Heard this before? “You’re going to destroy your voice if you keep singing that rock music!”
Or metal music. Or any loud, belty genre.
Lots of students ask me if this is true. The short answer is…
It can happen, but from any genre. And more importantly, it doesn’t have to.
The idea that all rock singers will live out their days with the voice of a ten-pack-a-day smoker is an old-fashioned myth perpetrated by many a classical vocal coach. It IS possible to strain the involved muscles to the point of poor functionality. I can think of a few famous rockers whose voices didn’t age well, most likely for that reason. But that’s not how it HAS TO go.
You’re a Singer Athlete.
That means you’re regularly working muscles in new boundary-pushing ways. I’m not a runner, but if I decide to go outside this afternoon and jog ten miles, my legs will be sore tomorrow. That doesn’t mean they’ll be ruined forever.
Using your singing muscles in new ways also creates some fatigue. It isn’t automatically a bad thing. In fact, if you’re employing the right strategy, that little bit of fatigue is a sign of progress.
But let’s back up…
If I decide to become a runner, I’m not going to go from zero to ten miles in one afternoon. Singers can’t go from newbie to diva in one afternoon, either. For running, I’ll try one mile first (and my legs will be tired after the first day). When that feels easier, I’ll go for two. Then three. When you’re improving your voice, you have to go through a similar progression. You work the muscles regularly and expand your range and power gradually. You don’t scream on day one and hope it sounds okay.
Muscles need to recover.
As with any workout routine, a new runner needs to have non-running days. At least once a week, I’ll rest, hydrate, and give my muscles time to recover. Not having recovery days can actually result in weakening your muscles, and worsening your performance.
What about vocal nodes?
Nodes don’t happen from one session where you pushed the boundaries a little too far. They are essentially callouses that form on your folds after repeated misuse or overuse, with no time for recovery. A primary goal should always be to not misuse your instrument, but it can be hard to tell the difference between strain and normal workout fatigue. As a Singer Athlete, you have to stay conscious of your body, and do your best to assess the state of your instrument. If you’re not sure, you take a recovery day. End of story.
No matter the genre, remember these things to keep a healthy, strong voice:
- Allow your skills to progress gradually, instead of trying to force them too quickly.
- Work out regularly, to keep the muscles strong and agile.
- Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of range and power, but in moderation and while using good technique.
- Be vigilant about taking recovery days, especially if your voice feels fatigued.
- Pay attention to how your instrument feels, and LISTEN when it tells you it needs to rest.
- Sing whatever your heart loves (I just threw that in there, ’cause)!