Singing Lessons in Nassau County
Is your voice letting you down? Do you think you might need vocal training?
Are you losing your speaking or singing voice?
Have you found that your speech pattern, accent, or voice quality hinders your professional or personal success?
Do you (or your child) have a medical speech or voice problem?
Have you always wished you could improve your singing ability?
Do you need to increase your confidence in public speaking situations?
Have you contacted singing teachers, but found that they did not offer singing lessons in your own home?
Our Voice Care Center is dedicated to the total care of the professional voice. Our mission: to help people create excellent voices: those who have lost their normal voice and want to regain it, those who want to take a bland or unpleasant voice and make it pleasing and effective, or those who want to take an ordinary voice and make it extraordinary.
We do this through a customized program of voice, breathing, and relaxation techniques and exercises, based on the results of an initial voice evaluation. Our clients are treated holistically; including posture/alignment, reduction of muscle tension and vocal tension, tone placement and production, pitch control, intonation/word stress, and body language, as well as diet and anti-reflux regimens, hydration, vocal abuse reduction, vocal hygiene, and stress reduction… everything that contributes to the creation of an excellent voice. We also bring these customized components to our Total Singing Voice Program, through which we help singers achieve excellent voices through the development of a healthy dependable vocal technique. If you seek singing lessons in Nassau County, contact Professional Voice Care Center today!
In our new blog, we will present practical and informative posts on everything from how to have the voice quality you’ve always wanted, to how to break patterns of poor posture. We will talk about alignment of the head, neck, and shoulders; how to reduce voice-damaging reflux; how to create a complete hydration program and how to achieve an open relaxed throat for singing and speaking, including our “Voice Box Massage” technique that has become so popular!
Singing Lessons in Nassau County
We’ll interview some of our clients on their journeys through the voice therapy or voice training process, and see how they achieved their results. We’ll try to be very hands-on and present techniques that you can try TODAY! If you want to sing better in the shower, or aspire to be on the Broadway stage….give your next speech with confidence and presence….get through the work day and still have a voice….you’ll want to check back with us frequently. Use our simple but effective techniques and tips and you’ll no longer have to feel that your voice holds you back personally or professionally. If you seek singing lessons in Nassau County, contact Professional Voice Care Center today!
So stay tuned, and get ready to learn how to have a CHOICE VOICE!!
We can help!
The buses pull up, discharging loads of students. The bell rings. Bulletin boards are decorated, lesson plans are being created. I know, it’s too early to mention that “s” word, school, but it’ll be here before you know it. If you’re a teacher, September brings with it all kinds of challenges. But if you’re a teacher with a voice problem, those challenges can truly be daunting. How can you protect your voice from further damage? And how can you get your voice healthy, and keep it that way throughout the school year? Here’s an idea: let’s talk about my five Voice Rules for Teachers. They’re easy to remember: they spell out “TEACH”!
Rule #1: T stands for “Take Voice Naps”. A voice nap is a brief break, 5 to 15 minutes (or more if you are able) where you don’t talk or sing at all. We have found that vocal conservation is more effective than voice rest. Voice naps are one way of conserving your voice throughout the long school day. So, allow your students to work independently for a few minutes, let them take turns reading aloud, or ask your teaching assistant to run a group activity. During lunch, a voice nap would be taking a walk or eating in a quiet space, instead of eating in a noisy teacher’s lounge or diner. After work, a voice nap could be sending emails or texts instead of making lengthy phone calls.
Rule #2: E stands for “Employ Non-Verbal Means to Quiet Students. This means no shouting over the students’ loud speaking or singing. Try clapping, flicking the lights, using a bell or even a small percussion instrument. There’s even an app called Service Bell, that simulates the sound of the old-fashioned silver bell on a counter in a store. For you music teachers, play a set musical pattern on the piano that signals to the students that they need to quiet down and focus on you. You could always try the old “stand in front of the classroom, arms folded, with that ‘I’ll wait’ expression on your face”. Eventually a student will notice and one by one, the room will quiet down.
If you want to think creatively, nominate one student per day to be the Noise Monitor; you can delegate the room-quieting responsibilities to that individual. If you share with your class that you’re having a voice problem and want to engage their help to protect your voice, they’ll be more than happy to be your ally.
Rule #3: A stands for “Amplification is a MUST!” Now, I’ve heard every excuse there is from teachers who don’t want to use amplification in the classroom. But studies have shown that amplification is hugely important in protecting the teacher’s voice from vocal strain. It may even help students to hear and process verbal language more effectively. Many of the personal amplification systems we recommend are body-worn, either on a belt clip (Voice Saver: http://www.califone.com/products/pa283.php) or in a fanny pack (Chatter Vox, which is on our Amazon-affiliated website store, https://provoicecare.net/recommended-products/singer-resources/).
