Vocal conditions and how to prevent them

Vocal conditions and how to prevent them

Hi everybody, this post is a must read for any singer, public speaker or any profession that relies on the effectiveness of their voice to make a living (like school teachers, drill sergeants, executives or salespeople). If you regularly experience vocal discomfort, a loss of voice, pain or an inflamed throat when singing or screaming, this post is for you.

⚠️ Chances are if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you could be ignoring vital warning signs from your body that are the earliest indicators that you can be causing damage to your vocal cords and/or the supporting muscles, tendons and ligaments that are responsible for proper vocal production.

In the interest of providing you with the very basic need-to-know information, I have compiled a list of the most common vocal cord disorders, with a brief description to help you recognise when you might be overdoing it or require a vocal tune up from a knowledgeable coach or singing teacher.


One of the very first warning symptoms that a singer or public speaker will experience when they are not vocalising and/or supporting their voice correctly is dysphonia. This basically means having the voice sound abnormal.

Dysphonia (hoarseness) is very common and everybody in their lifetime will experience some form of hoarseness or abnormal sound in their voice. The term dysphonia is used to characterise changes in your voice, or changes in the quality of your speaking or singing pitch. This may include changes to your normal volume production capability.

The symptoms of hoarseness may include raspy, weak vocal production or excessive breathiness that makes it difficult or impossible to close the vocal cords all the way up to produce a clean pitch. While it is usual for people to experience a hoarse or raspy voice, or even a tired voice when they’re getting over a cold or a flu, singers and professional public speakers must be more vigilant that they don’t consistently develop these symptoms over the long term from excessive vocal strain.

In the longer term, these are the telltale signs that your vocal cords and your breath support are out of balance and headed for a train wreck.

Nerdy fact 🤓: Dysphonia can be related to muscle tension, vocal tremors in your voice (where the voice just breaks for seemingly no reason at all), and can also be related to vocal cord paralysis. If symptoms persist, see an ear, nose and throat specialist and/or contact an experienced vocal coach as soon as possible.


Laryngitis is usually associated with a raspy or hoarse voice. It is caused mainly by creating too much heat and pressure at the vocal cords. This in turn produces or creates swollen or inflamed vocal cords that are no longer able to close properly to produce clean sung or spoken pitches.

Singers that incorrectly support their voice by singing through their throat are much more prone to developing laryngitis. A very easy way to identify this is by looking for an abnormally breathy voice.

When your vocal cords are inflamed and you’re experiencing Laryngitis, your voice will be very weak and you may end up sounding like your grandma or grandad!

Vocal cord lesions

Vocal cord lesions are typically non-canceous growths that include nodules, polyps and cysts. All of these lesion conditions can cause hoarseness, raspiness, excessive breathiness and more serious symptoms. They can cause excessive fatigue and prevent normal vocal production.

Vocal cord nodules

Vocal nodules are normally non-cancerous callouses that usually form on the mid-point of the vocal cords. These callouses form when the vocal cords are repeatedly brought together through excessive force. This can be caused by incorrectly supporting your voice using excessive volume as a strategy to be heard over the band.

Vocal nodules are formed when the vocal cords are slammed together violently. This kind of reckless singing can lead to serious consequences.

This can be especially bad if you’re a singer with a habit of singing through your throat. These kinds of singers and screamers run the risk of creating permanent callouses on the vocal cords. Once these nodules harden on the vocal cords themselves, they interfere with the vocal cords’ ability to close and correctly sing proper pitches and can also affect the strength of your speaking voice.

Vocal nodules once developed, and once they harden, become increasingly more difficult to resolve naturally and often require surgical intervention. Definitely something to be avoided if possible!

The most obvious sign of vocal nodules is loss of vocal range in an existing singer’s voice, and excessive “breathiness” when singing or speaking.

It is reasonably common for vocal nodules to develop and resolve themselves with the assistance of correct vocal breathing and singing exercises/coordinations. It is much harder to resolve vocal nodules once those callouses have fully hardened and become sizeable.

