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recovering falsetto

Hello list,

A couple of weeks ago I came down with a pretty nasty cold in which I lost
my voice. Now, the cold is gone; but, unfortunately, so is my falsetto.
Prior to this event, I felt that I had a good falsetto, and could use it
with no real difficulty. After getting my voice back, I have tried to work
the upper register carefully in choir warmups, but it is not helping. Is
this a "lost cause", or is there a chance it could come back? Are there any
techniques that may help me gradually gain this portion of my voice again?
Being a bass/baritone, it is rare that I use it in choirs (except warmups),
but I work it quite frequently in voice lessons, which I had to drop this
quarter for fears of falling behind in my studies because of this.

Thanks in advance for your responses. You may respond privately to
lrotherm(a)insight.rr.com if you wish.

Nick

Nick Rothermel
Music Major- The Ohio State University
Novice composer of piano and choral music!


on May 3, 2003 3:25pm
NOTE: Those with weak stomachs need not read any further.

Will have to check with my husband, the ENT doc, but I bet your vocal bands are
still slightly swollen. The reason you lost your voice (again, conjecture, not
knowing for sure) to begin with is the mucus and junk dripping down your throat
from your cold (or was it a virus?) and causing your vocal bands to become
irritated and swollen. I hope you drank lots of clear, noncaffeine liquids and
rested your voice. You still probably need to do some drinkin' and restin' and
being patient. Do what you can for your classes and if it doesn't come back
soon, see an ENT doc in your area. Someone who treats singers as part of their
practice--someone who doesn't see many singers won't understand why your
falsetto is an important thing. But be patient--I'm betting with time to heal,
you will be fine.
Marie Grass Amenta, Director of Choirs
1st Presbyterian Chuch of Homewood, IL and
Director, ARTS ALIVE! Youth Singers, Tinley Park, IL


on May 4, 2003 9:04am
Nick,
Your falsetto should be returning if there is nothing structurally wrong
like node or polyps which only an otolaryngologist can see (or a voice
teacher or speech therapist could hear and then send you to a doc). On a
definitly overdue just natural rest because the tone of the who set of
muscles is undone.
Go to you library (or buy) Larra Browning Henderson's How to Train
Singers. There are a whole series of therapeutic excercises which isolate
the various facets of the voice. Of special interest should be, Ha, He,
Hee, Ho, Hoo vocalized slowly with a great deal of initial h before the
onset of the vowel. Sing at pitch between f and middle c. Use lots of
abdominal support at the onset of the h. How do the vowels feel. Are they
clear to you, are they well focused? If not, there may be swelling and
thus stiffening of the vocal chords which will definitely influence you
falsetto.
Sing very airy sighs extending above your break down to your lower range.
Lots of air, no production. (maybe you have heard them called airplanes).
Do smooth portamenti with lots of support, lots of focus in mask. Try ngs.
Do this for, maybe, 5 minutes at a time maybe a couple time per day.
Sleep, drink be quietly merry.
Make an appointment now and get back to your voice teacher. Falsetto is
the least of you worries unless its loss is indicative of some greater
problem.
steve



Stephen A. Stomps, Director of Choirs
Auburn High School Choirs
250 Lake Avenue Extension
Auburn New York 13021
PH: 315-255-8341
FAX: 315-255-5876
HOME: 315-255-1783
email: steve_stomps(a)auburn.cnyric.org
AHSChoir(a)auburn.cnyric.org

on May 4, 2003 8:22pm
Nick,

Sorry you've got these vocal problems, but here are some encouraging words:

Your falsetto is not gone. It's just in hiding. [Great that you've been
using it regularly in the past.]

