Here’s a question that came to me whose answer can help everyone who sings;
it is such a common situation…
Dear Billy, I sing soprano, high soprano and have been working on alot of opera songs.
I have a question about my throat. When I sing sometimes and it seems to be alot more offten now, my throat feels like it has junk or something in it. I feel I have to clear my throat alot before I sing and I was wondering if there is a drink or a work out I could do with my voice that helps that? I have heard that its not good to clear your throat before you sing, is that true? I was thinking that the reason my throat gets “clogged” is because I over work it or because I’m nervous before I go on. Also is there something I could do about my voice cracking, its happened alot lately. Thank you for your time. Please help me answer my questions. – M
Billy: It’s true that you should not clear your throat; it’s abrasive to the folds. There is a way of doing it with more air and less pressure (just allow a little air to pass through as you begin the clear, so it’s sort of a “glottal whisper”) in times of emergency, but you have to be careful. The best remedy is to take a drink of water and swallow; the swallowing action will move the cartilage housing and allow the obscuring mucous to slide off on its own…I realize, of course, that this is not always immediate enough for the situation–just don’t get or be in the habit of clearing!
But you need to find out why the mucous is becoming so thick and obstructive – are you drinking enough water? Everyone should drink 8 8-ounce glasses a day (64 ounces; 2 quarts) and singers should drink even more than that–if you’re not in that habit, it is imperative that you start…even when you’re not thirsty, drink water at regular intervals to keep the body fully hydrated and the vocal folds will remain moist.
Also, if you have any allergies that need attention, that would be a cause of increased or thickened mucous. If that is the case, your doctor and possibly a nutritionist can help you immensely.
There is another possibility, too–acid reflux, a condition where your stomach acid seeps through the muscular closure above the stomach when you lay down horizontally, and makes its way up to the vocal area, resulting in irritation, which causes the protective mucous to increase and thicken, and can cause irritation that feels like you constantly need to clear your thoat..
It inevitably will cause the voice to start “cracking” where it did not before… It’s a nightmare for singers, and quite common. (I suffer from it myself). There are things you can do, but you should see a doctor if you suspect it.
Some solutions are the over-the-counter meds like Prilosec and Omezparole, not eating 2 hours before bed, and having your bed “raised” a few inches at the headboard…By the way, it doesn’t always take the form of “heartburn” or “sour stomach” – you can have it and not know it at all. Finally, yes, you could be overworking it, and your technique could be failing you – you’ll need to consult a reputable instructor on that.
Being nervous won’t create phlegm, but it could cause you to nervously clear your throat more, and the resulting swelling of the folds will definitely affect your technique. Hope this helps; good luck in everything. – billy