Rapid Vocal Results

Posts about Rapid Vocal Results

Sebastian Bach

Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) – One of the most influential rock and metal singers of all time

This post is continuing to pay tribute to the greatest rock and melodic metal singers of all time. This time, we’re going to be featuring the man who famously sung about the “youth gone wild”. I am of course talking about the one and only Sebastian Bach, most famously known for his role as front man for Skid Row.

Sebastian Bach was born Sebastian Philip Bierk on April 3, 1968. He is a Canadian-American, born in the Bahamas and raised in Peterborough, Ontario with his seven siblings.

He was the lead singer for Skid Row from 1987 to 1996. He has achieved many creative feats including performing on Broadway, acting in film and television (including Trailer Park Boys, The Masked Singer and Gilmore Girls). Sebastian now continues his music career as a highly successful solo artist.

Sebastian Bach is an anomaly among singers. He has a high tenor voice with extremely thick vocal cords, which not only allow him to sing high C5s and D5s in chest voice, but also to have the ability to mix chest and head voice with his “false cords” to create grit and gravel in the highest notes of his mixed register.

Speaking as a vocal coach, Sebastian’s voice is extremely special in its characteristics and its tonal nature. He is famous for having so much girth and width in his high vocals. This creates a gritty, gravelly scream that Sebastian uses to great effect in songs like “18 and Life” and “I Remember You”, among others.

Sebastian’s early years

Sebastian was surrounded by music at home growing up. His mother and aunt sing informally at home, which inspired Sebastian to join a choir at eight years of age. According to Sebastian Bach himself, he was always getting into trouble from a young age. He was curious to try new things, and he had no fear.

His first credited band was “Kid Wikkid”. Upon hearing of the band and unaware of their ages, Bach auditioned for the group when he was 14. He was hired by Jason Delorme, who was the guitar player and band leader of the group. Kid Wikkid moved to Toronto, and Bach’s dad eventually allowed Bach to move in with an aunt who lived there.

Side note: Sebastian Bach’s dad is actually a very accomplished artist in his own right. His paintings would grace the cover of various Skid Row albums. More on this later!

Fast forward to the 1980s

The formation of Skid Row happened in the mid-1980s. At that time, the vocal duties were handled by Matt Fallon.

The band began playing in various clubs around the New Jersey area. However, the band itself failed to make an initial positive impact with record companies and potential managers. It was obvious to everybody from the outset that Matt Fallon didn’t have what it took to make it big. He was absolutely committed to the band and worked his ass off on stage, but vocally lacked the critical firepower to truly bring Skid Row’s songs to life.

Below is an example of Matt Fallon, the original front man for Skid Row, performing an early demo song with the band.

In 1987, Fallon left the band (largely by mutual decision). This presented an opportunity for Skid Row to find a new singer and the search had begun.

A star is born

Sebastian Bach was spotted singing at rock photographer Mark Weiss’ wedding by Jon Bon Jovi‘s parents. They immediately approached him and suggested that he get in touch with Jon’s friend, Dave Sabo (the guitarist better known as “Snake”), who was originally jamming with Jon Bon Jovi before founding Skid Row with Rachel Bolan (the bassist).

Footage from Sebastian performing at the wedding still exists today!

This was not the first time that Sebastian was offered an opportunity to front an American rock band. Prior to hearing about Skid Row, he was briefly a member of a band called “Madam X”, from Detroit. Madam X had gone through a number of singers in a very short time, and Sebastian was their third. There were issues with Sebastian getting into the US to perform and combined with disagreements between him and the bassist of the band, it was short-lived position.

After Madam X, Bach was cautious of auditioning for another American band. When he heard Skid Row’s demo tapes he changed his mind and immediately flew to New Jersey to audition. Sebastian quickly proved that he was the voice that Skid Row had been looking for.

With their new front man in place, Skid Row was set for mega stardom.

The first tour

Dave “The Snake” Sabo leveraged his relationship with Jon Bon Jovi to get Skid Row to open for Bon Jovi’s New Jersey tour in 1989 (who were promoting their fourth album). In turn, Jon Bon Jovi leveraged his success with his own band’s album, Slippery When Wet, to help Skid Row get their first recording contract. Jon was a shrewd businessman and recognised Skid Row’s potential early on.

Bon Jovi set himself up as the middleman and had Skid Row sign a contract with him. He agreed to take Skid Row under his wing. Skid Row then performed over 9 months in 1989 for some of Bon Jovi’s largest crowds during their New Jersey syndicate tour, propelling their careers and securing another opening spot for Aerosmith a year later.

During the Bon Jovi tour, Skid Row’s reputation and fanbase were growing rapidly to the point where Sebastian Bach would later claim that Skid Row’s merchandise had begun outselling Bon Jovi’s. Possibly to keep Sebastian Bach in his place, during one of the shows Bon Jovi’s crew poured ice milk on Sebastian before he took the stage.

Fun fact: The tradition of the headlining band pranking the opening band has been going on for years and traces its roots right back to Black Sabbath (Tony Iommi is famous for pranking both other bands, and his own band members).

After signing with their new manager, Doc McGhee, Skid Row’s self-titled debut studio album was released on the 24th of January, 1989 by Atlantic Records. The album was initially received with mixed reviews in the music press.

At the time, Skid Row were very different from the glam bands that had come before them. They were mixing melodic music with Sebastian’s high-powered, fiery vocal deliveries. It was only a matter of time before the band was to find a legion of fans.

Need more Sebastian Bach?

To learn how Skid Row went from an opening act to a world class headlining show, check out Sebastian Bach’s biography. It is a must read for every up and coming rock or metal singer. I personally enjoyed learning about why Sebastian Bach’s vocal tone changed noticeably between his debut album and Slave to the Grind, in 1991.

The Skid Row records that Sebastian Bach sang on are as follows (I have included links to the vinyl copies of each of these in case you’re interested):

  1. Skid Row (released 24th of January, 1989)
  2. Slave to the Grind (released 11th of June, 1991)
  3. B-Side Ourselves (released 22nd of September, 1992)
  4. Subhuman Race (released 28th of March, 1995)

Skid Row went on to produce additional albums after Sebastian Bach’s departure, but in my humble opinion, they were never as good as their glory days with Sebastian at the helm. He was such a hard act to follow that they went through a succession of four different singers following Sebastian, before disbanding. The list of singers that replaced Sebastian consisted of Johnny Solinger (1999-2015), Tony Harnell (2015), ZP Theart (2016-2022) and most recently Erik Grönwall (2022-2024).

Sebastian himself went on to live out his own successful solo career. His solo albums (I’ve managed to track down some CD copies and streaming links for these) include:

  1. Bring ‘Em Bach Alive! (live album released 2nd of November, 1999)
  2. Angel Down (released 20th of November, 2007)
  3. Kicking and Screaming (released 27th of September, 2011)
  4. ABachalypse Now (live album released 22nd of March, 2013)
  5. Give ‘Em Hell (released 22nd of April, 2014)

There is no doubt in my mind that if Sebastian Bach and Skid Row were able to put their disagreements behind them and go on tour once more, within a year Skid Row would undoubtedly become one of the largest grossing bands in rock and metal today.

