Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vocally Speaking: “You Have The Right To Remain Silent…” But Would You Want to Exercise This Right, Or Would You Rather To Embark On A Voice Repair Deal?

Sometime ago, I received an e-mail from a, seem to be, very frustrated, aggressive and, probably, very loud in the past, woman. She was, sort of, inquiring about her damaged voice, but in the tone of her e-mail, there was a lot of anger and blame. As usual, I asked her if she wanted to speak on the phone, so I could hear her voice, first hand and then make my assumptions and outline the best course of action for her particular case to be.

She agreed and I dialed the number.

The minute she picked up the phone, she tried to “scream”, with her broken voice at me, blaming everybody and anybody and saying, with anger, that she could not scream anymore at her two teenage sons while they were on the field, playing soccer.

Go figure!

To me, even with her voice issue, she sounded very loud, rude and obnoxious, and also, interestingly enough, she, instead of wanting (for real) to fix her voice, wanted to learn a sign language…? Usually, people with a hearing impediment are using sign language, so, obviously, it should not be her deal.

It was extremely difficult to understand her, and I asked her if she had another number for me to call. She said yes, and submitted a new number to me. When I dialed (two times in a row), there was a machine.

So it was clear to me that she did not want to continue the conversation and thus, preferred, instead of embarking on the voice repair endeavour, remain to be silent. Perhaps, for her and people around her, it would not be a bad choice, I am sorry to say.

Maybe it was God’s way to quiet her down for a while. But dark jokes aside, her choices were all wrong.

Instead of being frustrated to the point of being rude and obnoxious to the people who genuinely wanted to help her, she should have been searching and researching for the actual vocal, and evidently, some emotional help.

It is indeed very sad that the emotions of some people have gotten the better of them and common sense is not prevailing over their emotional state. That’s where the holistic approach to the repair of the voice mechanics would take place. 

In the above described case, (Upon her understanding and agreement), I would need to work first on the root of her emotions and to work quite deeply, as the voice problem did not happen out of thin air. Her very extroverted and loud self, no doubt, caused at least 70% of the problem.

The stress itself could “close” the throat very easily, not to mention that the thyroid becomes inflamed and prevents the voice from going through. In the holistic teaching, there is a saying; that the thyroid represents suppressed emotions and hurts. My friend and associate herbalist likes to ask her clients, “What couldn’t you 'swallow' that it brought you to this condition?” 

Very true!!!

So the problem is psychological and emotionally induced, but it always manifests in the physical body. It usually attacks the weaker organs and the organs which are used the most. If this person’s, (described above), habitat and mission to be bossy, in control, forceful and loud, no wonder her first organ, which got affected, was her voice. 

My brother, who remains to be in Russia, was first married with also a very loud and controlling woman. Sometime ago, he divorced her, and when I asked why, (as she was his first love), he said that she was screaming too much. She did not take the break-up of the marriage very well and turned, nevertheless,  to chain smoking. Not too long ago, I spoke to my brother and asked him how she was doing. He answered that she had a stroke and could not speak at all! 
I still cannot get a grip with it, as I remember her being very “vocal” and very hyperactive, to say the least.
How uncanny is that?! 

But it is true and it is the fact.

Being a voice specialist, I totally understand the cause of the above described. And from the professional point of view, I am not surprised to that consequent; rather, on the contrary, I would be surprised if it did not happen. In her case, however, nobody would be able to help, as her speech center and both of her vocal cords are paralyzed completely.

The question is, could it be prevented? The answer is yes, but the person cannot remain ignorant and careless to their behavioral and health habits. 

We like to say in Russia; “The learning and repetition is the Mother of teaching”.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Voice Disorders Classic Diagnosis: Vocal Cords Acid Reflux and/or Muscle Tension Dysphonia? Go Figure!!!

Lately, more and more voice issues sufferers are coming to me with the most, seem to be, common diagnosis, such as vocal cords acid reflux and muscle tension dysphonia. Why those two, you may ask?
Are there any other vocal problems which people also experience? Of course there are! The rest of them are much more so obvious; those like nodes, nodules, polyps, etc.

But what appears to be interesting that if the person, let’s say with the hoarse/raspy voice, is not diagnosed with any growth on their vocal cords, he/she is immediately labelled with one or the other diagnosis; either gastric acid reflux which is burning the sufferer’s vocal cords, or muscle tension dysphonia, which effects primarily the neck muscles, and also could be connected to the acid reflux and fibromyalgia. So, mainly, the conventional doctors are implementing the method of elimination.

In other words, if there is nothing obvious they could detect, they offer the generic and most common diagnosis, such as described above. How pathetic is that?

A lot of my voice repair clients came with the diagnosis of the acid reflux and obeying the doctor’s orders; they took all kinds of anti-acids, changed their diets, and did not, unfortunately, accomplish any results. Their voices were still hoarse and raspy and they still did not know how to properly speak or sing.