Nerdy fact 🤓: Female singers between the ages of 20-50 tend to be more susceptible to vocal nodules, however it is very common for both male and female singers and public speakers to develop nodules when they try to produce excessive volume incorrectly from their throats.

Vocal cord polyps

Vocal polyps are usually characterised as a soft, non-cancerous growth. For ease of understanding, you can think of a vocal polyp as a blister. A vocal polyp can include blood within the “blister” and sometimes the blood will disappear over time, leaving the singer with a clear blister on their vocal cords.

Symptoms of vocal polyps are very similar to vocal nodules, because in both cases they interfere with the voice’s normal production. The voice has a lot more excessive air and breathiness, leaving the singer feeling hoarse and raspy (but not the good kind of raspy!).

When you have a vocal polyp and your voice has excessive raspiness, you can’t clean up the voice and the blister will severely interfere with your ability to sing up into the higher notes within your range, because your vocal cords are unable to operate normally.

Unfortunately for smokers, there is a type of vocal polyp called Polypoyd Corditis (Reinke’s edema) , which is exclusively a condition that develops through smoking and/or acid reflux issues.

Nerdy fact 🤓: While causing similar symptoms, vocal polyps differ from nodules because polyps can form on either one or both vocal cords. A polyp has more blood vessels than a nodule and polyps have more variation in size and shape, while typically growing larger than nodules do. Visually, they look like soft blisters, while nodules form hard callouses on the vocal cords.

Vocal cord cysts

Cysts are growths that have a fluid filled sack. They have a semi-solid centre which prevents the vocal cords from being able to open and close with the normal characteristic rippling effect that we associate with maintaining a consistent pitch. Vocal cord cysts are less common than nodules or polyps.

There are two types of vocal cord cysts. There are mucous retention cysts, and there are epidermoid cysts.

Torn vocal cords

When someone consistently places an excessive unhealthy pressure on their vocal cords or the walls of their throat, they will first start off with either mild laryngitis or loss of normal voice. If the unhealthy practices are continued, the singer runs the risk of developing nodules or polyps. In the worst case scenario, they can actually tear vocal cords and damage nerves. The big one for us is the recurrent laryngeal nerve, which is a branch of the vagus nerve (cranial nerve).

As you can imagine, a torn vocal cord is a very serious issue for singers. Without the assistance of an extremely experienced and capable ear, nose and throat surgeon, this is not an injury that a singer can recover from just by having some time off.

An example of a torn or ruptured vocal cord was James LaBrie from the band Dream Theatre. James was on tour in Cuba and had violent food poisoning. In the act of vomiting, James tore or ruptured one of his vocal cords. I believe he still went on stage and performed his set with the band shortly thereafter, and the damage was so bad that they had to cancel shows, with James travelling straight back to the United States to seek urgent medical treatment. It took James 7-8 years to recover from his injury.

Vocal cord paralysis

Paralysis of the vocal cords is defined as when one or both of the vocal cords aren’t able to open and close properly. When one vocal cord is not opening or closing properly, it can be either paralysed, or partially paralysed.

If you have vocal cord paralysis, one or both of the vocal cords might remain open. This is a very severe condition for singers, speakers, or anyone for that matter. If the vocal cords remain open, they leave the air passage and the lungs unprotected from foreign objects from entering the airway.

Vocal cord paralysis can be caused by extended bouts of viral conditions, or by blows to the head, neck or chest. It can also be caused through various lung or thyroid cancers or tumors. In extreme conditions, for example operating with extreme screaming, it is possible to impact the main vocal nerves and impair normal function.

If you are suffering from any kind of vocal condition, or you’ve noticed that you’ve lost strength or vocal range, don’t delay and contact me immediately so that we can identify appropriate forms of coaching treatment, or I can put you in touch with an ear nose and throat specialist.

Better information leads to better singing!

The ultimate gift for singers is now available

If you know a singer in your life that would benefit from the information and techniques required to take their performance to the next level, consider checking out our official Rapid Vocal Results gift vouchers.

