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  • Writer's pictureA SINGING TEACHER'S BLOG


Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Years ago, I had an email from a prospective student asking me if I could help with the “shouting side of singing”. I replied saying that shouting wasn’t singing and so no, I couldn’t help with that, but that if he wanted help with singing - that I could do. I’ve never forgotten the email from that young man and wonder how his voice is today. I’ve had others over the years asking if I can help with rasping and my response has been the same.

We’ve all heard the sounds that death metal front men use. Personally, I find it extremely worrying, as I can’t even understand how they’re capable of producing those sounds for more than a couple of seconds without being reduced to a heap with an uncontrollable coughing fit……seriously though, it’s almost as though today, the obvious isn’t even thought to be harmful – well it is.

Basically, shouting – and any activity that’s generally thought to be an abuse of the vocal cords can damage the voice and lead to problems with your vocal cords. Believe me, you don’t want to go there! Vocal cord damage often happens in children who scream to get their own way(!) but it also happens in people who use their voices a lot for work eg. singers, actors, teachers, barristers, cheerleaders and sports coaches – people in all of these jobs need to understand how to safely use their voices. The following excerpt is from a medical site and hopefully self-explanatory:

“What Effect Does Voice Misuse Have? In the short term, a brief spell of misusing the voice, such as shouting at a football match, will cause local inflammation in the muscles that make up the vocal cords. This will cause a sore throat and perhaps a hoarse sounding voice, but the effects are only temporary, lasting for a couple of days at the most. If someone repeatedly misuses their voice by shouting, screaming or just straining to be heard on a day to day basis, the vocal cords then suffer more long term damage and frequently develop swellings or nodules. These are commonly called throat polyps or vocal cord nodules. If someone who shouts a lot becomes generally hoarse, they may have several throat polyps but not actually realise it. Polyps on the vocal cords are also common on singers, and may interfere with the singing voice.

How Can Vocal Cord Damage be Prevented and Treated? When the problem of voice misuse is identified, retraining is important to prevent further damage, and possibly long term damage. In children, this is more difficult, particularly if they are very young and have developed the habit of shouting and screaming. The best treatment is to rest the voice completely and encouraging a child to drink more cool water can also be helpful. In adults, resting the voice is also recommended but this may be difficult because of work commitments. Surgery can remove vocal cord polyps that develop but new ones can form if the underlying voice misuse is not tackled.”

As such, work with your body. If it feels uncomfortable, it’s likely that it’s not a good idea to continue and indeed, we’re not actually designed to continuously shout, scream or rasp. Indeed shouting and screaming are reactions to feeling angry or afraid, not a vocal “singing” technique! Always go with what feels comfortable, your voice is really worth looking after.

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