Yes, in some cases, they could have been affected by acid reflux, but it was not the main cause of their voice problem. It was just a side effect, as their voice was drawn in a very low position, via wrong speaking or singing and via an enormous pressure which was applied to their vocal box.

Once the voice is sitting low in its position (sounding very throaty and heavy), it will no doubt meet the gastric acid and, evidently, the vocal cords will get burned. So the approach to the vocal problem has to be completely holistic.

I was speaking today with a US client who had been diagnosed with Reinke's Edema (smoker’s disease). She was offered an operation instead of recommendation of stopping smoking, cleansing her body completely from the toxins, building the strength of her vocal anatomy and learning how to speak properly without putting an enormous pressure on her vocal cords and larynx. 

Even if she agreed to do the surgery, without the changes described above, it would be completely obsolete, as all of her symptoms will come back in full force in a short period of time.

There is no change without change and the surgery is not one of them. However, in some cases, the surgical interference is a must, but my recommendation would be to try everything possible and impossible (so to speak), Non-Surgically first!

After all, what do you have to lose? If nothing else, you will have knowledge and understanding to gain and then come to the write decision with God’s blessings.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Voice Repair Part 1: Could the Regular Vocal Coach Fix your Voice?

Let’s suppose you have a car, and you know how to drive it.

Does it mean that you also know how to teach driving, or how to fix the car if it’s broken? The answer is - not necessarily.

You could be a very good driver, but when it comes to fixing the car, you probably would need a certified/professional car mechanic who specializes in technical issues of the matter. 

In fact, when my child reached 16, she asked me to teach her how to drive, and pointed out that a lot of parents do exactly that.

My response to her was; “My dear daughter, I definitely know how to drive, but you will not pay me a million dollars to teach you how to drive. I will leave it to a professional who would make sure that you will go on the road, won’t kill anybody and, yourself, come back in one piece. Similarly, when somebody claims to be a vocal coach, it should not be assumed that this person also knows how to fix the voice issue/problem, if such occurs.

However, I have received quite a few obvious Voice Repair clients from various vocal coaches who were desperately trying to fix someone’s voice, having no idea how to even approach it. Moreover, they used the conventional approach to voice mechanics, which is, in the first place, not very beneficial to a human’s vocal anatomy.

The conventional vocal coaching suggests you to drop the jaw down and stick the stomach out, which could be very detrimental to the vocal health. In that instance, the voice gets drowned very low in its position and it pressures upon the components of the vocal anatomy and thus produces the strained vocal cords and abused larynx.

All of the above on its own could lead to growth on the vocal cords, (nodes, nodules, polyps), or even to a muscle tension dysphonia or spasmodic dysphonia. In my book, “Vocal Science – Flight to the Universe”, I have a chapter which is called, “How not to become a singer and work harder at doing it”. That pretty much describes the 'methodics' of the conventional pedagogy, or the lack thereof. 
So let’s analyze this:

If the conventional approach to voice mechanics could actually be harmful to the human anatomy, how could it fix the already occurred vocal damage, which was caused, most likely, by that very approach or, perhaps, by the sufferer’s own experimentation's? 

Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

It does, as evidently, it is the fact and it is true.

So, whatever you do, please separate the ingredients, so to speak. If you need to learn something, find a teaching guru. 

If you need to fix something, find the top mechanic and truly, it has to be a voice technician, who specializes in the field of VoiceRepair.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Voice Repair: We Don’t Just Speak About It - We Make It Happen!

I have been teaching and repairing voices for many years now. I have taught actors, professional media personnel, voice-over speakers, fitness instructors, and, of course, singers of all calibers. To survive in those described above professions, you need a strong voice, a voice which will never let down its user. 

Those people’s livelihood directly depends on the strength, health and command of their voices. If the person, of any of the described above professions, would damage and/or lose their voice, their livelihood would be (very much so) in jeopardy. 

Over the years, I’ve fixed the voices of quite well-known radio and TV personnel, public speakers, pastors, worship leaders, to name a few. All of them needed their voice back to the normal operational state and as soon as possible! So there was no time to just speak about it or feed them with promises of a future recovery — I had to get to the action and  to act upon it immediately!

These people were desperate, as they were literally losing their jobs along with their passion and zest for life. Some of them just had to restore their speaking voice; some - their singing voice; but others had to restore both. I cannot describe the emotional, physical, and mental impact the damaged voice had on those sufferers. 

The voice is our main tool for communication. 

It reflects on the state of our being and actually identifies who we are. When the voice is damaged, the in-congruency between who that person is in reality and what he/she is able to express, makes the whole matter devastating. The voice sufferer ultimately loses his/her (known-to-them) identity. When the voice damage occurs, the surrounding people now have difficulty to assess the person in front of them due to verbal communication breakdown. The person with the voice problem becomes (understandably) less communicative due to the difficulty of speech and constant tiredness of their voice. 