Disclaimer: If you make a purchase from one of the above Amazon Associate links, a tiny commission goes to supporting the site. In keeping with my “No BS” policy, I only ever recommend products that I personally use or know are beneficial to my readers.

The career highlights and vocal challenges of Jon Bon Jovi

This is a new series of posts that serve as a tribute to some of my favourite singers and songwriters. These are artists within the rock and metal genres who I consider to have made giant contributions to changing the musical landscape as we know it. These artists are collectively responsible for spawning hundreds of thousands of imitators, but the originals can’t be beaten. Previously we talked about the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne.

Today we’re going to focus on the star studded career of Jon Bon Jovi. In particular, we’ll talk about the vocal challenges that he has been enduring over the past decades. We’ll also discuss how and why his voice broke down in the way that it has, and the high-tech vocal procedure that Jon recently received in the hopes of recovering some of his iconic vocal tone, strength and range.

As a vocal coach that specialises in working with both rock and metal singers, I have to say that Bon Jovi’s music holds a special place in my heart. During my teenaged years, Bon Jovi’s music served as the backdrop to many parties, summer breaks and good times.

The man and the band

Jon Bon Jovi was born John Francis Bongiovi Jr. on March 2, 1962. He is a successful singer, songwriter, guitarist, and actor from the United States of America. He is best known as the founder and frontman of the rock band Bon Jovi.

Jon was 20 years old when he received his first Bon Jovi recording contract. Even though they’re a band, Jon received the recording contract for all intents and purposes as a solo artist. He then promptly went out and found the best artists he could to collaborate with, putting them under contract. Right from the beginning, Jon was a very smart businessman.

In March 1983, Jon called Alec John Such (bass player), then Alec called Tico Torres (drummer) and Richie Sambora (guitarist and vocalist) to meet up. Bon Jovi, Sambora, Such, David Bryan (keyboardist), and Torres became the founding members of Bon Jovi.

First steps to fame

Jon Bon Jovi’s first big hit was “Runaway”, which was recorded at The Power Station, New York’s hottest recording studio.

In 1983, Bon Jovi visited new, local radio station “WAPP” in New York. He spoke with DJ Chip Hobart and to the promotion director, John Lassman, who suggested that WAPP include the song “Runaway” on the station’s “New York Rocks” 1983 compilation, which was an album featuring local homegrown talent. Jon reluctantly agreed and gave them the song.

The success of Runaway led to a new recording contract with Atlantic Records. Jon Bon Jovi and his newly formed band took the initial momentum and ground it out on the local and national concert scenes and were beginning to build a loyal fanbase.

Fastforward now to 1986 and Bon Jovi released their groundbreaking album, Slippery When Wet, which ended up selling 28 million copies worldwide by 2011. Slippery When Wet included three top ten singles. Two of the singles went to number one; “You Give Love A Bad Name”, and “Livin’ On A Prayer”.

The Slippery When Wet tour ran from 1986 to 1987. It was Bon Jovi’s first worldwide tour and consisted of over 200 concerts, which were on about 3-4 nights every week (sometimes even more while touring the USA).

The start of Jon’s vocal challenges

Growing up, one of Jon’s early vocal influences was Bruce Springsteen (“The Boss”). The Boss is well known for his aggressive, balls-to-the-wall vocal style which creates a lot of pressure and tension on a singer’s vocal cords.

Jon Bon Jovi created a similarly styled vocal delivery for Livin’ On A Prayer. The second chorus of the song in particular goes from a D5 up to an Eb5, which really does separate the men from the boys. This is one of the crucial factors that started to erode away Jon’s vocal strength. Night after night, hitting high D5s and Eb5s regardless of what shape the voice is in, is going to take a massive toll on anyone’s vocal endurance.

In live performances as early as the 1990s, you could really hear Jon starting to struggle. Those long concert tours can be murder on a vocalist’s instrument and voices need time to recover when vocal cords are swollen or under large amounts of vocal fatigue. When this happens, vocal cords do not thin down anywhere near as easily, which makes it harder to hit the signature high notes of a song.

In singing a back-breaking song like Livin’ On A Prayer, there really are very few places to hide and often a singer is left very exposed. The band did their very best to step up and support Jon with killer backing vocals from both David Bryan (keyboardist) and Richie Sambora (guitarist).

When you have an extensive touring schedule, you don’t just have to perform concerts to sold out arenas around the world. You also have to do press conferences, radio interviews and TV shows in order to promote the album you’re touring for, to stay in the charts long enough to do it all again next year.

The Bon Jovi sound

Jon started his career as a real chest belting kind of singer. He would use his chest voice very aggressively to create the foundation of his vocal sound. Over the years, Jon has consciously changed his vocal style and has started using more of a pharyngeal sound, which is essentially creating a mixed voice and singing more into the pharynx area of your throat to help sustain vocal stamina (and to make it easier to achieve a mixed voice).

We’ll discuss this anatomy and vocal style more in a future post.

The purpose of adopting the pharyngeal vocal placement was to begin to take some of the excess weight and strain off his vocal cords. This created a brighter sound for Jon, which he has used to craft his own unique vocal style, different to the sound he used in his early career. This has now become the signature Jon Bon Jovi sound.

In my personal and professional opinion, through the tours to promote “New Jersey” and right up to the “These Days” album, Jon had done and amazing job of keeping his vocals together even though the cracks were showing. This led to some shows being better than others.

The one thing that you could never doubt with Jon Bon Jovi was his dedication to his fans, his band and the energy that he put into each and every performance to make it the best it could possibly be on that night. That man was dedicated!

Over the course of all of these tours, behind the scenes Jon was experiencing a singing voice that was taking longer and longer to recover between shows. The temporary fixes that the singer resorted to were becoming more dire.

The iconic, chart-busting songs like Livin’ On A Prayer, Bed Of Roses and You Give Love A Bad Name were continually being tuned down from as early as the “New Jersey” tour until they were almost unrecognisable from the original keys. Still Jon’s voice struggled to hit the high notes. He was sounding hoarse and the writing was on the wall that the singer simply couldn’t go on this way.

As a vocal coach, I long suspected that Jon was suffering from some form of a paralyzed vocal cord and/or undisclosed neurological condition.

High-tech surgery

I didn’t want to be the one to air Jon’s dirty laundry in public as I have massive respect for Jon both as a singer, songwriter and a performing artist. Instead, I chose to stay silent on the subject until such a time that Jon has actually come out himself and has explained the vocal condition under which he has long been suffering.

In his own words, one of his vocal cords was atrophying (shrinking in size). Vocal cords generally require a high degree of symmetrical closing in order to be able to thin down and produce higher pitches.

“One of mine was as thick as the thumb, and the other one was as thick as a pinky. So, the strong one was pushing the weak one aside, and I wasn’t singing well. So, my craft is being taken from me.” – Jon Bon Jovi

Jon is describing that his vocal cords are usually thick with above average mass. One of his vocal cords was as it should be, but one was decidedly thinner. This creates a problem because the vocal cords can’t come together symmetrically in order to hold back air and create both a pleasing sound and a quality tone. As a result, Jon’s singing voice was sounding progressively weaker than it had ever been before.

