A voice teacher and a teacher of singing basically do the same thing. Often, people who want to sing go to a voice teacher to learn the basic mechanics of singing. A singing teacher can often serve as a coach to help you prepare a specific song for a particular event
What we call vocal cords are more like the lips of a bugler; they come together with air pressure from below and side pressure from the muscles along the side of the neck. Exerting extreme pressure from any direction, including from above can allow a singer to change the intensity of their vocal production, but this pressure can cause long-term damage.
A Coach Vs. A Teacher
If you want to learn to sing, you need to go to a singing or voice teacher. Once you have learned to sing effectively, you can go to a coach who can help you prepare a particular song or to learn to better manage a style of singing.
For example, if you want to learn to belt, which is a style of singing that is quite popular in musical theatre, a voice teacher can help you build that skill. Once you know how to safely belt, you can work with a particular coach to learn how to manage using your voice on musical theatre repertoire so you don’t exhaust your voice.
Your voice teacher should be able to teach you how to sing without wearing out the voice. Your coach can help you to manage your vocal strength, learn to successfully deliver emotions and text without harm, and to work with the hardware of such singing, such as microphones, both head-mounted and hand-held.
The Human Voice is Like a Fingerprint
There are many ways to over-stress your voice as a singer. One of the hardest things you can do to your voice is to try to sound like someone else. The human voice is extremely specific to
- the density of soft tissue on your skull
- the musculature inside your neck and mouth
- the shape of your skull, jaw, and larynx
There are common connections between different physical structures; for example, a tall man with a large bone structure will probably have a much deeper voice than a smaller male. A tall woman will probably have a deeper singing voice than a woman who is just 5 feet tall. However, it is dangerous to look at someone and assume you know what the healthiest sound will be for them. A good voice teacher starts by listening.
Before puberty, boys and girls functionally have the same singing mechanism. When boys go through their puberty-centered growth spurt, the vocal folds inside the larynx put on a lot of growth. This is why boys go through a time of vocal breaking or “cracking”. The new muscle in the larynx is quite uncoordinated and will not react in an expected way.
Interestingly enough, young women also go through a time of vocal misalignment during puberty. Young female singers seldom suffer from cracking, but this new growth does create an airy, fuzzy sound, particularly in the singing voice.
Young singers are often drawn to the music they’ve heard on recordings and seen on television. One of the challenges that voice teachers have to resist is trying to keep young singers in their vocal lane. A 16-year-old singer who is trying to sound like she is 30 is at risk of serious vocal trouble by the time she turns 30 and may be facing insurmountable damage by 40.
As we age, human males lose muscle mass and human females lose muscular elasticity. While male singers may lose their lowest notes, female singers often lose their highest notes.
Curious Vocal Challenges
You can damage your voice in many different ways. Because a quality voice teacher can help you overcome bad vocal habits and protect both your speaking voice and your singing voice, meeting with a voice teacher is a great idea if you are struggling with
- daily vocal fatigue
- chronic hoarseness
- loss of volume over the day
If your speaking voice gets a lot of use, such as as a coach, a phys ed teacher, a choreographer, or a salesman, time with a voice teacher can be extremely beneficial to building up your vocal strength to avoid long-term damage.
Other factors and activities that can damage your voice long-term include
- constant coughing and sneezing, as from allergies
- regular throat clearing, such as from reflux or sinus drainage
- heat exposure from smoking, both filtered and unfiltered products
If you suffer from serious vocal fatigue each day or on a certain day of the week, underlying health concerns could be increasing your risk of vocal damage. Visiting a skilled ENT physician could be a good start to determining the source of the damage and stopping it before long-term scarring or nodules form.
A vocal node can form as a callus from overuse. They can also form in reaction to a scab or a blister. Hyper-oxygenated vocal tissue exposed to smoke or extreme pressure can blister. When the blister heals, the tissue can form a scab.
As the vocal folds move together, that scab can rub on the tissue and form a callus or a node. The best cure for a node is simply to be silent; like other calluses, the toughened skin that makes up a node will slowly fade if the singer or speaker doesn’t continue to re-injure the muscle.