When a viral infection occurs, inflammation is commonly dispersed in the
tissues of the upper airway, usually including the vocal folds.
Inflammation means that, among other immune system processes, plasma fluid
is infused into the infected tissues, bringing a wide variety of immune
cells into the area to kill and carry away the infective "stuff". That
infusion of fluid is commonly referred to as swelling. The fluid "balloons"
the affected tissue to a degree and thus stiffens it. When one "loses one's
voice" during such an infection, that means that the vocal fold tissues were
severely inflamed, and thus severely swollen and stiffened, particularly the
surface tissues where the vibratory "ripple-waving" occurs when speaking and
singing. In fact, they are so severely swollen and stiffened that they
cannot do any ripple-waving, thus no vocal sound can be produced
(called aphonia). During the aphonic period, of course, larynx muscles and
vocal fold tissues are not used for voicing and some degree of
deconditioning takes place in them. A period of reconditioning, therefore,
will be necessary after healing has occurred.

Background to understand your predicament:
As you may already know, when we speak or sing higher and higher pitches,
the primary vocal fold lengthener muscles contract more and more to stretch
the folds longer and longer. In the process, the folds are thinned more and
more, so that the frequency of those vibrations is increased. In what we
refer to as lower and upper registers, the vocal fold shortener and
lengthener muscles are co-contracted to stabilize vocal fold length. Keep
in mind that the primary shortener muscles form the core of each vocal fold,
over which is laid three layers of non-muscle tissue plus the epithelium
("skin"). [In case you're interested in official words, the primary
shorteners are the thyroarytenoid muscles, and the primary lengtheners are
the cricothyroid muscles.]

When the shortener muscles are more prominently contracted than the
lengthener muscles, the surface tissues are more "bunched up" and become
shorter, thicker, and more lax. During voicing, then, more acoustic energy
is generated in the fundamental frequency and the first few harmonics,
leading to the perception of the thicker, more full-bodied voice quality
that is associated with lower register (as compared to upper register).**

When the lengthener muscles are more prominently contracted than the
shortener muscles, the surface tissues are longer, thinner, and more taut,
and less acoustic energy is generated in the fundamental frequency and the
first few harmonics, thus contributing to the perception of the thinner,
lighter voice quality that is associated with upper register (as compared to
lower register).** The contraction of the shortener muscles continues to
produce a thickening influence on the vocal folds, thus producing a degree
of "bodiedness" in the perceived vocal quality.

In "pure" male falsetto, only the vocal fold lengthener muscles are
contracted (the shortener muscles are uncontracted) and pitches are
sustained and changed only by varied intensities of contraction in the
lengthener muscles. That means that the surface tissues are optimally
thinned to produce the optimally thinned voice quality that is associated
with falsetto register in males. [Female larynges produce the same
phenomena, sometimes referred to as flute register; some males and females
can produce a whistle register above their respective falsetto/flute
registers.]

So here's the deal about your falsetto:
The inability to produce falsetto means that your vocal folds are still
swollen and stiffened to the extent that they cannot be thinned out enough
to produce ripple-waving in the falsetto range/quality. That's quite common
after a severe viral infection and vocal fold inflammation with aphonia.

Severe vocal fold inflammation/swelling/stiffening takes a while to resolve.
Many people resume speaking and singing as soon as they feel better, but in
reality, the inflammation is still present. The continued voicing with
swollen vocal fold tissue tends to maintain degrees of the swelling, so that
full recovery is delayed even further.

I would recommend that you reduce voice use in speaking and singing, if you
haven't already, and not engage in louder and/or high-pitched singing or
speaking. For about a week, engage only in softer, easy talking; softer,
easy singing in a comfortable pitch range (e.g., easy sigh-glides and easy
5-4-3-2-1 scales; easy, slower songs in comfortable pitch range), and
attempt to do some easy "puppy whine" sounds with the lower pitches of your
"pure" falsetto. Every other day or so, "test" your falsetto by attempting
to sing the first phrase of "Happy Birthday" in "pure" falsetto, very
pianissimo and tiny-sounding, with the first pitch being middle C (C4) (key
of F major). Then sing that phrase 1/2 step higher, then another, and so
on. If you notice that no sound happens or voice onset delay occurs
(air-then-sound) along with vocal effort (particularly on the second pitch),
then that is a sign that swelling is still present. Let the healing happen
in its own time. Regularly "forcing" the pitches to come out can delay
recovery, as you probably know. As healing proceeds, you will gradually
resume singing clearly and easily in your falsetto register at least up to
C5 (probably at least up to about F5). If that does not happen, something
else may be happening. See a voice-experienced ENT doc.