What was happening in Jon’s case, was that the strong vocal cord was pushing the weaker one outward and to the side. This would let a lot of excess air pass through the vocal cords and as a result Jon’s voice would be shaky and would lose a lot of volume. This is very noticeable on his later albums, like “Crush”, “This Left Feels Right”, “Have a Nice Day”, “This House Is Not For Sale”, and others.

Bon Jovi underwent vocal surgery in February of 2022.

Jon was fortunate enough to find an ear, nose and throat surgeon (ENT) in Philadelphia who was able to perform a medialization laryngoplasty. During the procedure, Jon’s surgeon placed a plastic implant into the weaker, semi-paralysed vocal cord. The objective of the implant is to help position the non-functioning vocal cord closer toward the healthy vocal cord to allow for better closure when the voice is phonating (making vocal sound).

The road to vocal recovery

After the surgery, Jon has said he spent approximately 19 months in rehabilitation. This would involve re-learning how to produce his vowel sounds and also to be able to re-engage the weaker vocal cord into everyday speech. This would progressively move to a regime of vocal exercises that will be designed to help him regain the strength and flexibility that vocal cords require in order to be able to thin down, and to physically change registers between chest voice, mixed voice and head voice.

I suspect that during the time Jon has said he was rehabilitating, a large part of it was spent touring. Recorded concerts show that he was performing with his band right up until September of 2022.

If you’re a singer that has been progressively losing strength and range in your vocal cords and you suspect that you might have a partially paralysed or atrophying cord like Jon, contact me as soon as you can for frank discussion about options to help preserve your voice.

Your first stop should always be to seek a consultation with a qualified ENT. I have experience in this area and have successfully helped to rehabilitate clients that were experiencing partial paralysis in their vocal cords and other related vocal conditions. I can help you with a customised vocal exercise programme to reduce the time it takes to safely rehabilitate your voice.

Finding out more

If you’re interested in learning more about Jon Bon Jovi directly from the man himself, I can highly recommend getting a copy of his biography.

Here are some links to get copies directly to your door:

Want to hear more from Bon Jovi? Their music can be found on your favourite streaming service, or click here to order their music in vinyl form.

Disclaimer: If you make a purchase from one of the above links, a tiny commission goes to supporting the site. In keeping with my “No BS” policy, I only ever recommend products that I personally use or know are beneficial to my readers.

Better information leads to better singing.

Why collagen matters for singers

Collagen serves as the foundational support system for our bodies. It is crucial for maintaining the health and flexibility of connective tissues, cartilage, and joints. For singers, collagen plays a particularly vital role in the strength and quality of their vocal cords.

Understanding collagen, the vocalist’s ally

Vocal cords rely on collagen for structure and mass, with higher collagen levels contributing to enhanced vocal strength and resonance. While individuals may be born with varying vocal cord mass, collagen levels can significantly impact vocal performance.

Collagen is abundant in various foods, including animal skin, ligaments, and bone marrow, as well as select vegetables. Understanding the different types of collagen, such as Type I for skin and Type II for joint support, is essential for optimizing its benefits for singers.

Top collagen sources

Here are a few of the top collagen sources that are found in many diets (my favourite is chicken!):

  • Chicken and beef (with connective tissue): Rich in Type I collagen, crucial for skin and bone health.
  • Fish bones: Provide Type I collagen and minerals like calcium and phosphorus, supporting bone density.
  • Egg whites: High in proline, an amino acid necessary for collagen production.

Types of collagen and their functions

There are 16 different types of collagen. Some of them are more commonly found than others. Here are the top five:

  • Type I: Provides structure for skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Type II: Supports elasticity in cartilage, essential for joint health.
  • Type III: Found in muscles, arteries, and organs, contributing to tissue flexibility.
  • Type IV: Forms layers of the skin, contributing to its integrity.
  • Type V: Present in the cornea of eyes and skin layers, playing a role in tissue strength.

Essential nutrients for vocal health

Certain nutrients are crucial for collagen synthesis and overall vocal health.

Nutrients for collagen production

There are other nutrients that aid the process of collagen production. I’ve listed some of these nutrients below, which are essential for aiding in collagen production:

  • Vitamin C: Acts as a cofactor in collagen synthesis, essential for converting proline to hydroxyproline.
  • Proline: A key amino acid in collagen formation, found in mushrooms, asparagus, and cabbage.
  • Glycine: Supports collagen structure and has anti-inflammatory properties, abundant in turkey and chicken.
  • Copper: Required for the final step of collagen formation, linking collagen molecules to form strong connective tissue.
  • Zinc: Supports collagen synthesis and bone formation, found in oysters and red meat.

Maintaining vocal strength through diet

A balanced diet rich in collagen-promoting foods can support vocal health and performance. Here are some important foods for vocal health:

  • Garlic: Boosts immune system and collagen production, aiding in vocal cord repair.
  • Leafy greens: High in chlorophyll and antioxidants, protecting vocal cords from oxidative stress.
  • Beans: Provide protein and collagen-promoting amino acids like proline and glycine.
  • Cashews: Rich in zinc and copper, supporting collagen synthesis and tissue repair.
  • Cottage cheese: Contains casein protein for muscle growth and repair, crucial for vocal muscle maintenance.

Protecting your vocal investment

As singers age, declining collagen levels can lead to vocal cord deterioration and reduced vocal strength. There are some particularly bad habits that can accelerate this process.

Habits to avoid

  • Smoking: Damages collagen and impairs vocal cord function.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption: Dehydrates vocal cords and accelerates collagen breakdown.
  • Poor sleep routines: Disrupts collagen production and vocal cord repair processes.
  • Late-night snacking: Leads to acid reflux, irritating vocal cords and inhibiting collagen synthesis.
  • Frequent fast food intake: Severely impairs collagen production.

The role of supplements in vocal health

Supplements offer a convenient way to ensure consistent intake of essential minerals for vocal health. Products like Neocell Super Collagen, paired with zinc, magnesium, and multivitamins, can complement dietary efforts to support collagen levels and overall vocal performance.

If you’re like me and your goal is to maintain or add additional mass to your vocal cords, then we need to get serious about finding the easiest and most effective ways to supplement our collagen intake. This is because we don’t always eat the right things.

I personally use collagen supplements as a way of being able to top up my body’s collagen levels. I combine this with zinc, magnesium and multivitamins, which include vitamin C. The brand I personally use at the moment is called Neocell Super Collagen (available in different sizes for delivery from Amazon), but any reputable vitamin brand will suffice.

Neocell Super Collagen

If you’re looking for some of the other supplements mentioned, here are my top picks:

Another supplement I use to promote collagen synthesis is bone broth, which I make into a soup by mixing with hot water and stirring. Here are a few links to bone broth products, which is a good way to add variety to your collagen intake:

Chicken bone broth
Beef bone broth

Disclaimer: The provided supplement links are Amazon Associate links, which support the site at no additional cost to you. In keeping with my “No BS” policy, I will never recommend any product that I wouldn’t personally use.

Empowering singers for longevity

For singers experiencing vocal strength loss or concerns about overuse, a personalized vocal routine and strategic collagen supplementation can be invaluable.


