I thought that I could do everything with my voice

Did you really think that? Perhaps with good reason. It may even have been true… up to the moment you started to have problems with your voice. One way to avoid this is to learn and understand the limits of your voice. What you are able to achieve with your voice is determined by three factors: the structure of your voice, the training of your voice and the way you use your voice. Imagine that your larynx is not properly formed; that your vocal folds do not close properly when you speak or sing; that you have never done voice exercises; that you tense your muscles when you sing or shout. In these circumstances, one thing is certain: sooner or later (and probably sooner), you will have voice problems. And it’s all so unfair, isn’t it? Your friend can shout all day long at school and feel nothing, but you have a sore throat if you shout just once or twice! This is related to the balance between the strain your voice can take (capacity) and the strain you actually put on it (load). This balance needs to be maintained in equilibrium. Fortunately, there is a lot we can do to help ourselves. Of course, if there is a problem with the structure of your voice, a voice doctor is the only person who can decide what, if anything, needs to be done. But you can make sure that you look after your voice as well as you possible can (voice care). You can also learn to make best use of the muscles that we employ when we talk or sing (voice technique). To ensure a good voice balance, it is important to keep something in reserve, only very occasionally stretching your voice to its full limits. One useful guideline is: ‘not louder if quieter can; not longer if shorter can; not further if nearer can’. Of course, when you are singing in a choir you have to sing what the song requires and what the choir leaders asks you to sing. But he will listen to you carefully and make sure that your voice is not ‘overloaded’.

After a choir rehearsal, it is simply not possible to rest your voice until next week. You laugh, talk, sing and shout all day long. At home, with your friends, in the sports club, at school. You have very little opportunity to recharge your voice batteries. Even so, it you want to find the right voice balance, you will need to think carefully about all these different voice moments. Remember: it is the total balance that counts. Try to sense when the strain on your voice is becoming too much (a sore throat, tired of shouting, difficulty speaking, a hoarse or reedy voice, dryness in the mouth, problems with high and low tones, etc.) and avoid further ‘damage’ by giving your voice more rest when you can. During voice mutation (the change in your voice as your grow) you will find that your voice is particularly sensitive to stress. You are growing so quickly that your body needs to find a new balance in power, suppleness, endurance and abilities almost every day. This is also true of your voice. You may think ‘I am never going to be able to sing properly again’ but this is not true. After some unavoidable ups and down, your voice will become adult, reliable and strong. And the habit of ensuring a good voice balance will allow you to keep on singing until you are old and grey!