Why Do Rock Singers Lose Their Voice? A Detailed OverviewDevlon Jarrod Horne
I’ve lost my voice twice during a resident gig. I still had to perform and it was horrible. So, I decided to find out if it was common if rock singers lose their voice and what the causes and cures were.
Rock singers lose their voice due to improper vocal technique, overusing their voice, not letting their voice recover sufficiently, and voice misuse onstage and off. A rock singer’s voice may also deteriorate with age due to the physiological conditions of the larynx as age sets in.
That’s a pretty straight forward answer but I wanted to find out what exactly could go wrong with the voice. What the specific causes and cures where. If I damaged my voice and sang would I hurt it and need surgery? Would I be able to sing when I’m old and grey? So, I went and dove deep into the voice, how it works, problems, cures, and tips on how to keep a rock singer’s voice healthy for a lifetime.
Why do rock singers lose their voice?
First, let’s understand what is going on in the throat and with the vocal cords. Once we know these factors then we will be able to understand why rock singers lose their voice.
How the voice works
We use what is called the larynx (which is also known as the voice box) to sing. However, we need to utilize our lungs, our back muscles, rib cage, diaphragm, oral cavity, and more to be able to sing. It is not just the larynx and the vocal cords that play a role.
The vocal folds (cords) are membranes that close and open when we speak or sing. The vocal cords vibrate and then we manipulate that vibration with our tongue mouth and oral cavity to create the sound that is singing.
When air pressure builds the vocal cords come together and then the sound is created. The vocal cords are surrounded by muscles and they can be used to bring the vocal cords together or pull them apart.
For soft sounds, the vocal cords will come together gently and for louder sounds, they snap together forcefully. The muscles on the outside of the larynx can tighten the vocal cords to increase the pitch of the voice or relax the vocal cords to decrease the pitch of the voice.
Problem areas for the voice
The main area that causes problems for rock singers and other singers is the larynx. The larynx does not just contain the vocal cords as I said. The larynx contains other muscles and cartilages as well.
Now rock singers and other singers are using these surrounding muscles repeatedly. If not trained, exercised, and kept healthy these muscles can easily tire or become too tight.
So, from too much singing and repeatedly singing the surrounding muscles can become very tight, and because of this, they lose their fluidity. Hence, you are not able to glide up or sink down in the pitch of the voice easily or at all sometimes depending on how tight the muscles are. This effect on the vocal cords can also cause the voice to sound strained and cause pitch breaks.
How to remedy an overused tired voice
The best and easiest remedy for a strained and tired voice is just simply, rest. Muscle tension dysphonia is the most common problem related to a tired voice. Depending on the severity of it, it may require voice therapy.
More problem areas for the voice
Another problem that is more severe and is more common than you would think is vocal nodules. Luckily for males, this problem is more common in female singers.
What happens is the anterior part of the vocal cords come together quite tightly. If this occurs for a time period over a length of a number of months this could lead to inflammation in that part of the vocal cords
How to remedy vocal nodules
Just like with an overused and tired voice one remedy is to rest the vocal cords and then another is to learn to sing correctly and rock singers do that by seeing a vocal coach (look at my article on – Do Rock Singers Take Voice Lessons? A Detailed Overview).
Other factors that could help remedy vocal nodules are keeping hydrated and using the steam room before and after singing so as to allow the vocal cords to rest and allow any inflammation to settle. If vocal nodules become too severe then surgery is often required.
Take a look at this YouTube video were Top Doctors UK explains why do singers lose their voice.
Now rock singers are just like other singers and the same problems that occur with other genres occur with rock singers. Sometimes, more so, because of certain techniques that rock singers and metal singers apply such as screaming.
If the techniques of screaming are not learned correctly then a rock singer could most definitely lose their voice quickly and even sometimes damage their voice to such a degree that they are not able to use it properly again without surgery.
Is a rock singer's voice different from other voices?
A rock singer’s voice is not different from other voices and ill explain why. Certain characteristics of a person’s voice are genetic. Such as the size of the vocal folds, the size and shape of the throat, mouth, and nasal cavity (look at my article – Are Singers Naturally Talented? Is It Genetic? Are They Born Or Made?).
