What is vocal fatigue?
Vocal fatigue is a general term that describes strain, tiredness or weakness in your voice. A simple definition of any type of muscular fatigue is that your muscles are running out of fuel faster than you can replace it. Anyone who places heavy demand on their voice can experience vocal fatigue, not only singers.
Symptoms of vocal fatigue
Since there are many types of fatigue, individuals might experience a variety of symptoms, including:
What causes vocal fatigue?
Should I worry about vocal fatigue?
Preventing vocal fatigue
- Vocally-abusive behaviours, such as persistent throat clearing, coughing, yelling, or prolonged loud talking.
- Monotone speaking and keeping your voice down in a croaky place. By continuously varying the pitch and volume of your voice, you distribute the vocal load more evenly across the entire mechanism.
- Speaking environments that are dry, smokey, or excessively air-conditioned. These environments will tend to irritate the mucous membranes of your throat and reduce your vocal stamina.
- Noisy environments cause you to increase your vocal effort and volume in an attempt to lift your voice above the noise – a phenomenon known as the Lombard effect.
A good voice coach can help you prevent fatigue, by building your vocal technique. With proper functional voice training, you can increase your vocal strength and stamina, preventing common causes of fatigue. Some important technical skills are:
- Strength in the chest voice and even closure of the vocal folds to ensure your voice is not breathy
- A sound that has a sense of connection and support from your body
- Breath management
- Supportive posture
- Clean onsets, so you don’t start phrases with a breathy tone or with a hard attack (glottal onset).
- Flexibility so that you can vary your vocal range and intonation.
All singers and professional voice-users need to know how to warm-up their voices effectively. A good voice coach can help you develop a warm-up tailored to your needs. Research has shown that singers who warm up, report fewer instances of vocal fatigue and recover more quickly from heavy voice use.