If you would like to read up on these voice health and vocal register
processes, seek out a graduate vocal pedagogy student at OSU (Dr. Karen
Peeler's students) and look at their copy of Bodymind and Voice: Foundations
of Voice Education. Chapter 11 in the section called Book II ("How Voices
Are Made and How They Are 'Played' in Skilled Singing and Speaking") has the
register info (Chapter 15 has the conditioning info). Chapters 1, 2, 9, 10,
11, and 12 in the section called Book III ("Health and Voice Protection")
have relevant information about your voice health circumstances. Book III
is written by three ear-nose-throat doctors, a speech pathologist, an
audiologist, and a specialist voice educator (Who might that latter one
be?), but it is written for us, not other docs.

This, too, shall pass. Take care, be well, and keep up the good work that
you do.

Leon

**The voice quality that is referred to as lower register is usually labeled
chest register, but the chest has nothing to do with the production of that
general voice quality. The voice quality that is referred to as upper
register is usually labeled head or even falsetto register, but the head has
nothing to do with the production of that general voice quality. The terms
are at least 800 years old (13th century), when people thought that voices
"came from" various areas of the body where they prominently sensed
vibrations, and voices could be moved around or "placed" in the body. These
are prescientific vocal pedagogy concepts and terminologies that are still
used in the 21st century. But that's another story!


Leon Thurman, Ed.D.
Specialist Voice Educator
Fairview Voice Center
Fairview-University Medical Center
2450 Riverside Avenue
Minneapolis MN 55454

Founder, Development Director
The VoiceCare Network

Principal author and Co-editor [with Graham Welch, Ph.D.]
Bodymind and Voice: Foundations of Voice Education
[info available at www.ncvs.org]

"All the world's a stage...
and most of us are desperately under-rehearsed."
--Sean O'Casey, Irish Playwright




> From: "Nick Rothermel"
> Reply-To: choraltalk(a)lists.colorado.edu
> Date: Sat, 3 May 2003 14:30:17 -0400
> To:
> Subject: recovering falsetto
>
> Hello list,
>
> A couple of weeks ago I came down with a pretty nasty cold in which I lost
> my voice. Now, the cold is gone; but, unfortunately, so is my falsetto.
> Prior to this event, I felt that I had a good falsetto, and could use it
> with no real difficulty. After getting my voice back, I have tried to work
> the upper register carefully in choir warmups, but it is not helping. Is
> this a "lost cause", or is there a chance it could come back? Are there any
> techniques that may help me gradually gain this portion of my voice again?
> Being a bass/baritone, it is rare that I use it in choirs (except warmups),
> but I work it quite frequently in voice lessons, which I had to drop this
> quarter for fears of falling behind in my studies because of this.
>
> Thanks in advance for your responses. You may respond privately to
> lrotherm(a)insight.rr.com if you wish.
>
> Nick
>
> Nick Rothermel
> Music Major- The Ohio State University
> Novice composer of piano and choral music!
>
>

on May 5, 2003 5:15am
Dear Leon,

Thank you for the clearest description I have ever read anywhere about what
happens when one loses their voice. We are fortunate to have you in the Twin
Cities.

In a message dated 5/5/03 12:30:54 AM, vlthur44(a)msn.com writes:

>If you would like to read up on these voice health and vocal register
>processes, seek out a graduate vocal pedagogy student at OSU (Dr. Karen
>Peeler's students) and look at their copy of Bodymind and Voice: Foundations
>of Voice Education.

How about for the rest of us. Are these texts you describe available
publicly, or do we have to accost OSU students only? ;-D I'm sure I'm not the
only one on the list who would be interested in looking at these texts.

Thank you in advance.

Best wishes,
Steve

Steve Barnett
Composer/Arranger/Producer
Barnett Music Productions
BarMusProd(a)aol.com

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