Weekly Teaching Tip – July 11, 2011
I have often heard singers complain that their voice is “Worn out” or “tired out”, etc. Truth be told, vocal folds don’t “wear out” or “tire out”. Vocal folds are made up of a pretty amazing substance that can continue to work pretty much continuously. The vocal folds thin and stretch kind of like a ligament or a rubber band and they don’t wear out!
What a singer is feeling when they complain that their voice is “tired out” is the mucosa that “protects” the vocal folds and helps them to function smoothly without excessive friction is gone. If you take your hands and rub them together they will become sore in a short amount of time. If you press your hands together tightly and rub them they will become sore even quicker. However, if you put moisturizing lotion between your hands you can rub them together relatively effortlessly until the lotion is gone.
The same is true of the vocal folds. Mucosa is a thin layer of mucous that provides a somewhat “slippery” substance between the vocal folds so that there isn’t excessive friction created when the folds come together. From constant use and over use, this mucosa is diminished and even eliminated. The voice starts to sound “scratchy” or “tired out”. When there is not enough mucosa there is additional friction created when the singer speaks or sings. Just as rubbing your hands together without lotion causes irritation, then blisters, then callouses; singing, speaking and vocalizing in general will cause irritation and eventual problems (swelling, redness, blisters and eventually nodules) if there is not enough mucosa. As you get older the body tends to dry out and this becomes even more of a concern for most people.
So one of the most important elements in keeping your voice from “wearing out” is to make sure that you have plenty of mucosa to help keep the friction between the vocal folds at a minimum. Constant moisturizing, good technique, effective vocal warm ups, rest and hydration are all important in creating an adequate amount of mucosa.