Collagen serves as the cornerstone of vocal strength and resilience, making it essential for singers to prioritize its production through diet and supplementation. By understanding the importance of collagen and adopting proactive measures to support vocal health, singers can ensure their instrument remains strong and vibrant throughout their careers.

I recommend a multidimensional approach to your collagen boosting strategy:

  1. Eat foods that are rich in the components that help the body to produce natural collagen.
  2. Consume a high quality multi-type collagen powder. Add it to your drinks and smoothies to maximise collagen production.
  3. Drink bone broth (delicious soups high in collagen).
  4. Reduce excessive sun exposure.
  5. Reduce your body’s exposure to nicotine.
  6. Get more sleep, or a better quality of sleep.

For personalized vocal health guidance or consultations, feel free to reach out and book a consultation today.

Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne

This post is a tribute to the one and only true Prince of Darkness and his incredible contribution to the world of rock music that almost single-handedly inspired the creation of the heavy metal and other black metal genres.

Off stage, Ozzy (as he’s known to his adoring fans) stutters and struggles to string together a coherent sentence. But on stage, or in the recording studio, put a mic in his hands and his singing voice sparks up loud and clear. Bless you Ozzy for all of the inspirational music you’ve made throughout your career.

As a vocal coach, Ozzy deserves special mention as one of those singers that has explored every kind of excess that the rock and roll lifestyle can provide, yet somehow through it all, he has managed to maintain both his unique vocal tone and his vocal range for almost the entire duration of his career.

Due to numerous health issues, Ozzy is planning two final concerts as a farewell to his fans. Ozzy has announced that he will be retiring at the end of this tour.

Ozzy Osbourne has sold approximately 100 million records worldwide across both his solo career and as his days as the front man for Black Sabbath. Just because Ozzy has finished touring, don’t be surprised if the Prince of Darkness continues to release new music up until his last breath.

They broke the mold when they made Ozzy Osbourne. He truly is one of a kind and a hard act to follow.

To learn more about Ozzy Osbourne’s legendary music career and many of his most famous escapades/adventures, I highly recommend picking up a copy of his incredible biography. It’s well-written and the story flows amazingly well. It is 100% Ozzy, in his own words.

If you are a rock and metal music collector, and you love your music on vinyl, check out some of these legendary records by Ozzy. Somehow after all these years, Ozzy’s music on vinyl just sounds better than ever.

If you want to learn how to sing in Ozzy Osbourne’s style and/or vocal register, let’s chat about a vocal coaching session.

Disclaimer: If you make a purchase from one of the above links, a tiny commission goes to supporting the site. In keeping with my “No BS” policy, I only ever recommend products that I personally use or know are beneficial to my readers.

Joe Elliott

Why do some older rock stars lose the ability to sing high notes?

Today I’d like to answer the question: “Why do some older rock singers lose their vocal power and ability to sing high notes?”. We’ll also cover some steps you can take to reduce the chance of this happening to you.

The simple answer is that usually between the ages 50 and 60, the micro-muscles that support proper larynx and vocal cord function begin to naturally atrophy. This is in regard to both the reduction of physical mass and loss of flexibility of not only the vocal cords themselves, but also in the vital tendons, ligaments and micro-muscles responsible for efficiently operating your singing and speaking voice.

Rock singers like Axl Rose (Guns N’ Roses), David Coverdale (White Snake), Joe Elliot (Def Leppard), Jon Bon Jovi (Bon Jovi) and Paul Stanley (KISS) have all suffered notable loss of vocal power and range, especially in their upper registers.

The average concert goer is just going to put this loss of vocal ability down to old age and partying to excess in younger years, or just plain old decades of live concert performances and punishing touring schedules. While some of these things may have played a part in their declining vocal abilities, there are other factors at play.

There are a few factors that can impact more significantly on a singer’s ability to deliver a good vocal performance and match those iconic high notes that made their songs such a high point of our personal music playlists. In this article, I’m going to shine a spotlight on some of the most obvious causes of vocal decline in older singers.

Collagen levels

Vocal cords are made up of individual strands of collagen. When you reach your 30s and 40s, both men and women start to produce significantly less collagen in their bodies. Collagen is essential for maintaining not only healthy skin and cartilage, but also the natural mass in your vocal cords.

Once you have lost a significant amount of your natural collagen levels, a strict healthy eating regime is required to be able to replenish most of what was lost. It is not possible to naturally reclaim all of your diminished collagen levels as you age.

My recommendation for thirty year old singers and upwards is to consider purchasing a respected, reputable collagen supplement product like this one from Vital Vitamins or this one from Ancestral Supplements. This will help to supplement your collagen levels, which is especially useful if you use your voice excessively or rely on your voice in any way to make a living. I believe that everyone, singer or not, should be using a collagen supplement to help maintain a healthy function of their voice as they age.

In keeping with my “No BS” policy, as a vocal coach that has logged thousands of hours working with singers, public speakers (and everything in between), I noticed that as soon as I hit my early 40s my voice would take slightly longer to recover after marathon coaching weeks.

Singing is like an athletic sport. Marathon coaching days are the vocal equivalent to competing in multiple back-to-back Iron Man events. The energy demand is very hard on the body and it’s important to have a good, healthy diet. Even the best diets can create gaps in vital nutrition, especially when it comes to essential minerals, vitamins, nutrients and peptides. This includes collagen.

I have been using a collagen supplement reliably for the past 10 years and I wish I had started taking them sooner! One of the biggest gains that I’ve noticed is that my voice recovers faster when I am using collagen supplements. My voice feels stronger and sounds like it too.

Need supplements? Click here to browse collagen supplements with the right types of collagen on Amazon.

Physical changes within the larynx

Inside your larynx, you have many connecting muscles, tendons and ligaments. As you get older, if you don’t use your voice correctly and maintain a healthy vocal exercise regime, you will experience decline and atrophy in the mass and the strength of the connecting supportive muscles that maintain a healthy larynx function. This of course includes your vocal cords, which are responsible for phonating (producing monotonal and melodic sounds).

As we age, we experience reduction in the size and the mass of the micro-muscles that anchor and support proper larynx function. This includes the aryepiglottic muscle, the thyroarytenoid muscle, the cricothyroid muscle, the oblique arytenoid muscle, the transverse arytenoid muscle, and both the lateral and posterior cricoarytenoid muscles.

These micro-muscle groups are prone to reducing in size as we age. The blood supply to these muscles is often reduced, which is going to speed up the amount of atrophy and shrinkage.

What does this mean for an aging singer?

It simply means that as these muscles atrophy and decline in size, you will experience a loss of strength in the larynx, making it harder for your larynx to naturally position itself to create the proper connection to your high notes. The larynx needs to be able to rely on the healthy function of tendons, ligaments and various micro-muscle groups to facilitate the larynx tilt or the thyroid tilt that allows us to access our higher register.

Depending on how significant the decline or atrophy is in these micro-muscle groups, it can be very difficult to rebuild these muscles back to achieve the required mass to function normally. A better idea is to adopt a regular vocal exercise regime that can correctly target these micro-muscle groups and help you to maintain healthy mass and function well into your 70s and beyond.

