Q: Is it OK for me to sing when I have a sore throat?
A: Depending on what’s causing it, singing with a sore throat can be catastrophic. I tell my clients, “if it hurts to swallow, don’t sing!” Conversely, if it’s a mildly soar throat, consult your doctor (it’s a good idea to find a good ear, nose, throat specialist in your area and build a relationship with him) and then use your best judgment. Dry air, singing abusively, and viral/bacterial infection are some of the more common causes of a sore throat. Some people just wake up with a sore throat every day of their life. I’ve found that the majority of those people have acid-reflux, which means they are burping up stomach acids while they are sleeping or sometimes even while they are awake. For most, however, this happens in the night, so they may be completely unaware of the problem. They then wake up with a scratchy, raspy voice and a sore throat. There are numerous web sites directed to the problem of reflux. Let me recommend a couple:
Because a dry throat is often a sore throat, consume two to three quarts of water every day. I actually drink up to a gallon or more a day. If you live in an arid climate, sleep with a humidifier next to your bed and try to warm up your voice in the shower. The moisture is an incredible help for your voice. Also, learn to breathe in through your nose as much as possible. This will help moisten the air before it reaches your cords.
The next concern is vocal abuse. Some of the causes are singing too high and too loud for too long, screaming, yelling at a football game or concert, talking at the top of your voice in a noisy crowd, breathing cigarette smoke (first- for second-hand), doing voice impersonations that are extreme or that cause strain and talking or singing with a raspy, manufactured sound.Whenever my throat is sore from vocal abuse I try to get some vocal rest, drink plenty of liquids, and then rehabilitate my voice with gentle exercises like humming, lip bubbles, and tongue trills.
If you get laryngitis and your tone starts to ‘skip’ or ‘cut out’ in the middle of a sustained note, you really want to get serious vocal rest. Most of all, ALWAYS consult your physician if things don’t clear up rapidly. By this, I mean, if you get a sore throat in the morning and it clears up by noon and doesn’t come back (this occasionally happens to me) then there’s usually nothing to worry about. Otherwise, call the doctor, because if this condition is medical and you don’t get help, no amount of vocal rest will help. I personally prefer herbal immune system remedies, but do what works best for you.
Q: My voice cracks as I sing higher. Is there any way to get rid of that little break in my voice?
A: What you are experiencing is a “disconnect” between your chest voice and your head, or falsetto, voice. The way to connect these two voices is to develop an ability to blend these two in what is known as the “mixed” voice. This is taught in detail in the Singing Success Program, but there is an exercise that you can try right now.
First, sing up to where your ‘break’ occurs. Now drop down a couple of notes and sing in a whimpering voice with the word “nay” and gently climb up in you range. If you keep a slight crying sound you’ll notice the tone climbing behind your soft palate and settling more into your head voice. All this should happen without breaking. Obviously, it is very difficult to teach this without your ears being employed in the process, but you may still want to give it a try.
Q: Can I improve my tone quality?
A: Tone quality improves when the correct musculature is engaged in the singing process. Feel underneath your chin with your forefinger and slide it inwards to the point where your neck meets the muscles under your chin. Now swallow. Notice how your larynx (Adam’s apple) raises up and the muscles under your chin tighten up as you swallow? These muscles that are engaged in the swallowing process are opposed to those engaged in the singing process. The use of these muscles while singing creates a myriad of problems that can take years to correct if left unchecked. For good tone quality, you must learn to sing without the outer muscles of the larynx. Doing so will set free your natural voice, drastically improving tone quality and ease of use. Naturally, the Singing Success Program contains techniques that will help you do this.
Q: Is it really possible to teach style?
A: Until now, there really has not been a comprehensive system of teaching vocal style. There have been scales played to reflect certain genres, such as the Blues Scale, but that’s really not enough. Brett Manning worked with hundreds of brilliant vocal stylists to co-develop training techniques based on their various skills. Using these techniques you can develop style skills so prolific that you’ll be able to reinterpret any song you wish into a unique masterpiece. Think of it this way: As a singer, you are the artist and the final “painting” is up to you. Brett Manning’s style training just gives you more colors to work with.