Voice Myths


Do I really sing from my diaphragm?

Sound is generated at the level of the vocal folds.  ‘Diaphragmatic support’ is a term that has been used to describe the concept of ‘breath support’ during vocalization. However, the diaphragm is active during inspiration- when you draw air into you lungs; the muscles of the abdomen are in use during expiration. You sing and speak on expiration.

When I get sick is green tea or black tea better for my voice?

Neither, both teas contain caffeine and can dry your vocal folds.  Some good alternatives include caffeine free herbal tea, red tea (which has similar antioxidant as green tea) or warm water.

Should I whisper when I lose my voice.

Whispering can actually lead to more damage. Whispering is hard on the vocal folds due to turbulent airflow and increased muscle tension. Its best to use your voice in a quiet relaxed manner.

Is cold water better to drink or warm water?

Luke warm water is best as cold water can increase muscle tension.

Does my head voice really come from my head or face?

Sounds production is always generated from the vocal folds. However, the air filled spaces in your upper airways resonate the sound.  You may feel a tingle or buzz in your head voice as the sound is resonating in that area.

I find that cough drops help me sing better, is this true?

Check the ingredients because many cough drops contain agents that are drying (such as menthol). Cough drops can be lubricating but do not take the place of water intake.

I have been told that when I feel pain during singing I should use chloreseptic or other numbing throat sprays.  Is this true?

Pain is a cue from your body that you may be at risk of causing damage to your vocal folds. Numbing the pain you feel with a topical spray may put you more at risk for causing damage because your pain sensation will be diminished.

I was told that eating honey helps my voice.

While honey has some good qualities it doesn’t reach your vocal folds directly when you swallow it. Eating honey does not have a direct benefit on voice. Drinking a lot of water can be of benefit as well as use of guaifenesin products.

When my voice sounds bad I push harder to get it out.

Although you can push past some mild voice difficulty, this results in trauma to the vocal folds themselves due to increased muscle tension and increased forces on the vocal tissues.

The last doctor I went to gave me a steroid injection when I lost my voice with this work for me again?

Although steroids can be very helpful in emergency situations to reduce inflammation and swelling quickly, regular use of steroids can have a negative impact on the body’s health in general. Furthermore, the steroids do not address the underlying cause of the swelling /inflammation in the first place.  Steroids can give you a false sense of assurance when singing or speaking which can lead to further vocal damage.

After surgery should I only eat liquids or soft foods?

Other then avoiding foods that can produce reflux, there is no need for diet restrictions after vocal fold surgery as food does not pass through the vocal folds.

I drink water 5 minutes before I sing to clear away the mucus does this help?

Water ingested just before performance helps to soothe the tissues and help clear some thickened mucus, but  it  does not take the place of regular hydration. Hydration is an ongoing process, and it takes many hours for the water you ingest to get into the tissues from the circulatory system. The best practice would be to hydrate throughout the day and even 24 hours before important voice use.  Also, avoid substances such as caffeine, alcohol and drying medications.

I heard that herbal treatments are better for you, is this true?

Herbal and natural preparations can still contain pharmacologic agents (drug like properties). A number of drugs were initially made from naturally occurring chemicals in plants.  There are resources available to inform you of their potential effects and side effects.  You should always tell your physician and/or pharmacist of all medications including herbal treatments so they can best inform you of their safety.

FAQ

Is there an allergy medication that is better for my voice that wont dry my vocal folds?

The second generation antihistamines tend to be less drying than the older ones like like benadryl.

How many vocal folds are there really?

There are two vocal folds.  The false vocal folds (ventricular folds ) are located above the true vocal folds but are not  used in healthy voice production.

Are vocal nodes different then vocal nodules

These are interchangeable terms for the same structural condition. The more accurate medical term is vocal nodules.

Are vocal folds and vocal cords the same thing?

The term “vocal cord” has been in common use for many years even though “vocal fold” is a more accurate anatomical description for the structure. The spelling “chords” refers to groups of notes and not to vocal structure..