Sarah Spicer – Recording & Touring Artist, X-Factor Finalist

I’m 43 yrs old and quite frankly I thought, that I had my voice all worked out by now! But after spending some quality time working with Paule and his Rapid Vocal Results methods, I definitely noticed improvements in my tone and vocal strength etc. Learning how to use my voice more efficiently has measurably improved the stamina of my singing voice.

Paule helped me gain a deeper understanding of how the voice works in a holistic way. I have now learnt practical vocal techniques that help me to maintain my voice at its best. 

Paule helped me out recently while I was on tour. Due to my performance schedule. I had been singing daily for weeks in a row and was suffering from fatigue and lack of energy.

The RVR techniques, really work and are easy to learn! I will continue to use them in the future both on the road and in the studio.

Paule is very professional, flexible and reliable and I can’t recommend him highly enough. The Skype calls work really well and allow me to practice from home or while I’m on the road.

Many Thanks Paule,
Sarah Sassy Spicer


Filip Egnell – Stockholme, Sweden (Online Coaching)

Through out my life I’ve always loved to sing. But in recent years I’ve started to notice how extremely exhausted my voice got after much less than an hour of singing. 

My vocal challenge that I wanted to over come was the inefficient singing. It felt like I was pushing and staining all the time when I sang. I thought that I was already at the end of my range and volume of my voice, but I thought I’d give Paule a try anyway. During my RVR vocal diagnostic session I tried to sing Piano man and Dream on both went pretty shit. Paule said that he could help me, so I came back for the first actual coaching session. He brought out the first RVR exercises for opening the throat, showed me some strange mouth shapes and let me sing a song at the end. That was the first time ever my voice did not even feel a little exhausted after singing. So I continued the lessons for about 7-8 months  and i ve recently resumed the Skype, coaching sessions again, because I had started to loose some of the new improved vocal and breathing co-ordinations, that literally made it easier to sing high screaming rock songs!. I wanted that freedom back and new who to call to help me get back on track! In the end Paule helped me fix problems I didn’t even know I had.

I had a vocal coach prior to Paule and his methods were completely different to what I was used to. But already in the second lesson I could feel a difference. Of course I took some time to actually learn to sing like that all the time and not go back to my old ways in between the lessons. But the fact that I could already feel the difference was astonishing to me so I kept on going.

The personalized vocal coaching, was extremely helpful for me. In the coaching sessions I always trusted Paule 100% and his methods too. But at the same time I always felt like I had a say in my coaching if there was something that I wanted to work more on for example or if there was something I wanted to change. Paule always made the coaching fun and interesting with a lot of mind movies to make things easier to understand and remember.

Did Paule’s methods, exercises and coaching work for me? Not only YES, but HELL YES!! After the 7-8 months of coaching with Paule I am literally a whole new singer. I can sing things that I was only able to dream about singing before. When I started the RVR I was straining a lot while singing, I had a hard time singing loud without killing my voice after about 10 min. I couldn’t really take any notes in the 5th octave, an A4-B4 was a pretty damn high note for me. Now a high note for me is a D5-E5 and a D6 in falsetto. Because of RVR not only my chest voice and head voice got stronger, but also my falsetto. I don’t strain a lot when I sing anymore. I recently recorded some demo’s in Sweden with a progressive rock band for about 4h without even being close to blowing out my voice.

I don’t have a lot to compare Paule’s coaching to but can definitely say that every session is really, really fun! Even the ones where I thought the exercises were really tricky or the ones where something was really hard to understand for me. I knew that in the end I would get a lot out of it and man was I right. The way I would describe the coaching style is that it’s really varied and dynamic. If there is one thing in particular you want to work on Paule finds ten different ways for you to work on it and then selects the best few for you.

On the 10th of December 2022, Filip performed at the official afterparty event for the Nobel Peace Prize with his band.

Parabola West – Touring and Recording Artist

I have been working with Paule for just under a year, mostly via Skype lessons, and I have found his method of teaching to be efficient and effective, providing immediate and lasting improvements to my singing and breathing techniques. 

Paule is able to identify and provide techniques to correct strain and resistance in my voice, as well as provide information and context around the mechanics of how it all works. 

