A problem shared is a problem halved, right?

Tell us about your singing, performing, health or career related struggle and we will source the best answers for you in the Dear iSing column of each issue. Click the image below to submit your question:

 

Here are some previous Dear iSing questions and answers:

Dear iSing, I am overcoming laryngitis and want to learn to sing safely. I have had no previous vocal training but have been singing for many years. What should I do?

ANSWER: Laryngitis is a voice killer! There are many potential causes of laryngitis: bacterial, viral, fungal, medication, acid reflux, vocal abuse, stress, fatigue, malnourishment, weak immune system, general illness e.g tonsillitis or flu, dehydration, inhaling toxic substances, smoking, alcohol and allergies.

So if you do contract laryngitis you need to deal with the cause. This could mean anything from rest, to taking antibiotics, to dealing with the stressor, eliminating reflux and removing yourself from environments that contribute to the issue.

As far as the voice is concerned, regardless of the cause you will need to take vocal rest for a few days or as long as the laryngitis lasts, as your vocal folds will be swollen and vulnerable to injury. Beyond that make sure you develop a good vocal warm up routine before singing and consider getting some vocal technique lessons. If singing is important to you, ensure you take your vocal health and fitness seriously.

Line Hilton – Voice and Performing Arts Medicine Specialist

 

Dear iSing, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park fame has one of the best scream incorporations I’ve heard, but I haven’t seen anything about him hurting himself in the process. Is there a safe way to scream?

ANSWER: That is an excellent question. Screaming in general gets a bad rap in some singing teaching circles, purely because it sounds like it’s causing multiple haemorrhages – and not just on the vocal folds! However, most types of distortion and scream can be learned with relative safety if you’re working with someone experienced. As you already pointed out, Bennington is often using a technique that’s a little different to other distortions. You’ve called it “fry”, presumably because it has a very similar quality, and I would agree. However, the truth about how that sound is produced could be quite different. That is, if I’ve been watching the same examples of Bennington as you have.

Most types of distortion, like the styles of Dave Grohl or Beth Hart, can have normal, periodic vocal fold function underneath. After the vocal folds have created the sound, sound waves then travel through the vocal tract and out the mouth. However, good screamers know how to narrow parts of the throat above the true folds. This causes “fleshy bits” on the walls of the pharynx to catch the airflow and vibrate irregularly. That could be the false folds, the epiglottis, or a combination of other “fleshy bits”. That’s how the “noise” of distortion is created healthily. Combine that with the normal vocal fold function underneath and you get the distortion with a distinctive note, and even vibrato, in the sound.

Bennington sometimes brings out the distortion techniques above, but his “fry” screams are slightly different. Research and high speed imaging by CVT and Dr Krzysztof Izdebski has also shown the fleshy bits (and even saliva) flapping around, disturbed by the airflow that moves through the vocal tract. The difference with Bennington appears to be that in his type of scream, the vocal folds vibrate but barely touch each other during each cycle. As a result, a turbulent stream of airflow flies through the glottis (the space between the vocal folds) and assists in flapping the fleshy bits, adding to the scream. In addition to all that, the vocal fold vibration can be aperiodic during this type of scream, which explains why there’s not always an easily identifiable pitch.

To summarise, Bennington and his counterparts are skilled screamers who create favourable and non-damaging scenarios similar to the above; scenarios that sound like they’re grinding the heck out of their vocal folds but in fact they’re barely in contact. For any aspiring metal singers out there, be careful when trying to create a similar sound; it may not be quite what you perceive it to be. The reality can be so different and we don’t want to find that out by sustaining a vocal injury whilst trying.

Chris Johnson – Vocal Coach and The Naked Vocalist podcaster

 

Dear iSing, How can I make sure my anxiety doesn’t stop me delivering a good singing performance?

ANSWER: Nerves and anxiety will very likely occur when we perform as a result of more stress, heightened perception, and new surroundings. It’s how we react to them that can really make all the difference. When we get anxious our internal thought system usually starts to go into overdrive and it begins to assess, critique, and worry about many details. This heightens the anxiety. But there are three things you can do to start to turn this around.

The first is simply to practice performing. So instead of thinking you need to be perfect on stage, allow yourself to practice on stage. It’s important to try new things, and make mistakes without judgement.

Secondly, you can have a little flexible routine which may involve getting the physical outcomes of anxiety (shallow breathing, dry mouth, tension, etc) in a good space. Try doing a few physical stretches, vocal warm ups, breathing, and visualisation.

Lastly, know this, if you have something external to focus on you will be more successful in the end. Focusing in on connecting with the audience, being present on stage, and things like this will help bring you out of anxiety and into your artistry. But it takes time, so allow yourself time to grow and experiment.

Tamara Beatty – Vocal Coach, The Voice (USA)

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