Get some vocal coaching to help you with your singing and your audition technique.

Spend time in front of a mirror practicing moves and facial expressions.  The more you practice, the easier and more natural it becomes.

Listen to any comments or feedback about your audition, and take them onboard, if you made a mistake, learn from it.

Don’t make any excuses for your lack of preparation when being auditioned eg, I’m sorry I don’t know how this bit goes, or sorry I haven’t had time to practice.  It is only going to show you up as someone who couldn’t be bothered, and if you can’t be bothered, then why should the auditioner.

If you are genuinely ill, don’t make excuses for it. The auditioner will see you are suffering and is more likely to view you in a more positive way for not moaning about it.

Remember you may only have one chance to make that impression. From the moment you walk onto the stage you are being assessed.  If you come across as a positive, fun and friendly person, who has done their homework, you will greatly improve your chances of being selected as a team member.  However, if you fail to get selected this time, it doesn’t always mean you didn’t sing well. Often it is down to you are not what the auditioner was looking for this time.  Please don’t give up. Keep at it. Try, try again and one day you will succeed.

© Successful Singing

Love Your Voice

LOVE YOUR VOICELove Your Voice

 

As a singer, you will only have the one instrument to work with.  It cannot be repaired, replaced or upgraded.  You will need to look after your voice and give it the love and attention it needs to stay in shape.

We have all know that awful feeling when we have a gig/audition/rehearsal/recording session and have woken up with a croaky/hoarse/sore throat.  You’ve lost the top end of your range, have found some amazing strange sounds at the bottom, and the notes in the middle sound nothing like what they usually sound like.

These problems can occur for a number of reasons, but they usually boil down to a few predicable factors:  You’ve got a cold, had a few too many the night before, too much shouting, you’re stressed… the list goes on.

Whether it’s down to a cold or lifestyle, there’s lots that we can do to help ourselves look after our voice.

Drink plenty of water.  If drinking milk makes  you produced more mucous, avoid it on days that you sing.  Caffeinated drinks can be diuretic, minimize the amount you drink. Herbal tea or Honey and Lemon with hot water is a soothing drink.

Stretching

We all know that we are supposed to warm-up our voice before we start to sing.  Use your favourite vocal exercises, or ask a vocal coach if you are not sure.   But stretch your body too. Look at your posture.  Go through a basic stretch routine which allows you to stretch your whole body – arms, legs, torso, head and neck.  You will feel better for it.

Don’t forget to cool-down after singing too.  A few gentle exercises to help the muscles of your larynx to relax

Technique

Learn different techniques that will help you exercise your voice, work on its agility, but also work on developing your tone and resonance.

Diet

Look after yourself and eat healthy.  Minimize the amount of processed food you eat a week, and replace it with home-cooked meals with lots of fruit and veg.  Drink less alcohol and give up smoking.

Certain foods may increase reflux or mucous production around your throat.  Once you have discovered what these are, then avoid eating them on the days that you sing.

Its worth investing in a vocal spray for the days when your voice is uncooperative. Opt for a glycerine base rather than an alcohol base spray

Rest

Get plenty of rest, relaxation and sleep.  If your body is tired or stressed, then your voice is going to be tired or stressed.  A singer who is tired is almost always going to be pushing for tone and power in their voice.  Eventually this will set them up for voice problem or even damage.  Don’t forget to give your voice a regular day off too.  Singing or talking day after day without a rest is going to cause voice problems.

Steam

Get into the habit of steaming your voice.  It’s simple to do.  Simply pour some hot water into a bowl.  Place a towel over your head (and bowl) and inhale through both your nose and mouth for about 10 minutes.  You can also add a drop of your favourite essential oil to the water if you prefer.

Don’t Strain

Can you use a microphone to take some of the strain off your voice.  Don’t try singing over bandmates, turn your mic up instead (or turn their mics/instruments down). Learn some mic technique to help amplify your voice where you need it.

In an ideal world, singers would never have to sing when their voice is suffering from a cold, hoarse, tired or sore throat, but sometimes we have to perform when our voice is not at its best.  The main point here is to be aware of why you have a voice problem in the first place.  Is it because of a hard-to-avoid infection or is your voice problem down to poor technique.  If it is the later, then you really need to look at getting some voice coaching to address the problem.