Rule #4: C stands for “Cut Down on Loud Voice Use”. This seems to happen so much in a school setting. Talking over students, singing over a chorus, coaching a sports or physical education activity, running an after-school club, calling someone down the hall, or being on bus duty or lunch duty. But using a forced loud voice production can really crash your vocal cords together and potentially damage them.
Remember these wise words: if you’re not getting paid to do something with your voice (in this case, being loud), DON’T DO IT! I always ask my clients who teach, “Do they increase your paycheck if you push your voice loudly at work?” But if you lose your voice, there might not BE a paycheck! So, go back to Rules #2 and #3 to help make Rule #4 a reality. Remember, if you have a microphone, there’s no point in talking loudly into it. This defeats the whole point of amplification. Speak in a more confidential tone. If you’re running outdoor activities, use a bullhorn and/or whistle.
Rule #5: H stands for “Have Lots of Water”. Wet vocal folds are happy vocal folds. You will need less force to drive the vibration of wet vocal folds vs. if they’re dry. Schools are dry to begin with, what with forced air heat, dust, poor ventilation, etc. You need to combat this with at least half your body weight in ounces of water. Fruits, herbal tea, and fruit-infused water are great too. Use a humidifier in the winter if you are able to in class, but definitely at home. Facial steaming is also helpful for keeping your cords moist. And increased hydration and steaming may help to keep all your mucous membranes healthy – and maybe ward off the dreaded school respiratory infection!
These Voice Rules for Teachers are just a starting point. There’s much more you can learn by attending voice training or voice therapy with a qualified vocologist, a speech-language pathologist with special training in the care of the voice. Some of these concepts might include learning how to warm up your voice before, during, and after school (remember, especially those of you who sing, teaching is another performance, so you need to be warmed up!), how to use good breath support, how to relax tight muscles, and how to use good seated and standing posture. If you’re already having voice problems, and the thought of teaching 6-8 hours a day scares you, schedule a voice evaluation today. Don’t wait until October 1st, when so many teachers realize they’re in vocal crisis. Take action now to prevent or hopefully reverse vocal damage. Happy teaching! If you seek singing lessons in Nassau County, contact Professional Voice Care Center today!
Meet April Lindevald
Our singing student April Lindevald, a classically-trained mezzo-soprano, has been a professional singer for 35 years, and has always had a strong healthy reliable voice with excellent vocal stamina. April has a very successful career that has included appearances with the New York City Opera, the Gregg Smith Singers, and many other musical institutions, as well as singing regularly in a church with a large music program. She has also been a synagogue and concert soloist at countless venues.
April is a singer/songwriter and guitarist with a CD of original compositions, entitled “Fish Out of Wizard School.” She recently released her first fantasy novel, The Last Wizard of Eneri Clare, which received rave reviews on Amazon and Kirkus Reviews. (http://aprillindevald.com). This creative and talented lady is also a spiritual seeker and teacher, who uses tarot cards, crystals, and intuition to counsel clients in need of direction or encouragement. She seeks to help them deal with their challenges from a confident, empowered place.
By now, you’ve probably noticed that all of April’s varied pursuits have a common theme: they’re all vocally demanding! Singing for hours on end in rehearsals and performances can be a strenuous workout for the voice. But make no mistake: it is quite a challenge to speak at book-signing events (and there have been many for April), often without a microphone, at large active bookstores. Not to mention the trials and tribulations of speaking at length during tarot readings, over the general hubbub of a restaurant, party venue, or street festival. Any one of these activities could present huge vocal challenges; April often did all of them in the space of one week!
About 4-5 years ago, April found that her voice was beginning to give her some issues. She found that it didn’t last as long, she was experiencing clogging from mucus in her throat, as well as throat dryness, and her voice didn’t seem to be there when she needed it. She actually began to think that her career was coming to an end. And then she came to Professional Voice Care Center.
April found that with the use of targeted exercises that helped her to deactivate maladaptive compensatory muscular activity while readjusting her voice placement, she could put less pressure on the delicate vocal apparatus. She reports that her voice got better and better! She regained a dependable well-functioning voice that’s “there when she needs it.” She’s even gained a few more absolutely beautiful notes at the top of her range and now functions very well as a high mezzo.