When those people happen to be in a loud environment, they nearly become mute, as they intuitively feel that if they tried to speak and (on top of it) with more volume, they might actually push their voice to the max (possibly) the last time; and thus, lose whatever has been left (at all) of their sound. So, in not so many words, it is a real tragedy and practical help MUST be administered immediately. 

A lot of voice practitioners, speech therapists, vocal coaches like to theorize about it, but the clock is ticking and every day counts, especially for those who have to return back to their everyday lives, not to mention, their speaking and/or singing career. Now voice repair – hands-on-experience should take place. 

Majority of people, especially with growth(s) on their vocal cords like nodules, polyps, lesions etc., luckily do not want to, right away, jump onto the operating table. They are usually looking for alternative ways to solve their voice/vocal problems. 

Now, I – the non-surgical voice repair specialist – have to go into action, along with my client, as it “takes two to tango”, so to speak. Both of us, my voice repair client and I, are facing a very intense and detailed (syllable-on-syllable, vowel-on-vowel, word-on-word) instruction. 

The first thing to do is to fix the speaking voice (this applies to both speakers and singers); and then teach both (a speaker and a singer) how to apply a new technique for their speaking voice.

Then, respectively, teach a singer how to sing a new way – not pushing the sound of their voice down to their throat by virtue of dropping the jaw almost down to the knee, and also not simultaneously sticking the stomach out and pelvis forward. 

In order to recover the voice, the speaking and singing voice application has to change completely. To accomplish this, I have to practically use a “Pavlovian conditioning” method and virtually re-teach the psyche and the human anatomy a completely different behavior, which also falls in the science of neural-linguistic programming (NLP). 

So it is a complex endeavor and it cannot be treated lightly (furthermore, remotly). 

There is indeed no time to just speak about it; there is a lot of mental, physical, emotional and vocal work to be done, and, nevertheless, in practice and not just in theory.

Our device:  We don’t speak, We do! And we make it happen in all cases where it is at all possible!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hoarse Voice / Raspy Voice? – Should you be concerned and do something about it, or should you hope that your voice would get back to normal on its own?

Let’s find out…

Perhaps one day you woke up and felt that your throat is unusually dry and even somewhat scratchy.

You probably did not think much about it, as it had happened before. So you started clearing your throat, trying to cough it out, but this time it was much harder to bring it to the normal state. You have tried again and again and instead of it getting better, it was getting worse.

Now, probably there was a time for concern.

At first, you thought that maybe you caught a cold or a virus, but you overall felt allright and not sick at all. Then you started to analyze your social behavior and your conduct at work, trying to remember if anybody there was sick and had a virus or a cold. After that, another thought occurred your mind and you started thinking...

  • “Probably, I speak too much and too loud on an everyday basis, I speak on the phone all day and then go to a loud club or to my band practice…”

Suddenly, you realize that you are overworking your voice double/triple its capacity; and not knowingly, you actually abuse your vocal anatomy.

Remember the vocal cords are not made from steel!

They are two human threads which could handle only so many voice fluctuations per lifetime. Just like your heart, which possesses only so many beats per lifetime, and therefore, if you are fit and your diet is adequate, you preserve and save your heartbeats for a longer time, assuring the health and length of your actual life span.

Similarly, when you look after your vocal anatomy (trying not to overload your vocal cords and your throat with excessive sound pressure), you probably will never experience the loss of voice and will never acquire the raspy or hoarse voice for that matter. And nevertheless, you’ll be immune to the dangers of injuring and/or losing your voice.

However, if the vocal injury already occurred, should you be doing something about it or hoping that one day, someday, your vocal anatomy will recover on its own?

The answer is:

Act upon it immediately! The longer you wait, the harder it will be to fix it. Don’t pretend that nothing has happened... because it did. Minimum to say, you bruised your vocal anatomy and thus your voice is not functioning as per normal.

Ultimately, you would need to do 2 things:

  • Firstly, treat your whole vocal box with alternative and holistic means. That will, hopefully, “tune your instrument” back to its normal physiological state.

  • Secondly, learn a new application of how to use your voice speaking and singing without putting enormous pressure on your already fragile vocal box. In a nutshell, you have to lift and restructure your voice to a different set of muscles (facial muscles working in coordination with the abdominal muscles) and as far away as possible from your vocal anatomy.

Those facial and abdominal muscles are very safe to use and you will get much more run out of them than off of your actual vocal anatomy. There are special speech and singing exercises available and they will allow you to use your voice in a fullest capacity possible and, needless to say, with no pain or strain on your vocal anatomy.

So, by utilizing that wholesome vocal mechanism, you will assure the safety and proper workability of your voice for life. In other words..., don’t procrastinate!

Start loving YOURSELF and your VOICE!