Q&A – Vocal Fatigue – Improve Stamina

I have a few questions..
My voice gets raspy very soon if i talk for like 10 mins. Is it becuz of my placement? When i went to the speech therapy, i can feel my voice is hitting the hard palate, but now i cant. Is it a problem? My old choir teacher thinks that i am a lyric baritone, but i always think my voice is too light and high. What do u think about that? If u don’t mind, can u tell me some ways to improve the stamina while talking/ singing, it gets tired too easily, thx

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Our voices get tired because they aren’t balanced when we use them. We need to recognize that there are two opposing forces involved. The familiar one of the breath pressure, and the less-familiar resistance of the vocal folds. These forces must work together and find a level of activity that is efficient. They must cooperate. If one over-powers the other, or one is lazy, then there will be a problem.

In your situation, as it is for most, the forces are pretty balanced in the comfortable range. But once pitch moves out of that range the necessary adjustments to keep the balance don’t happen. This is what starts the process of discomfort, followed by irritation. Which, if allowed, can progress to inflammation and disorder. It is the irritation that can make the voice “raspy”. It is minor, but we want to make sure we don’t allow it to become a habit. Because then it could become a more significant problem.

But if you are experiencing hoarseness when you speak for some duration, that is a sign these forces are out of balance. My guess would be the resistance of the larynx is not sufficiently coordinated. That is where the problem lies for many people. The larynx is lazy and this allows the breath pressure to be too great relative to the resistance.

Some may question this statement from me saying the larynx should be relaxed and the breath should be free. The people who say the larynx should be relaxed are confusing the larynx with the throat. The muscles of the throat should be relaxed, or even more correct – stretched. These are the muscles that tend to constrict and give the impression of the larynx being too active. We hear this in forceful vocalizing and groaning.

The common remedy for this constriction is to “free the breath”, or to encourage more breath. This seems to make sense because the closing of the throat is also the closing of the air-way. The air-way should be open like when we breath freely and silently. But if the constriction was caused by the body reacting to the lack of coordination in the breathing then there will be an increased problem.

The body is smarter than we are. It knows that there needs to be a balance between the breath and the larynx. If the breath is not well coordinated and the larynx doesn’t provide a balanced counter to the breath, the body will constrict the throat unconsciously to provide the necessary resistance as compensation.

This doesn’t really provide the necessary balance, and is usually less comfortable, but it does give the result of tone, albeit a constricted on. But many non-classical singers rely on this type of situation. And the constriction provides a sense of confidence and something the singer can rely on. But because of the underlying imbalance that is still there but hidden by the constriction, it is just a matter of time before the voice breaks down.

You mention the concept of placement. We must remember that our sensation of placement is an illusion and a result of the function, not a cause. What this means is we can benefit from noticing placement as a confirmation of how we are functioning. But we can’t use placement as a method or technique.

The reason being we can too easily “fake” placement through constriction of the throat. If you don’t feel the same sense of placement that you felt before, you can’t fix it by trying to place the tone. You will be much better served by just focusing on the basic relationship of the breath and the larynx.

Also the issue of whether you are a lyric baritone or not doesn’t really matter that much. At least as far as using your voice. We are looking for balance no matter what type of voice we have. Voice type can also be “faked” too easily by manipulation. This is a very insidious thing. Many teachers can be fooled by this. Even very good ones.

This is why I don’t give much concern to the voice type until the voice is functioning freely and balanced. Then it becomes pretty obvious what the voice is. The tone quality and the behavior tells us the type. But we can’t know this accurately until there is balance in the function. Before that it is just speculation, which has no value.

These same points are the answer to the desire to improve your stamina. It all comes down to balanced function. That will be the most efficient vocalizing, meaning it takes the least amount of effort while at the same time causing the least amount of fatigue. So that is how we maximize our endurance.

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