As far as her speaking voice is concerned, April has now learned to use her therapeutic vocal warm-up exercises before her book-signing and tarot-reading events (let’s hear it for dashing into a restroom to warm up our voices!). She now finds that her voice gets through these events with flying colors. Everyone hears her “clear as day” and she does not experience any vocal fatigue when the events are over. In her own words, “These things work!” If you seek singing lessons in Nassau County, contact Professional Voice Care Center today!
We invite you to watch the video below to see an excellent demonstration by April Lindevald of two of our most effective vocal exercises. The exercises, the Gargle Exercise and the Humming Exercise (with a new twist), are examples of Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises, or SOVT for short. (See our previous blog entitled “Get the Buzz” for an in-depth explanation of SOVT Exercises). These vocal techniques create a relaxed vocal instrument, a rich resonant “buzzy” sound, and even help to encourage consistent breath support.
As April demonstrates, after she did the Gargle Exercise, her speaking voice was obviously clearer and more resonant. She has found this exercise helps keep her tongue forward and relaxed. The Humming Exercise helped her to place her voice forward in the mask (the area around the mouth and nose where a doctor’s mask would cover), thus amplifying her voice effortlessly. She felt this as a shift to a less stressful, more projected place, with a lot of vibration in the face, like a buzz.
In this fast-paced, I-need-it-yesterday world, we have all come to depend on certain people and things to always be there for us, to always work. Our family, friends, our computers and smart phones, the car, a good credit rating, our jobs… they’d better not vanish!
Yet there is one thing we take pretty much for granted, that we depend on for nearly all of our business and personal relationships…our voice. We expect it to be there, on the job, performing flawlessly every waking minute. Whether we are teaching, reading to our children, calling the doctor, making a sales pitch, or auditioning for a Broadway show, we count on our voice to come out just right. But what if it doesn’t???
It’s all too common that the voice can indeed let us down. From misuse or abuse of the voice, inadequate hydration, exposure to environmental irritants, working in a noisy environment, shouting endlessly into our Bluetooth devices, and factors such as reflux, allergies, and even stress, our vocal ability can diminish very rapidly….or disappear altogether! It’s no surprise that this can happen; after all, how many of us consciously work on taking care of our voices every day, while preventing vocal injury?
It’s interesting that most of us practice excellent oral hygiene: we brush and floss daily, we visit our dentist regularly, and we avoid sweets that can ruin our teeth. Yet we fail to practice good vocal hygiene. It’s particularly interesting when you think about it this way: you could get false teeth if you had to, but you only get one set of vocal cords! So maybe we all should think about taking care of our voices before it’s too late. If you seek singing lessons in Nassau County, contact Professional Voice Care Center today!
In our latest video, created by our media whiz (and also a very talented singing student) Taylor Sokol, you can learn about some of the services that we offer to help people achieve excellent voices.
Singing Lessons in Nassau County
As a licensed and certified voice therapist and singing instructor, Karen Sussman, M.A., CCC is uniquely qualified to treat the voice problems of professional voice users, both singers and speakers. These include anyone who uses the voice to make a living and is experiencing vocal problems. Examples include teachers, executive assistants, attorneys, sales reps, and of course, singers and actors.
But you don’t have to be a professional voice user to benefit from voice therapy. Even stay-at-home parents experience almost constant vocal stress during the act of taking care of their families.
Of course, you don’t have to have a voice problem to seek the services of a qualified voice trainer. Maybe you’ve always wanted to sing but never tried to develop your hidden talent. Or, your child wants to try out for the school musical and needs skills and confidence-building. Perhaps you want your speaking voice to sound more dynamic and exciting, either for professional purposes or in your personal relationships. As some of our clients, spending time at our studio belting out pop or Broadway tunes (even recording your song to CD with professional accompaniment), or trying out your classical chops, is “therapy” of a different sort….an exciting escape from the everyday routine.
Enjoy our new video, and learn about what we can offer you, to help you achieve the “Choice Voice” you’ve always wanted!
As a singer (professional or amateur), you may be interested in improving your vocal skills with singing lessons in Nassau County. You want to be sure that your voice is healthy and your singing technique is solid and dependable. You may want to develop confidence, improve breath control, even build repertoire and style. Most importantly, you need to prevent vocal damage or eliminate existing vocal cord nodules, strain, or hoarseness. Your goals: to build range, power and projection, beautiful tone quality, and vocal stamina. In addition, you’d like to develop your style, artistry, stage presence, and song interpretation.
