Oversinging - We've all done it - and have regretted it. Even as its happening, we know that what we are doing isn't a healthy, sustainable habit for our voice yet we persist... singing and pushing louder, higher, more intense. These days, it seems that the current musical taste is that if we aren't bleeding from our vocal chords, we just aren't giving as much as we should. It's all a recipe for damaged vocal chords and ultimately, every singer's nightmare - vocal nodes.
The hangover effect of oversinging can last for days depending on a few things: 1) how long did you oversing 2) your overall health 3) your age. The older you are, the longer it will take for your vocal folds to heal from oversinging.
As a long time voice teacher and singing coach, I have helped many students avoid the pitfalls of oversinging that can lead to long term vocal damage. Here are some great tips I can share that might help you.
1) Make sure you can HEAR yourself. Improper vocal monitoring is the number ONE cause of oversinging. It stands to reason that if you can't hear yourself sing, you will be more inclined to sing louder than you should. If you are performing at an open mic or a pro event where there is a sound mixer and cannot hear your vocal, ask the sound mixer to turn you up - it's not vanity, it's self preservation. If you are in a large crowd and no one is using a mic, just self-regulate and back off on your volume. No one will notice or care whether you are heard above the others.
2) Adjust your singing style according to your own personal vocal range. If the song is in your sweet spot, use your natural voice. If the song goes above your vocal break, either use full falsetto or mixed voice, depending on the song style. Either of these vocal techniques will help you avoid oversinging and undue vocal strain.
3) Are you breathing properly? Often in the excitement of a live performance or the moment, we can forget all of the good singing techniques we use in the studio. Make sure you are supporting your singing with good abdominal engagement and deep effective breaths.
4) Are you tensing your neck or shoulders? Tension in either of these places will invariably lead to vocal tension and strain. Make sure your shoulders are back and your neck is relaxed.
5) Keep an eye on the clock. No one (with the exception of trained professionals) should be singing for more than 90 minutes at a time. Our voices are not designed to be used non-stop for hours on end and require rest. Remember, your vocal folds are small and extremely sensitive, treat them with respect.
6) Are there air borne irritants? Fragrances, smoke or animal allergens can all cause your vocal chords to become inflamed. If you are prone to allergies, taking anti-allergy medication such as Claritin or Reactin can help avoid vocal fold inflammation that could lead to oversinging.
7) Do you feel like you want to cough when you sing? This is an immediate red flag that you are pushing on your break and are causing irritation to the innermost region of your vocal folds. Switch to falsetto or mixed voice in that range to avoid further irritation.
Oversinging does not have to become a habit. A little self awareness can prevent long-term vocal damage.Treat your voice well and it will be there for you your entire life.