This last week I was working with a professional Disney performer, who had developed a polyp on one side of her vocal fold, and a reactive nodule on the opposite fold. She was working with a speech pathologist but ran into insurance problems and was referred to me while she awaits seeing another SLP. Although she has made improvement, the polyp and nodule are still present so we have proceeded with caution.
This brings me to my teaching tip. When working with someone with active pathology or swelling, the teacher or the singer cannot be concerned with a smooth and even sound.
Oftentimes the singer equates the cracking and breaks that will occur as further damaging their voice, so the tendency is for them over compress the vocal folds to create a smoother sound which CAN add add unwanted friction and lead to further damaging the voice. Our job as teachers is to reassure them that their new temporary normal will be a cracking or breaking voice.
A smooth connected voice will be the ultimate goal, but not during the healing process. Straw work and using the dumb or hooty “u” will be the best exercises to keep the ligaments and muscles moving. I usually have my students keep their thumb under their chin to monitor any outside muscle involvement.
Now back to my student. I noticed when when started using the u she got louder, but her sound was smoother and more connected. Based on her diagnosis this was not the sound I expected to hear. I had her back off on the volume had her do half of the scale in water and half on a hooty “u” with her finger under her chin. She now had the breaks I would have expected to hear with the condition her voice was in. Because the legato U was bothering her a lot I gave her Foo ,woo,soo, and zoo to use besides the straw. However in her lessons I will use the legato U to evaluate her progress.
- The hooty U is effective because it lowers and stabilizes the larynx and keeps the folds a little looser. The quality of the hooty U is very important. Make sure it has a hollow sound and the larynx lowers slightly. There should be no diphthong as in You.