At our Center, your voice therapist and/or singing teacher will create a personalized program for total singing voice development. This is our “Singing Voice Mastery Program”. If you already have a vocal problem, we will include voice therapy techniques. We do this using our unique “Therapeutic Singing Lessons” program. Almost immediately, you’ll find that utilizing our techniques results in reduction of vocal strain and vocally-abusive behaviors. You’ll improve range, power, tone quality, and vocal stamina. Furthermore, you can master the breath control techniques that are the hallmark of great singing.
Because we are licensed speech pathologists, we can also help you to improve your speaking voice. You can even reduce or develop an accent for acting roles. Our modern studio is equipped with electronic and digital keyboards, guitar, PA system, and professional accompaniment to simulate actual performance conditions. Audio and video recording capability is available on-site for feedback and evaluation of speaking and singing. All sessions can be recorded to CD or your own smartphone or MP3 device for home practice.
Our singing teachers can help prepare students for auditions for college performing arts programs, NYSSMA festivals, musical theater productions, chorus solos, etc. In addition, we’ll help you to achieve excellence in sight-singing through our systematic Sight-Singing Instruction program. Read more about our NYSSMA Preparation, Audition Preparation, and Sight-Singing Instruction programs by clicking the hyperlinks.
We are pleased to offer singing lessons in the comfort and convenience of your own home. Read more about this great option here. Furthermore, online singing lessons via Skype are now available. This is a great option when there is inclement weather, or when you are unable to travel to our Center. Speak to our Voice Program Coordinator for more information on scheduling Skype lessons or lessons at home.
In conclusion, when you think singing excellence, think Professional Voice Care Center – the premier voice training and therapy center on Long Island!
If you want more information about singing lessons at your home, our studio, or via Skype, feel free to fill out the form on our website. A Voice Care Coordinator will get back to you as soon as possible.
Almost immediately, you’ll find that utilizing these techniques results in reduction of vocal strain and vocally-abusive behaviors. You’ll improve range, power, tone quality, and vocal stamina. Furthermore, you can master the breath control techniques that are the hallmark of great singing.
We are pleased to offer singing lessons in the comfort and convenience of your own home. Read more about this great option here. Furthermore, online lessons via Skype are now available. This is a great option when there is inclement weather, or when you are unable to travel to our Center. Speak to our Voice Program Coordinator for more information on scheduling Skype lessons or lessons at home.
Not only can we help you learn to sing, Professional Voice Care Center also offers a variety of other voice care services for East Meadow and the surrounding areas:
Singing Lessons in Nassau County
If you want more information about any of our services, either at our Center or via Skype, or if you’re interested in singing lessons at your home, feel free to fill out the form below. A Voice Care Coordinator will get back to you as soon as possible.
Communication disorders block the ability to speak and to understand speech and language. Such disorders can limit the academic, professional, and social potential of people of all ages. At the Center, we can help. Types of communication disorders we treat include:
- Articulation Disorders – difficulty making speech sounds correctly and/or weakness in the muscles of articulation.
- Stuttering – an interruption in the rhythm and flow of speech.
- Voice Disorders – problems with vocal pitch, quality, or loudness; excessive muscle tension associated with voice, or vocal cord paralysis or weakness. Also the voice problems associated with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease.
- Myofunctional Disorders – involving tongue thrust, reverse swallow, and associated speech and orthodontic problems.
At the Center, a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist evaluates you or your child’s particular communication needs, and designs an individualized treatment program. Specific, easy-to-understand instructions for home practice are provided, either audio-recorded or on handouts.
An Inspiring Story About a Fellow Speech Pathologist Who Lost Her Voice
I wanted to share a fascinating story of a fellow speech pathologist, Erie Louison, MA, CCC-SLP, which originally appeared in the ASHA Leader in October 2017. It touched me because her story involved a voice disorder. Not only that, this story highlighted how important it is for all of us to PAY ATTENTION when you experience a symptom that is not normal. If you don’t, something that seems annoying could literally be life-threatening.
Erie, a speech-language pathologist in a private pediatric clinic, had been wheezing for a few months, but she chalked that up to seasonal allergies, so she thought nothing of it. Until…she rushed to the emergency room with severe chest pains in July 2016. The diagnosis was a complete surprise: a multinodular substernal goiter. Her thyroid gland had tripled in size and had grown into her chest cavity. Worse yet, the goiter was compressing her trachea. Left untreated, the goiter would have closed off Erie’s airway.