Shining examples of well maintained singing voices include Glenn Hughes (ex Deep Purple) and Rob Halford (Judas Priest) who are both well into their 70s (72 at the time of writing). They each understand the importance of regular vocal exercise sessions and using good vocal technique to maintain their glorious singing and screaming voices.

Glenn Hughes
Rob Halford
Rob Halford

It’s worth mentioning that both Rob and Glenn were born with above average natural strength, flexibility and length of their vocal cords. Throughout their decades long careers in music, they have both encountered numerous vocal problems with their voices brought about by excess drugs, alcohol and other vices.

Both singers are well known for their belting ability, both in their middle and upper registers, but they have maintained their ability to perform at a high level by regularly going back to the basics of good technical foundations in their respective singing styles. This includes good vocal warmup routines, and maintaining overall fitness.

One of the best kept secrets among high profile singers is having access to world class ear, nose and throat specialists (ENTs) and vocal surgeons including Dr. Steven Zeitels, who has operated on many celebrity singers like Adele, Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Cher, Roger Daltrey (The Who), Lionel Richie, Keith Urban, Paul Stanley (Kiss), and James Taylor.

Unless you also have access to a world class vocal surgeon, I highly recommend adopting a regular vocal exercise programme in order to maintain healthy mass, function and flexibility to these essential micro-muscle groups. You should also learn the appropriate warm up and warm down exercises for your vocal style and age group. If you’re unsure on where to start with this, please don’t hesitate to contact me to set up a private coaching session.

Long breaks between recording and touring

For established rock stars, it is very normal to have a touring schedule of 250 or more shows in a year. They then come off the road and have extended breaks of up to 1-3 years, or sometimes even longer before the band finds themselves back in the studio to record a new album.

An example of this is the time between Def Leppard’s Pyromania album (20 January, 1983) and their Hysteria album (3 August, 1987) which meant that Def Leppard would have had at least two years off between touring and recording those albums. There was a good reason for this in Def Leppard’s case, given Rick Allen (their drummer) was in a catastrophic car accident in which he lost his left arm.

Another example is the gap between Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion (17 September, 1991) album and their Chinese Democracy tour (starting in January 2001) which is a gap of over 7 years, even factoring in two years of touring for the Use Your Illusion tour!

While it may look like an appealing lifestyle to work at a breakneck pace for 12 months on tour and then retire to an exotic location for a well-earned extended break, these long hiatuses can be hell on a singer’s vocal abilities.

Here’s why.

Many of your favourite rock singers are just guys and girls that are born with above average strength and mass in their voice. It’s very easy for someone that is born vocally stronger than their peers to take their singing voice for granted. It might surprise you that some of your favourite artists don’t have regular vocal exercise routines and through their 20s, 30s and even 40s, continue to rely on the natural strength of their singing voice to see them through.

However without exception, these singers are in for a rude shock as they approach their 40s, 50s and 60s. This is because this is the time that the voice naturally starts to change. These changes take place inside the larynx (as I mentioned earlier) through depleted levels of collagen. The vocal cords are losing mass and flexibility, and so are the micro-muscles that are responsible for supporting the larynx as we sing up and down through our range.

Poor vocal technique

Many of your favourite celebrity singers sound good because they were born with naturally big voices. Just because someone sounds good, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they are singing or screaming in a way that uses healthy vocal technique.

A perfect example of this is Axl Rose (vocalist for Guns N’ Roses). Throughout the 80s, Axl Rose was renowned for his incredibly powerful male tenor voice. Axl is actually a natural baritone but he was blessed with an anomaly in his voice that allowed him to also have an incredibly powerful tenor upper register.

Axl Rose

Axl developed his vocal style by listening to and closely replicating the singing style of Dan McCafferty (Nazareth) who was known for his big, gravelly, three octave vocal range. As a result, Axl can be heard applying excessive pressure to his vocal cords as early as the G N’ R Lies album (released 1988). By around 1991-1993, Axl Rose started to suffer serious vocal challenges during GNR’s Use Your Illusion tour.

His vocal cords started to develop either nodules, nodes, polyps or cists which seriously impacted his ability to sing high notes. This can be seen through any of the Use Your Illusion performance videos online where Axl’s voice would regularly break into a whistle register to hit some of his signature notes when he applied too much pressure to his cords.

Axl sacrificed his magnificent voice regularly to produce a stunning vocal effect at the beginning of Welcome to the Jungle which is a combination of a vocal pitch and a purpose-made whistle tone. Producing this whistle tone effect requires air passing through the vocal cords, drying them out. It also requires an excessive amount of tension to the vocal cords to be applied to produce this eerie, whistle tone effect. This results in the vocal cords producing excessive amounts of heat, which is a really good way to dry out your voice and remove the protective layer of mucosae (natural lubricant that protects your vocal cords from friction damage).

If we fast forward a decade to 2001, from the start of the Chinese Democracy tour, Axl is clearly struggling to hit any high notes with the same vocal power that he once possessed. There was a long break between the Use Your Illusion tour and the Chinese Democracy tour that will have resulted in natural atrophy and loss of strength in the vocal muscles if they were not being healthily worked out regularly. This, in combination with the excessive wear and tear that Axl places on his voice to achieve his signature vocal style and sound, has contributed to the ongoing decline of a once-magnificent singing voice.

I believe that Axl smoked his fair share of pot in his earlier years with Guns N’ Roses, and passing superheated smoke over the vocal cords is a very good way to dry them out in a hurry. When you combine this with Axl’s extreme singing style, it’s easy to understand how he’s managed to blow his voice out.

Based on my 30+ years of vocal coaching experience, it’s highly probable that Axl Rose has had surgery on his vocal cords, possibly multiple times, to remove vocal polyps or similar conditions. Axl has never publicly acknowledged any ties to surgery in his interviews, so this is pure speculation at this stage.

If Axl had used proper technique that complimented his voice throughout his career, he may still be hitting those high notes today.

About vocal surgeries

Some professional singers choose to attempt to combat vocal decline by going under the knife.

The most successful vocal surgeries that I know of have been on Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Sam Smith and Adele, who each used Dr. Steven Zeitels to repair their vocal cords.

In Steven Tyler’s case, Steven recounts this in well-documented interviews, where he admits to having gone under the knife in order to repair microtears in his vocal cords. The need for this was brought about through a combination of his once again well-documented drug and alcohol addictions. According to Steven, he had burst blood vessels in his vocal cords that prevented his vocal cords from functioning normally and being able to thin down correctly to access his iconic high notes.

Steven Tyler
Steven Tyler, age defying superhuman

Prior to this surgery, Steven had begun to struggle to hit his mid-range notes with power. His high notes were all but gone.

After the surgery, given the appropriate amount of recovery time and practicing regular vocal exercise workouts, Steven’s vocal recovery was nothing short of miraculous. It sounded to many of his fans, like Steven had discovered the proverbial vocal fountain of youth. That’s one very lucky singer!

On the other side of vocal surgeries, even as lately as 10 years ago singers were often left with permanent scarring on the vocal cords. This scarring significantly impacts on the ability of vocal cords to correctly thin down and make the appropriate voice level closures at the vocal cords to sing powerful high notes.

