Who Let the Frogs Out? More Quick Remedies for Voice Malfunctions

 In Presence, Vocal Health
mouth open with a frog sitting inside of the mouth on the tongue

One of the most popular posts on this blog is Who Let the Frogs Out? 3 Quick Remedies for Voice Malfunctions. Here is part two on the frogs! The original article was triggered by a question on my Twitter. This one was triggered by considering what other vocal nightmares can happen to speakers. Here are three more: the flip, no voice at the moment, and no voice at all. (I am sure there are more, so please let me know about your vocal nightmares.)

If your voice breaks or flips:

  • This can be caused by a high larynx or shallow breathing. When this happens, take a low breath letting the abdominal muscles expand and your throat relax. Then be sure to actively use the air in the sound when you speak.
  • For some men, this is an ongoing problem, not just one that occurs in teenage boys. If you are one of those people, be sure to breathe low and learn to use your abdominal muscles to support your sound. It may be helpful to take singing lessons or a voice class to strengthen your vocal mechanism.
  • Here is an exercise program you can try on your own on the terrific blog, Six Minutes.

If you open your mouth and nothing comes out (and you are NOT sick):

  • It could be phlegm covering the cords. In that case, try a little gravelly sound, like you are lightly clearing your throat.
  • It could be nerves, in that case, breathe. Don’t panic. Try laughing instead as this will also get your air moving.
  • You may not be breathing or using air in your voice. Tank up and then speak more loudly to jump start your voice.

If you wake up in the morning and you do not HAVE a voice but you HAVE to give a talk (or sing):

  • First understand that most laryngitis in the morning is temporary, caused by inflammation of the vocal folds due to post nasal drip or coughing or even acid reflux (too much Italian food late at night??). This causes the folds to swell overnight. The problem with swelling of the vocal folds is that in order to make a sound, they need to vibrate cleanly and quickly just like two razor blades. Swollen folds cannot do that. However, if you drink some warm liquids and give them time, you can often get them working again, even if it’s not at their best. So give yourself a little time to wake up.
  • Next, try to make a sound. There is probably some part of your voice that still makes a pitch, even if it’s not where you’re most comfortable speaking. Usually, you can make very low sounds. (It’s not a good idea to speak very low if you don’t have to because you can damage your voice, but we are assuming this is an emergency situation.)
  • Next, about an hour and a half before you are to speak, make “mmm” sounds throughout your range (high and low and in between, kind of like a siren or like someone who really enjoys their meal!)
  • Then, most importantly, once you have started using your voice, don’t stop until you have finished your talk. If you stop for any length of time, your cords may become more swollen as the blood collects in them for healing. Then you really will lose your voice. And during the talk, make the mic work for you, but also make the audience help. Get them asking questions and also answering some so that you don’t have to talk as much. Afterward, rest, rest, rest!!! You only get one voice and it is precious!

Further suggestions:

  • Always make sure you are hydrated before speaking and that you have some water on hand.
  • Make a joke about it if you feel comfortable with your voice acting strangely, but above all know that frogs happen!
  • When anything goes wrong, give yourself a moment to get a grip, but do move on! The others don’t care nearly as much as you do.

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