A total thyroidectomy was recommended; the surgery was done through Erie’s neck, rather than through her chest. She had been advised before the surgery that damage to her vocal cords or laryngeal nerve could occur. After surgery, she found that she had difficulty speaking and coughed while eating and drinking. Using a mechanical soft diet and thickened liquids, Erie’s swallowing soon returned to normal, but her speaking was barely above a whisper. She could only get a few words out on a breath. She avoided the phone, couldn’t sing, and of course, couldn’t work. (Imagine a speech pathologist with no voice!).
An ENT (ear, nose, and throat physician, or otolaryngologist) diagnosed right vocal fold (cord) paralysis. He recommended an injection procedure known as vocal fold augmentation, to “bulk up” the fold with a “filler” gel, to help it meet the other vocal fold, thus creating a stronger voice. An injection is often used in cases of vocal fold paralysis, vocal fold atrophy (often due to aging), or in some cases of vocal fold paresis (weakness). It’s a temporary fix, but the hope is always that if the nerve is damaged, it may heal, allowing the affected vocal fold to return to normal.
The vocal fold on the right side of this picture is paralyzed, so that the vocal folds do not close completely during phonation. Photo courtesy of New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.
Normally, open vocal folds form a symmetric “V” shape. The vocal fold on the right side of this picture is paralyzed, so that it cannot move outward or inward. Photo courtesy of New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.
In this patient with longstanding vocal fold paralysis, the paralyzed vocal fold has lost muscle mass and has become thin and atrophic. Photo courtesy of Voice Medicine, Lucian Sulica, MD.
Singing Lessons in Nassau County
Indeed, Erie did notice improved vocal volume after the injection. Her voice quality went from breathy to sometimes raspy with a deeper pitch. However, persisting vocal fatigue kept her from doing her work as a speech-language pathologist.
As if the situation could get any worse, Erie was then diagnosed with reflux, which was felt to be hindering her recovery of voice. This was managed with medication. Within a month, her voice started sounding stronger with clearer quality. Within a few short months, she returned to her job full-time.permission to reprint
The paralyzed right vocal fold is on the left side of the photo (the image always appears reversed). Notice how weak and breathy the voice is, since the vocal folds can’t close completely.
Erie believes that she has regained 85% of her old voice. She still gets hoarse at the end of some days, and she has to be very faithful to her vocal hygiene regimen. She can sing with her students again, but her range is lower. Also, she can’t project her voice the way she used to, but relies on a microphone, something we advise all classroom teachers to use to preserve their voices in the classroom. (After all, if you’re not getting paid to be loud, don’t give it away for free; let the microphone do the work for you!)
I found it interesting that through this entire process, Erie did not receive any vocal rehabilitation therapy. I corresponded with Erie briefly to get her permission to reprint parts of her story. She stated that since she had worked with voice clients in the past, she used some of those techniques on herself. It’s certainly possible that, combined with injection augmentation, she could’ve obtained a faster or better result with her voice, had she been recommended for specialized voice therapy. Since she stated that she still has a paralyzed cord, she may be a candidate for an implant procedure, called thyroplasty, which is a more permanent fix for vocal fold paralysis. (Implants are customized for each person’s vocal cord situation).
It is so interesting that Erie feels that her voice and swallowing problem gave her a new perspective on what her clients experience: the fear, anxiety and uncertainty of what will happen to the ability to communicate. She could understand the frustrations of someone who can’t communicate or swallow normally.
She also realized that in this world of social media and online networking, she found support and guidance from the community of speech-language pathologists and other online groups. She has become inspired to develop her professional skills even further: pursuing a doctorate, writing, and teaching.
So, what do we learn from this courageous woman’s story? Perhaps most important from a medical standpoint: don’t ignore a new persisting symptom. It might be more serious than you think. (Even if it isn’t, better safe than sorry). Also, don’t give up in the face of adversity: do your homework, search out answers and get expert help. And most inspiring of all, let your difficult experience become the impetus to become the best version of yourself, find empathy for the plight of other people, and reach out to help others. In fact, don’t wait for adversity. Always strive to be the best you can be, and do the most you can for others who need your help, support, and caring.
Gender-Affirming Voice Training – Not Just Another “Pretty” Voice
As a voice therapist, speech trainer, and singing voice specialist, I’ve been called upon many times to assist transgender women in discovering and stabilizing the voice that conforms with their gender identity. As you will see in this Washington Post article, this is not a quick fix or a one-step process. Unlike the hormones taken by transgender men, the hormones that transgender women take don’t change the voice pitch. This must be done through vocal training.