You are welcome to speculate on who these rock and roll casualties may include. Hint: Think about some of your favourite rock/metal singers from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s that are no longer able to hit the high notes and sound hoarse. These are usually positive indicators of permanent scarring on the vocal cords.

Rock and roll vices

Smoking cigarettes or vaping, excessive consumption of alcohol, weed/pot and other drugs are all known to significantly impact the healthy function of both your voice box (larynx) and your vocal cords. They also impair your ability to breath effectively from your diaphragm.

In the case of cigarette smoking (and now vaping), there are many studies that have proven direct correlation between usage lung damage.

If you are a singer that smokes or vapes and you have noticed significant loss of vocal range, or it’s getting more difficult to hit higher notes, contact me now for an honest conversation about how to reclaim your singing voice.

Genetic and neurological conditions

Not everything is under our control. Genetic disorders or conditions can have a real impact on singers in later life. We’ll cover both genetic and neurological conditions in more detail in a future post.

Better information leads to better singing!

Disclaimer: If you make a purchase from one of the above links, a tiny commission goes to supporting the site. In keeping with my “No BS” policy, I only ever recommend products that I personally use or know are beneficial to my readers.

Attenuated earplugs: The key to protecting your hearing while practicing music

As a musician, practicing is an essential part of honing your craft. However, the noise level of your instruments can lead to permanent hearing damage over time. That’s why attenuated earplugs have become an essential tool for musicians who want to protect their hearing without sacrificing the quality of their practice sessions.

What are attenuated earplugs?

Attenuated earplugs are a type of hearing protection device that are designed to reduce the volume of sound without distorting the quality of the sound. Unlike traditional earplugs, which can muffle the sound and make it difficult to hear, attenuated earplugs are designed to reduce the decibel level of the sound, while still allowing you to hear the full range of frequencies. This means that you can protect your hearing while still hearing the music clearly.

Musicians typically use attenuated earplugs when rehearsing at loud volume levels with a band, in an enclosed space. Attenuated earplugs come in a variety of dB reduction levels. From as little as nine through to 25 dB reduction.

Why musicians should use attenuated earplugs

Musicians are at a higher risk for hearing loss than the general population. This is because they are exposed to high decibel levels on a regular basis, both in practice sessions and during live performances. Over time, this exposure can lead to permanent hearing damage, including tinnitus and hearing loss. Attenuated earplugs are a simple and effective way to protect your hearing and prevent these issues.

Attenuated earplugs have several benefits for musicians:

  • They reduce the volume of sound without affecting the quality. This means you can still hear the nuances of the music, including the dynamics and tone.
  • They provide consistent protection, regardless of the environment. Whether you’re practicing in a quiet room or performing on a loud stage, attenuated earplugs can provide reliable protection for your hearing.
  • They are comfortable to wear. Attenuated earplugs are designed to fit comfortably in your ear, and they won’t fall out or cause discomfort during long practice sessions.

Tips for using attenuated earplugs

If you’re new to using attenuated earplugs, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Choose the right level of attenuation. Attenuated earplugs come in different levels of attenuation, so it’s important to choose the right level for your needs. A music store or audiologist can help you choose the right level of protection for your specific situation.

Use them consistently. Attenuated earplugs are only effective if you use them consistently, so make sure to wear them during all practice sessions and live performances.

Clean them regularly. Attenuated earplugs can accumulate wax and other debris over time, which can affect their effectiveness. Clean them regularly with soap and water or a specialized cleaning solution.

Attenuated earplugs are an essential tool for musicians who want to protect their hearing while practicing and performing. By reducing the volume of sound without affecting the quality, they provide reliable protection against permanent hearing damage. If you’re a musician, consider using attenuated earplugs in your practice sessions to protect your hearing and ensure that you can continue to make music for years to come.

Where to get attenuated earplugs

In keeping with my “No BS” policy, I personally invested in two sets of custom-made attenuated earplugs. One of these sets has a 10 dB noise reduction, which I use while coaching singers. The second set has a 21 dB noise reduction, which I use at any event where my ears are going to be subjected to loud noises for sustained periods of time. This includes any event where extreme noise levels could potentially affect my hearing, such as concerts or motor racing events, etc.

Nowadays, earplugs similar to the ones I use are readily available online, like these ones from Eargasm. If you don’t have the time, energy or desire to get some earplugs custom-made (this can take up to four weeks, or possibly longer), then I highly recommend the Eargasm earplugs sold on Amazon. 21 dB noise reduction is ideal for concerts and other events with extreme noise levels.

Better information leads to better singing! If you’re a singer or learning to sing and you’re affected by any kind of hearing loss, contact me today and let’s chat. I can help you develop your body as a tuner and help you to regain your vocal confidence.

Disclaimer: If you make a purchase from one of the above links, a tiny commission goes to supporting the site. In keeping with my “No BS” policy, I only ever recommend products that I personally use or know are beneficial to my readers.

The pros and cons of steaming your vocal cords: What you need to know

As a singer, your vocal cords are one of your most important assets. Taking care of your voice is crucial to maintaining your vocal health and ensuring that you can perform at your best.

One popular method for caring for your vocal cords is steaming. While steaming can have many benefits, it is important to understand the potential risks as well. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of steaming your vocal cords.

Pros of steaming your vocal cords

1. Rehydrates dried out cords and throat

One of the main benefits of steaming is that it can help rehydrate dry vocal cords and throat. This can be especially helpful if you live in a dry climate or if you have been talking or singing for an extended period.

2. Loosens Mucus

Steaming can help loosen mucus in the throat and nasal passages, making it easier to sing or speak. This can be particularly helpful if you are suffering from a cold or allergy symptoms.

3. Reduces Swelling

If your vocal cords are swollen, steaming can help reduce inflammation and relieve discomfort.

Cons of steaming your vocal cords

1. Can Increase Severity of Viral or Bacterial Infections

Steaming vocal cords when you have a bacterial or viral infection can help increase and spread the severity of the virus to your airway. For this reason, it is not recommended to steam your vocal cords when you are sick.

2. Can cause burns

If the steam is too hot or if you are not careful, you can accidentally burn your vocal cords. This can cause serious injury and may even require medical attention.

3. Not a substitute for proper vocal care

While steaming can be helpful, it is not a substitute for proper vocal care. It is important to stay hydrated, get enough rest, and avoid behaviors that can harm your voice, such as smoking.

Steaming your vocal cords can be a useful tool for maintaining vocal health, but it is important to use caution and understand the potential risks. If you are unsure whether steaming is right for you, consult with a vocal coach or medical professional for guidance. Remember, the best way to care for your voice is to practice good vocal hygiene and take steps to prevent injury and strain.

Should you steam your vocal cords before or after a show?

As a singer, your voice is your instrument, and taking care of it is paramount. Whether you’re a rock or metal singer or any kind of singer that sings with grit or rasp, you want to make sure that your voice is in top shape when you take the stage. One popular method for vocal care is steaming, but is it safe to steam your vocal cords before a show? Let’s explore why steaming your vocal cords before a show is not recommended and why steaming post-show can be helpful for recovery.