 

Love your Voice

About Your Voice

About Your Voice

larynx

Voice” is the sound made by vibration of the vocal cords caused by air passing out through the larynx bringing the cords closer together.

Your vocal cord (also known as vocal folds) are two, white mucosal membranes situated inside your larynx (Adam’s Apple).  These membranes are fixed at one end, giving them a V-shape and open and close to allow for breathing and sound production.

Vocal Cord

Your larynx sits on top of your trachea (windpipe) and as air passes through with each breath you take, your vocal cords vibrate creating a sound.  The frequency that your vocal cords vibrate will determine the pitch of your sound.

Male vocal cords tend to be longer and thicker, giving the male voice a deeper, lower sound, whereas female vocal cords tend to be shorter and thinner giving the female voice a higher and lighter sound.

The physical action of singing or speaking is the same for everyone.  The reason we all sound different to each other is down to our physical attributes. The shape of our head, our bone structure, the position of our teeth, our nasal cavity, our sinuses.  This is also know as our facial mask. Once that sound is produced by our vocal cords, it travels up towards our mouth and nose, where we shape and polish that sound around our facial mask before we exhale our own unique sound.

You can feel your larynx if you gently press the front of your throat and then swallow.  You will feel it moving up and then back down to its original position.  The action you feel here is your larynx lifting and your vocal cords closing to prevent food and drink from entering your windpipe as you swallow.

Your vocal cords are delicate structures.  They appear white as there is little blood supply to them.  They are also covered in mucous to prevent them drying out.  The process of breathing, talking and singing or coughing can easily dry them out. This in turn leads to your vocal cords not being able to open and close easily, leading to friction or a hoarse voice.  There’s more about vocal health here.

As a singer, learning how to control your breath and using vocal exercises to help you strengthen and develop flexibility in your voice is invaluable.

 

Breathing

Successful Singing DiaphragmLearn To Sing – Breathing

Breathing

One of the cornerstones of learning to sing is knowing how to breathe correctly and learn to control your breathing , so that it is used to optimum effect when you sing.

When we are born, our breathing is naturally correct: babies can breathe, yell and scream with optimum effect because they use their lungs without conscious thought. As we grow older, we tend to get lazy and only use the upper part of our lungs, taking shallow breaths as required, rather than a deeper, more natural breath.

To understand how correct breathing and breath control works, first you need to understand the process that breathing involves:

Inspiration (breathing in)

At the bottom of your lungs there is a large (upside down bowl shaped) circular ring of muscle called the diaphragm.It attaches itself to the lower rib cage and spine.During inhalation the tendon at the bottom of this muscle contracts and the diaphragm is pulled downwards, gently displacing the stomach and intestines.. Air is drawn into the lungs via the nose and mouth.Inside the lungs, a gaseous exchange takes place where waste carbon dioxide from the body is exchanged for a fresh supply of oxygen by the blood travelling across the very thin membranes of the lungs.

Exhalation (breathing out)

After a few seconds, the diaphragm tendon relaxes and the diaphragm slowly moves back to its original position, pushing the (waste) air out of your lungs.

Breathing is essentially an autonomic reflex, in that your body does it without you having to think about it. How fast you breathe depends on your oxygen requirements. However, you do have control over your breathing, enabling you to hold your breath, speak a sentence, or sing a song. This ultimately is learning how to control your diaphragm.

Find your Diaphragm

Gently place your hand on tummy, just under your rib cage. Now pant like a dog a few times. You should feel your hand gently being pushed as you pant.

If you hold your hand to your mouth and breathe out slowly, the breath should be warm and moist. You should also feel the action of the diaphragm as you exhale. This is the correct amount of breath used when singing normally.

A singer does not need to ‘force’ or‘push’ air through the vocal cords to produce a good strong sound – doing so only creates too much pressure against the cords, which in turn, prevents them from operating correctly, which can lead to damage to the voice.

Try our Breathing Exercises