Not only are physical factors involved, such as speaking pitch, intonation patterns, articulation, tone placement and resonance, there are numerous psycho-social factors in feminine communication style. These may include choice of vocabulary, grammatical style, and use of certain gestures and facial expressions. Even posture, the way you walk or the way you sit figure into the equation. These factors may have been learned at a very young age. In our society, young boys and girls are often expected to conform to certain expected gender-oriented communication patterns. A transgender woman may not even realize that she subconsciously slips back into these long-ago ingrained patterns of communication. In today’s not-always-tolerant society, having a voice that presents as feminine is not only a confidence-builder, it’s also a safety issue. That gender-congruent voice may help to prevent harassment.
This really isn’t just a matter of “speak in a higher voice and you’ll sound feminine”. That could be one part of the total vocal training program for the transgender individual. But so many other facets of communication are key, both verbal and non-verbal. Read more about it in the Post article here. Or, contact us at the Professional Voice Care Center for your individualized gender-affirming voice training. Learn how to achieve congruence and authenticity in your communication style, reduce instances of being misgendered, and develop confidence with your new voice. Be affirmed in your gender identity in a safe, welcoming, and authentic space! If you are looking for singing lessons in Nassau County, contact us today.
“Tune In to Tune Up” Episode 4: Vocal Cord Pathology
In their fourth Facebook Live episode, voice therapist and singing voice expert Karen Sussman, MA, CCC-SLP and laryngologist Joel Portnoy, MD explore the treatment of vocal cord pathologies. If you’re a singer or use your speaking voice professionally as a teacher, actor, public speaker, attorney, or even as a parent, you know how essential a healthy voice is. So, you certainly don’t want to hear those scary words “You need surgery”. But do you really need the surgery? Will voice rest help? Can voice therapy resolve your problem? Will you need a combination of treatments? Should you get a second opinion? After getting upsetting news like this, we know you can be confused and overwhelmed. Let Karen Sussman and Joel Portnoy demystify this process, and help you make more informed decisions. The experts will also answer participants’ specific questions. As always, you’ll learn valuable information, and even a “Technique of the Week” to improve your vocal health. Don’t miss this crucial information-packed episode!
How to Have a Dog Without Losing Your Voice
Ah, man’s best friend (and woman’s too!) – a dog. Dogs enrich our lives in so many ways. An endless source of unconditional love, loyalty, and support. A companion, a protector, and a pal to take away sadness or pain…. we get all this and much more from our dogs. I should know: I’m on my third and fourth dogs now. I wasn’t allowed to have pets growing up, so I’m making up for lost time. If I could own many dogs at once, I would.
Since the weather is (hopefully) going to become less sweltering this Fall, it’s time to really get out and be active with our dogs. I can just hear my double-coated Corgi, Zara, saying “C’mon, it’s not so hot anymore. Let’s just go out and have some FUN!”
But with dog ownership comes responsibilities – and the need to train that pup. And many of us decide that raising our voices will be effective for training, disciplining, etc. Let’s face it: we even raise our voices in joy when our dog does something adorable or brilliant. (Each of us has the most brilliant or adorable dog in the world, n’est-ce pas?). I’m sure many of us have used silly goofy voices to talk to our fur babies. Not to mention, the shriek that we let out when we see a pile of splinters on the floor under what used to be the corner of the coffee table. Yes, my Zara did that, to several pieces of furniture. Sigh.
All that extreme voice use can create problems for your vocal mechanism. If you yell at that poor pooch because of an unfortunate accident on the rug, you run the risk of crashing your vocal folds (i.e., vocal cords) together much too forcefully. If that continues, you run the risk of developing possible vocal fold pathology like nodules. If you shout across the yard or scream your commands when something goes wrong during your training sessions (with my dogs, it’s the sudden appearance of a bunny on the lawn), you may end up becoming hoarse and scratchy, or develop a sore aching throat and strained voice. If you do it enough, you can lose your voice, either intermittently or chronically. It’s no wonder that some of my voice therapy clients are dog trainers who did not have the skills to meet the vocal demands of their jobs.
If you use cute, cartoonish, or baby voices to speak endearingly to your pups, you might find that your voice is becoming fatigued or that it’s taking more effort to produce voice, especially after a long day of talking. Understand that voices are not made to wear out with use; they’re not like tires! (Imagine that: “Vocal cords: replace at 25,000 miles”). But if we misuse or abuse the voice (what we call phonotrauma in voice therapy), we could see symptoms of dysphonia (a voice impairment) relatively quickly.
I decided to reach out to the trainer that worked with my Buddy earlier this year. Buddy is smart and obedient, BUT, he never met a bunny or cat he didn’t love…to chase! Erica Knors, CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed), is the Canine Enrichment Manager at North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington, NY. I asked Erica how people can effectively train and control their dogs without blowing out their voices.