Caution: Steaming your vocal cords before a show is not recommended

Steaming your vocal cords before a show is not recommended, and should always be an absolute last choice. The reason for this is that the steam can make your vocal cords more vulnerable to damage, especially if you sing with grit or rasp. This is because these vocal styles rely on a certain amount of tension in the vocal cords, and the steam can soften them, making them more susceptible to injury.

Steaming can also cause swelling of the vocal cords, which can make it more difficult to sing. For these reasons, it is best to avoid steaming your vocal cords before a show.

Steaming your vocal cords post-show: What you need to know

While steaming your vocal cords before a show is not recommended, steaming post-show can be helpful for recovery. After a performance, your vocal cords may be strained, and steaming can help alleviate any discomfort or swelling. Here’s what you need to know.

Use warm, not hot, steam. The steam should be warm enough to be soothing, but not so hot that it burns your vocal cords. Be careful not to get too close to the steam source.

I highly recommend that every vocalist purchase a steamer. In keeping with my philosophy of “No BS”, I have personally been using Vicks Steam inhalers for over 15 years. While there are different products out there, the one that I recommend is the Vicks Steam Vaporizer, or the Vicks Sinus Inhaler for travelling (I am not sponsored by Vicks directly, I just really like their products).

⚠️ After steaming, your vocal cords will be in a fragile state (more thinned down than usual). Do not yell or try to sing at any kind of performance volume. In fact, the best advice is to steam your vocal cords at night. If possible, practice complete vocal silence until the morning.

RVR pro tip number one: Vocal cords are highly sensitive to irritants. As a vocal coach and a singer, I do not recommend adding any substance (including menthol) to the water that you’re inhaling. Pure steam is the best substance to rehydrate a dry voice and help you rehabilitate inflamed vocal cords and when used the right way, it can actually help you to recover from minor strains and tears within the micro-muscles of your larynx.

RVR pro tip number two: If your vocal cords are seriously inflamed or dried out, my personal recommendation is to steam for at least 45 minutes with a towel over your head. I personally have four towels that I’ve sewed together to ensure that no steam escapes my inhalation.

Don’t rely solely on steaming for vocal recovery. While steaming can be helpful, it is not a cure-all. It’s important to rest your voice, stay hydrated, and avoid behaviors that can harm your vocal cords, such as smoking or drinking alcohol.

In conclusion, steaming your vocal cords before a show is not recommended and can be harmful to your vocal cords, especially if you sing with grit or rasp. However, steaming post-show can be helpful for vocal recovery, as long as it is done safely and in moderation. If you’re unsure about whether steaming is right for you, consult with a vocal coach or medical professional for guidance. Remember, the best way to care for your voice is to practice good vocal hygiene and take steps to prevent injury and strain.

RVR pro tip number three: When you steam your vocal cords, regardless of whether it is pre-show or post-show, your vocal cords will be thinned down and will remain thinned down for longer. This means that they won’t have the same mass or thickness your speaking voice will normally enjoy. It is not recommended to speak or yell while your vocal cords are thinned down, because you’ll risk damaging your vocal cords as they won’t support normal, rowdy levels of sound production.

I can’t stress this enough. If you’re a professional singer, once you’ve steamed your vocal cords you should try not to speak for the rest of the night. In fact, let the people around you know that you’re going to go into “vocal silent mode”.

Better information leads to better singing! If you’d like to talk more about the best steps to vocal recovery, contact me today for a chat.

Disclaimer: If you make a purchase from one of the above links, a tiny commission goes to supporting the site. In keeping with my “No BS” policy, I only ever recommend products that I personally use or know are beneficial to my readers.

Tinnitus: Understanding its impact on singers and musicians

Tinnitus is a common condition that affects millions of people around the world, including singers and musicians. It is characterized by a persistent ringing, buzzing, or humming sound in the ears, which can be distracting and even debilitating in some cases. In this article, we will explore what tinnitus is, how it affects singers and musicians, and what steps you can take to protect your hearing.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a condition that causes a persistent ringing, buzzing, or humming sound in the ears. It can affect one or both ears and may be constant or intermittent. The severity of the symptoms can vary from person to person, with some people experiencing mild ringing while others are completely incapacitated by the noise.

Tinnitus can be caused by a variety of factors, including exposure to loud noise, age-related hearing loss, ear infections, and other underlying health conditions. It is important to note that tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying condition.

How does tinnitus affect singers and musicians?

Singers and musicians are particularly vulnerable to tinnitus because of their exposure to loud music and noise. Repeated exposure to loud noise can cause damage to the delicate hair cells in the inner ear, which can lead to tinnitus and other forms of hearing loss.

For singers and musicians, tinnitus can have a significant impact on their ability to perform. The persistent ringing or buzzing can be distracting and make it difficult to hear oneself or others accurately. It can also make it challenging to distinguish between different notes and frequencies, which can impact the quality of the performance.

What can we do to protect our hearing?

As singers and musicians, it is crucial to take steps to protect our hearing and prevent tinnitus. Some tips for protecting your hearing include:

  • Wear earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones when performing or rehearsing in loud environments.
  • Take regular breaks to give your ears a rest and allow them to recover from exposure to loud noise.
  • Avoid listening to music or other sounds at high volumes for extended periods of time.
  • Get regular hearing tests to monitor your hearing and identify any potential problems early.
  • Consider investing in custom-made earplugs that are specifically designed for musicians and singers. I’ve written about this in this post if you’d like to find out more.

In keeping with my “No BS” policy, I personally invested in two sets of custom-made attenuated earplugs. One of these sets has a 10 dB noise reduction, which I use while coaching singers. The second set has a 21 dB noise reduction, which I use at any event where my ears are going to be subjected to loud noises for sustained periods of time. This includes any event where extreme noise levels could potentially affect my hearing, such as concerts or motor racing events, etc.

Nowadays, earplugs similar to the ones I use are readily available online, like these ones from Eargasm. If you don’t have the time, energy or desire to get some earplugs custom-made (this can take up to four weeks, or possibly longer), then I highly recommend the Eargasm earplugs sold on Amazon. 21 dB noise reduction is ideal for concerts and other events with extreme noise levels.

Disclaimer: If you make a purchase from one of the above links, a tiny commission goes to supporting the site. In keeping with my “No BS” policy, I only ever recommend products that I personally use or know are beneficial to my readers.

Next steps

If you are a singer or musician who has been impacted by tinnitus or any kind of hearing condition, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional.

Paule Enso at Rapid Vocal Results is a trained vocal coach who has 30 years of experience working with singers who have all kinds of hearing loss conditions and challenges, including tinnitus. He can help you develop strategies to manage your symptoms and improve your vocal performance.

Contact Paule Enso at Rapid Vocal Results today to learn more.

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.

The benefits of warming up your voice

Sometimes the most professional, big time singers are the worst at following a structured warm up routine. The benefits of warming up your voice prior to your singing practice, rehearsing with the band, recording in the studio or of course performing live are undeniable.

