I would like to ask your advice about something. I’m already back at my homestate, and I have recently returned to my old job. I have a light schedule (9 hours a week) but even so I’m experiencing a greater degree of vocal fatigue than I’m used to. For 2 weeks or so, ever since I started teaching in a regular basis again, I have been leaving the classroom at the end of lessons with a “raspy” voice, and my throat hurts too. I drink lots of water, but that doesn’t stop the pain from coming. I remember one of the points you made in our last session was that I needed to be “aware” of my speaking habits and how they could get in the way of a balanced vocal production – or something similar. However, I left without a very clear notion of what I was supposed to do… I’m pretty sure my speaking habits aren’t any worse than they were before, but this is the first time I experience vocal fatigue after work. Does the “awareness” you spoke of have anything to do with experiencing physical pain? If my speaking habits are in anyway abusive, does it mean that I had some kind of resistance to vocal abuse and now I don’t anymore? I don’t understand… Could you please give me some indications as in how I could minimize the pain, or prevent it from coming?

As far as your discomfort speaking since you started teaching. Well, the things we talked about all apply to speaking as well as singing. For instance, it is likely that you are not finding effective resonance to amplify your tone so you don’t have to make the voice do so much work to make sound. This depends on stimulating both the larynx and the breathing system to activate and work together to produce an intense vibration that will resonate in the  open spaces of the skull. The resonance actually removes much of the burden from the voice itself and also reinforces the vibration. It may seem to be louder to you because of the increased intensity. But if it is balanced it will also feel easier to accomplish and less fatiguing. The aspect that probably needs to be addressed is what people call “support”. The proper application of breath pressure to feed the vibration of the voice is critical to the free function. Remember to always keep the abdomen leaning in, pressing the breath up towards the voice. I feel like I am pressing the breath up against the collar bone to avoid getting tension interfering with the larynx. This use of the breath is the source of energy that feeds the vibration of the voice. Without it the voice gets confused and loses balance. Without it the vocal folds tend to be too loose and allow too much breath to escape. Most people I observe use “loose” breath to feed the voice, rather than “compressed” breath. This is the main cause of fatigue and the “raspyness” you mention. The key remedy for eliminating the pain is to have healthy, balanced function when you speak as well as when you sing. 

You ask an interesting question about having some kind of resistance to vocal abuse before and not having it anymore. I have observed exactly this in myself and others over the years. When we have poor habits our voices tend to withstand the abuse, so well that we don’t notice the abusive habits. But after we develop greater understanding and better coordination we often notice that our voices don’t hold up to that old, habitual way of doing things and we suffer more discomfort from the same vocal abuse. I’m not sure if perhaps the body does some healing to a more healthy condition, and so is not as resistant to the abusive function. Another possibility is that you are more functionally aware, or sensitive, and so you notice the discomfort more. I would guess it is a combination of the two.

I would say the thing to do is make sure you are pronouncing thoroughly when you speak. We all have a tendency to be lazy when we talk, which results in an incomplete activation of the vocal mechanism and the breathing system. If we allow this to happen the inefficient function will place a greater burden on the body, which causes the discomfort. Our physical discomfort is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. It doesn’t like what you are doing and it is rebelling against it. This is why I emphasize function so much in my writing and teaching. Healthy function is the basis of a comfortable voice that you can use it as much as you like with no problems. Make sure you are pronouncing clearlyl and using your breathing effectively. If you do these things correctly you will experience flexibility and a complete lack of discomfort when you speak.

You are welcome to send a recording and I can reply with a demonstration based on what I hear. Let me know if you would like that.