Erica tells us “Working with a dog on basic commands or specific behavioral concerns never requires intimidation or harsh tones. A strong approach often breeds fear, worry and insecurity in a dog, and might even be the cause or root of a particular behavior concern. It is important to remember that dogs speak in body language; they learn and communicate best when their person responds to their behavior calmly, respectfully and without forceful movements or vocalizations. Instead of harsh vocalizations, you can use soft hand gestures or movements, a clicker, snapping, or whistling to convey certain communications. For example, my dog has learned to sit when I place my hands on my hips – I don’t even have to speak!”
If you happen to be a trained singer, or someone who knows how to use your voice professionally, you should be able to use your vocal skills to project your voice to your dog, rather than yelling. For instance, if you utilize skills such as stretches to relax the muscles, using good posture/alignment, taking effective abdominal breaths, and warming up the voice using scientifically-based voice therapy techniques, you’ll be able to speak with a strong, clear, commanding voice that doesn’t have to be loud, because it’s so clear and resonant. An excellent voice warm-up prior to walking your dogs would be some gentle humming on up and down glides, or doing lip trills (a.k.a. “lip buzzes”). Don’t try to walk or command your dog on sleepy-sounding “morning voice.” You won’t be heard well, and you could strain your voice. Warm it up first.
Also, especially if you walk your dogs early in the morning, before you’ve really spoken to anyone, you must remember to hydrate sufficiently before you go on that walk. And we mean drink water, not coffee; coffee actually dehydrates the vocal folds and potentially increases acid reflux (what we call “drying and frying”). Inhaling steam would be helpful too, as it moisturizes your vocal folds instantaneously. And moist vocal folds work more easily, with less force, than dry vocal folds. By the way, if you walk the dog at night, after having a nightcap or a glass of wine with dinner, you may find it more difficult to produce a clear voice. Alcohol, like caffeine, “dries and fries” the vocal cords.
As for the “cuddly-wuddly” voice, try to minimize the use of extremely high-pitched, shrieky, or cartoon-like sounds that are not natural for your voice. Speak with a smile and give a loving pat (or “scratchies” as we like to call them at my house) or a “Good boy/girl!” when your dog does something adorable, sweet, or nice.
So, to recap, if you use the vocal skills that we teach, including proper vocal hygiene (i.e., hydrate, steam, avoid caffeine and alcohol), warming up the voice, stretching, using good posture/alignment, and breathing correctly, and use the techniques that our Canine Enrichment Manager recommends, you and your dog will do fine, and you’ll still have your Choice Voice!
“Tune In to Tune Up” Episode 5: Stress & Your Voice
If you’ve ever been sidelined by stress or anxiety (and who hasn’t), especially as it relates to performing or public speaking situations, you won’t want to miss the next episode of Tune In to Tune Up with Karen Sussman, MA, CCC, voice therapist and singing voice expert. On Wednesday August 29, 2018, at 8:00 PM, she’ll be joined by a very special guest. Drew Velting, Ph.D. is a singer-songwriter, accomplished contemporary folk music artist, and a licensed clinical psychologist. With this unique combination of qualifications, Dr. Velting is ideally suited to talk about stress – from both sides of the footlights. But this episode is not just for singers: if situations like speaking before a crowd, reading at church, or even talking to someone new at a function get you stressed or anxious, you’ll definitely want to tune in!!
“Tune In To Tune Up” Episode 6: Muscle Tension & Your Voice
If you’re a singer, or someone who makes your living with your speaking voice, then you won’t want to miss the next episode of Tune In to Tune Up with Karen Sussman, MA, CCC, voice therapist and singing voice expert. Have you been feeling like there’s a vice grip around your throat when you speak or sing? Is your voice tiring easily or getting sore, even after a little bit of talking or singing? Have you also noticed that your posture isn’t the best or your neck feels tight?
These factors could all be related: it could be muscle tension dysphonia. We’ll demystify this condition for you. Not only will Karen be helping you resolve your vocal tension, we’ll have laryngologist Joel Portnoy, MD and physical therapist Kathleen Brooks giving us valuable, practical information on how to reduce muscle tension, improve posture/alignment, and deal with this often-devastating vocal problem. As always, you’ll learn the “Techniques of the Week”, and you don’t have to be a singer to benefit!
Winter can be brutal to the vocal folds (i.e., vocal cords), because of the dry heat blasting out into our homes and offices. Letting the mucous membrane linings of the respiratory tract dry out is like creating a “chink in the armor”: in come the invading germs. And if you get sick, and your vocal folds get swollen, you may end up straining your voice to speak or sing over those poor swollen cords.