His commitment to providing excellent value and measurable results was obvious from our first lesson, and I certainly recommend booking a lesson to see for yourself how much you can get out of an hour!

Parabola West.

AJ – Singer, Songwriter, Independent Artist

I started vocal coaching with Paule mid 2013 with the goal of being able to trust my voice enough so that I could sing confidently in front of friends, family and familiar faces whilst jamming along with my guitar.

However once I began taking vocal lessons, Paul soon helped me realise that I had a lot more potential than singing for small crowds and consistently encouraged me to strive for more.

A year later, I am making Youtube covers which are starting to attract a lot of attention, collaborating with some of the finest artists in Auckland and I have also been singing live at open mic nights in bars and performed at shows.

A big thank you to Paul for helping me stick through the initial stages, without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today. I encourage anyone out there thinking about singing to give him a go!

Check out my videos

Fraser Coombes – Lead Vocalist, Checaine

I began vocal training session with Paule with the goal of bridging a mid range gap in my vocal range.

Although I had sung for a number of years and would consider myself an experienced performer in the genre of rock/metal, I was at a stage where I was simply not making the connections and progress I wanted on my own.

My original rock band Checaine were in the midst of recording our debut album when I felt the use of a professional vocal coach may just help me sound smoother and more connected with my voice and the listener. 

After an initial diagnostics session, in which Paule gave his professional audit on the condition of my voice and potential, he created a tailored vocal training programme. Although Paule encouraged me to identify the areas of my voice I’d like to work on I found his programme and content during lessons specifically targeted the areas I needed to work on without even realising myself. Paule has worldwide connections with some of the globe’s most renowned vocal coaches. 

His information is current and his ability to get results out of his students by using the latest tricks of the trade is second-to-none. 

It’s worth me mentioning that Paule is the fourth vocal coach I have used. I wish I had saved my time and money and gone straight to Paule.

A key area of learning for myself was around vocal health. Paule taught me the importance of treating your voice like a highly sensitive instrument. I was intrigued to learn about foods that should be avoided as a vocalist, dietary habits and the power of water.

If you are looking for that little bit of help to speed up your learning progress and are interested in any of the following I can confidently recommend Paule as the vocal coach to deliver the results you are striving for.

Weekly practice routines, how to train the voice safely, vocal health, pre-show warm ups, post-show warm down, how to perform when you have a cold, healthy/safe voice distortion, the power of blurb exercises, blend and vowel pronunciation, vowel modification, range extension, performance techniques, marketing advice and much much more.

Since having vocal training with Paule, my band has gone on to play gigs with Devilskin, I Am Giant, Setting Fire To Stacey, Ekko Park and many more.

Paule is a big believer in using analogies during his training sessions to ensure the student has a true understanding of the technique or pivotal learning moment in a lesson.

If you are looking to improve your voice then look no further than Paule. If his sheer enthusiasm for singing and your progress don’t motivate you on their own I’ll eat my hat! 

Every time I take the stage now I do so with the confidence that I have the right tools and techniques to deliver a great performance.

Thanks Paule! You Rock!

Kara James Gordon – Touring Artist

Paule from RVR has helped me immensely with my vocals.

I have been a professional musician for years thought i was doing alright with my singing, but Paule showed me the real deal way to sing by using my diaphragm breathing and taught me facial and lung strengthening exercises that have helped take me to the next level of vocal performance.

People who have come to my gigs for years have noticed improvements in my power, tone and pitch. The improvements have happened since i started going to Paule for coaching.

This guy knows his stuff!

Kara’s performance credits:

  • Opened for Slash, Ozzy Osbourne, Joe Satriani and Elton John
  • Performed with Glen Hughes (Deep Purple)
  • Toured internationally  throughout New Zealand, Australia and Europe with Alabama 3
  • Toured New Zealand and Australia as part of the “Fly My Pretties” tour

​P.S. The video below was recorded before I started taking singing lessons with Paule. I will post a video soon to show you a difference that coaching has made to my voice!