It’s the goal of this post to help you learn from their mistakes and to look after your instrument by maintaining good vocal health. Your vocal cords can only tolerate so much misuse and abuse before they start to break down on you at the worst possible times.

As a vocal coach, it has been my fortune to be backstage with a number of seasoned, experienced, professional singers. I have observed first hand how big time singers are not always the best at following structured warm up routines, and their often haphazard approach to warming up the voice can do more harm than good.

I have seen impressionable, inexperienced singers follow the example of these big names with little or no structured warm up routines before singing. Just because they see and hear their idols not warming up, they think they can get away with committing the same vocal sins.

There are so many reasons to warm up your voice, including:

  1. Establishing correct diaphragmatic support and breathing.
  2. Warming up the vocal cords and exercising the tendons and ligaments that anchor our voice box (larynx) and are instrumental in helping us to enjoy freedom of movement to help us safely reach our lowest and highest notes, as well as everything in between.
  3. Maintaining or repairing minor vocal damage from the night before. An appropriate vocal warmup can help reduce swelling and inflammation in the vocal cords and can help you to achieve better cord closure.
  4. Warming up your voice prior to a gig allows you to refresh the muscle memories for both breathing and vocal coordination to allow you to sing at your best.
  5. An appropriately structured vocal warmup allows you to open up your airway and establish the correct open throat feelings and position to reduce strain on your voice, making it easier to hit those high notes.
  6. It gets your ears and your voice in tune pitch-wise.
  7. Your vocal warmup is your last opportunity to troubleshoot any challenge areas you have in your voice prior to going on stage or recording in a studio.

Popular excuses for not using a structured warmup for your voice

  1. “It’s just a band practice”
  2. “After a couple of songs on stage, my voice just warms up naturally anyway”
  3. “There’s no place to warm up. People will hear me!”
  4. “I usually just have a couple of drinks or a smoke or vape and I’m ready to go”
  5. “I’ve seen professional singers who don’t warm up and they sound great!”

If you’re a singer that doesn’t warm up before they begin singing, what’s the excuse that you use to avoid it?

Let’s shine a light on all of these excuses and see if they stand up under scrutiny:

  1. “It’s just a band practice”… Regardless of whether you’re singing for fun, or singing in front of a paying audience, the level of energy and the intensity that you exert on your voice is going to be very similar. If you are performing in front of a live audience, the majority of singers tend to sing a little bit harder and stronger because the adrenaline is running high. Your voice doesn’t care which of those two scenarios you’re operating in.

    If you are singing high intensity rock or pop (or any style for that matter) and you neglect to warm up your voice, you will risk straining your vocal cords by applying excess force to a cold cord to sing higher. If you’re screaming without a warmup, that’s even worse on your poor voice.
  2. “After a couple of songs on stage, my voice just warms up naturally anyway”… If you’re a singer that falls into this category, those first two songs that you’re straining to hit the high notes by using excessive tension on your cords and adopting the “weightlifting” mentality will contribute to a singing voice that will feel the effects of vocal fatigue later on in your set.

    Any time that you need to push your voice to sing higher or stronger is a good sign that you’re singing on cold vocal cords and you’re risking vocal strain. This is not only in your voice, but in the tendons and ligaments that play such a crucial role in supporting your larynx when you sing.
  3. “There’s no place to warm up. People will hear me!”... Most bars and music venues have bathroom stalls. They sometimes have little side rooms where you can go and do your warmup. Regardless of whether you need to warm up around other people or not, if you’re wearing headphones and singing along to a vocal warmup programme, you will be surprised how fast you forget about worrying what others think of you when you get on with the job of preparing your voice for top level performance.
  4. “I usually just have a couple of drinks or a smoke or vape and I’m ready to go”… I wish I had a dollar for every time I hear singers with a similar response to this. When you smoke or vape, you’re passing gasses across your vocal cords that are guaranteed to remove the protective layers of mucus that we rely on as singers to reduce harmful friction on the vocal cords when we sing.

    You’re not doing yourself any favours here. Yes, you might like to have a smoke before you hit the stage to ease your nerves, but you can achieve the same effect through practicing singer’s breathing exercises that will help you to reduce pre-stage nerves without having a negative impact on your vocal cords.

    As to alcohol, drinks are usually served cold and that’s where most of the problem lies. We want the vocal cords to be nice and warm to be able to perform at our best and you’re about to throw a cold drink down your throat. This is definitely going to mean that your vocal cords will take longer to warm up if you’re drinking a cold drink prior to singing.

    It’s a commonly accepted practice to have a couple of shots of spirits before you hit the stage to “relax your voice” and deal with those pre-show nerves. This is a practice that professional singers like Sammy Hagar (ex lead singer of Van Halen) used to swear by before he hit the stage. The only problem with this is that if your vocal cords are slightly dehydrated to begin with, you’re going to make the situation worse for yourself and you’re going to be singing on a dry throat three or four songs in. You’re far more likely to be reaching for that cold drink to replace lost moisture in your throat, which is only going to make matters worse.
  5. “I’ve seen professional singers who don’t warm up and they sound great!”… A perfect example of this is Joe Elliott from Def Leppard. There are nights when he basically just makes a whole bunch of screaming sounds backstage in an effort to warm up his voice. When you take on an unstructured warmup strategy like this, you run the risk of only warming up some areas of your voice and you can easily neglect the essential, foundational stuff like building good diaphragmatic breath support and establishing open throat technique prior to hitting the stage.

    If you look at the rock singers in particular that are still out there and doing it night after night who have enjoyed long careers performing to arena-sized audiences, these singers tend to fall into one of three simple categories. The first category is people like Glenn Hughes (ex Deep Purple) who is still capable of hitting all of his high notes in his 70s, for iconic songs like Mistreated and Highway Star. Glenn has maintained his phenomenal vocal range and his vocal agility and is a better singer now in his 70s than he was when he was in hsi 20s. This is due to great vocal technique and great vocal maintenance routines for his voice.

    The second category is all the rock singers that were born with above average mass and length in their vocal cords that have tended to take their vocal powers for granted and have neglected to maintain structured vocal exercise and warmup routines prior to touring and during touring. We see an astounding number of these singers now in their 50s and 60s whose voices are breaking down because they have not been properly maintained. Regular vocal maintenance and warmup routines can help to offset unhealthy habits like drinking and smoking because vocal cords as they get older, if they’re not properly maintained, tend to lose their vocal agility and take much longer to repair.

    The third and final category and singers who are experiencing a variety of vocal conditions, including polyps, nodes, cysts and partial vocal cord paralysis. Regular vocal exercise routines, and regular pre-show structured warmup routines can greatly reduce the risk of developing nodules, polyps or cysts on your vocal cords, as well as being able to aid in the treatment and reduction of any existing conditions that may be developing on your vocal cords.

When you do a vocal warm up, it helps to warm up your body as well! Singing any form of high-energy music requires a warm body and a warmed up set of vocal cords to not only help you sing at your best, but to also prevent injuries to both your vocal cords and other muscles or parts of your body, like your jaw. A warm body from a good, structured warmup routine can help to prevent damage from pushing too hard in your stomach area, which is something that happened to Lincoln Park’s Chester Bennington (RIP).

Better information leads to better singing.