For the voice, dry membranes create yet another problem: increased vocal effort. It takes more work to vibrate dry vocal folds than moist ones. Even though you may not feel thirsty in the winter, you need to hydrate more. A good rule of thumb is: drink half your body weight in ounces of water. You should be “peeing pale”! And water doesn’t mean coffee, caffeinated tea, alcohol, or soda. Those beverages actually dehydrate your vocal folds (caffeine and alcohol are diuretics), Try caffeine-free herbal tea (like chamomile) or fruit-infused water using a fruit infusion bottle or pitcher instead. Use cucumbers and melons in your fruit infusion for a refreshing alkaline beverage that’s really good for you!
Another way to moisturize your vocal folds directly (and instantly) is steaming. Steam inhalation brings those microscopic water droplets directly onto the vocal folds. (When you drink water, it has to go through your digestive system before it reaches your vocal folds). We recommend 5-10 minutes of steaming with a facial steamer, 1-2 times per day, more if you’re using your voice professionally, or if you’re not feeling well. And for you multi-taskers, you can steam while reading, watching TV, doing your hair or makeup, or getting dressed. See our Amazon-affiliated website store for a great facial steamer. https://provoicecare.net/recommended-products/vocal-health-wellness/ And don’t forget a vaporizer for your bedroom, also on our website store.
To keep your nasal membranes moist and healthy, I recommend nasal saline gels and sprays, as well as a neti pot or sinus rinse kit (to be used only with distilled or previously boiled water). There’s even a pre-mixed aerosol saline rinse, like a 21st-century neti pot. See our website store for examples of nasal irrigation products as well as nasal moisturizing sprays and gels. Also see our video on Winter Voice Tips here: https://youtu.be/nJg4ymic2sA We recommend these nasal moisturizing products be used throughout the day, especially if your home, classroom, or office is dry and overheated. (They’re great for dry air-conditioned places in the hot weather, too!).
Next, steam before you leave for your gig/function. (Yes, you can do vocal exercises while you’re steaming). Also try our Singer’s Gargle, using very warm water, a pinch of baking soda, a pinch of sea salt, and a teaspoon of light Karo syrup to moisturize your throat. Hydrate before, during, and after your event. If it’s difficult to talk over the noise, get up close to your listener’s ear and speak at a normal volume. Don’t try to talk across a noisy room; you’ll likely strain your voice.
If you’re singing with a loud band, make sure you have an excellent monitor speaker, or better yet, in-ear monitors, so you can hear yourself and not push. If you can’t hear yourself while singing with the carolers, stick a finger in one ear and you’ll hear yourself just fine. Especially if you’re caroling outside, bring an insulated bottle of warm water or herbal tea with honey. Bring moisturizing honey-based or pectin-based non-mentholated lozenges with you (see our website store for these: https://provoicecare.net/recommended-products/vocal-health-wellness/ ). Menthol can irritate and dry your mucous membranes. And if you decide to imbibe at your holiday festivities, be sure to have a designated driver who abstains from alcohol. Safety first!
Singing Lessons in Nassau County
Finally, sometimes winter means rich fat-filled foods with chocolate and late eating…a perfect recipe for voice-wrecking acid reflux. Observe the “everything in moderation” rule, but try to avoid red sauce, fried or fatty foods, vinegar, mint, chocolate, carbonation, caffeine, alcohol, and of course, smoking…all big reflux triggers. And if you eat a reflux trigger food, pair it with something alkaline – raw veggies (skip the high-fat dip), or alkaline water, aloe water, or almond milk with that rich chocolate dessert. Wait at least 3 hours after eating before you lie down. Check the Anti-Reflux section of our website store for some great products and resources to help with reflux: https://provoicecare.net/recommended-products/anti-reflux-products/ .
So, to sum up, here’s a quick list of voice do’s and don’ts for the winter (and always):
- Hydrate – ½ your body weight in ounces of water
- Steam Inhalation – 5-10 minutes, 1-2 times/day
- Use nasal saline moisturizing products
- Use non-mentholated lozenges
- Do vocal warm-ups in 2-3-minute segments
- Avoid vocal abuses
- Avoid dehydrating caffeinated and alcoholic beverages
- Avoid reflux trigger foods
Professional Voice Care
184 West Nicholai Street,Hicksville,NY- 11801,
If you want more information about singing lessons at your home, our studio, or via Skype, feel free to fill out the form on our website.