These are factors that influence a person’s tone (timbre), and because genetics will determine the size of the vocal cords this will directly impact the person’s range.
So, rock singers’ voices are not different from other voices. Rock singers will learn other techniques including classical and modern vocal techniques and manipulate their voice to create the sounds and tones you hear.
Some of these techniques include screaming (look at my article – Why Do Rock Singers Scream? And Find Out How!). Then other techniques include belting, vibrato, vocal fry, falsetto, and so on.
Do rock singers learn to sing differently?
Rock singers definitely learn to sing differently from other genres but some techniques are incorporated to learn how to sing rock. There is actually a “default” voice setup to sing standard-issue rock.
Rock vocals are predominantly a T A Dominant Mechanism explains Dr. Daniel K Robinson. This could also be referred to as your “chest voice sound”. This voice is typically taken higher in rock and that is what gives us that exciting feeling in the vocal melodies and the music.
Watch Dr. Dan explain rock singing and tips on how to sing rock.
Do certain vocal techniques damage a rock singer's voice?
Rock singers learn to sing differently than other genres and because of this, they learn certain techniques that could place stress and strain on the larynx and vocal cords if not done correctly.
Screaming can most definitely damage and ruin the vocal cords even when done by a trained professional rock singer.
Then belting done incorrectly which is pushing, straining, singing to loudly with poor technique, and forcing the voice could also damage and ruin the vocal cords for rock singers.
What mistakes do rock singers make when singing that damages their voice?
The most common mistake is the use of improper technique and not knowing the proper technique when learning to sing. We will go over some other common mistakes of singing at rock singers make and almost all other singers make that hurt, strain, and ruin their voice.
Rock singers don’t change keys of songs
To sing rock is to sing a genre that is blanketed with stereotypes of being cool and macho. If you don’t sing in the proper key then you might be looked down on. Even professional rock singers like Bon Jovi drops the keys of his songs in live performances to save his voice.
Rock signers think higher is always better
Rock singers are born with a certain range and they are able to take that range and extend it lower and higher but the voice is only capable of what it is born with. A singer who is a bass singer cannot sing tenor and vice versa. Rock singers try to sing higher than what they can and damage their voice.
Rock singers don’t practice their technique
Clouded in the mists of cool and macho you often hear a rock singer say that they have not taken a vocal lesson and they don’t need to take vocal lessons in order to sing. Hence, they do not know the proper techniques and end up damaging their voice.
Rock singers sing too loud
Falling again into the stereotype of rock is singing to loud. Rock signers think they have to push and scream to get the job done. There are techniques that allow them to achieve these effects, but they are proper techniques that have to be learned and perfected such as screaming and belting.
Rock signers don’t take care of there voice when not on stage
Not only rock singers but a lot of singers don’t really take care of their voice when not on stage. They warm up before a show and cool down afterward and that’s that. Rock signers are well known for this. You need to take care of your voice on stage and off.
Rock singers don’t warm-up
The vocal cords are surrounded by muscles and we use these muscles to move and manipulate the vocal cords. Rock singers often don’t warm up and just jump onto the stage and go right for those big screams and high notes and then what happens? They blow out their voice.
Watch this YouTube video from Billy Gollner who goes over these mistakes and a couple more that singers make.
What is the lifespan of a rock singer's voice and does it deteriorate with age?
As with any singer when you get older your vocal cords lose their pliability, the voice tends to drop and the high notes fade away.
Rock signers can sing well into their winter years if they carry on singing and sing with proper technique. Remember that singing is like any other exercise and if you keep it up and practice and sing on a regular basis then you will be able to do it later on still.
However, some techniques will fall away and they will not be able to cope with the constant hammering those techniques have wrought on their voice over the years.
How does a rock singer keep their voice healthy and avoid ruining their voice?
There are many ways to keep a voice happy and healthy and I’ve come up with quite a list that rock singers and other singers can use and implement but we will only go over the top 5 tips here and leave the others for a dedicated article.
Top 5 tips for keeping your voice healthy and strong
Do not use substances
Needless to say, everyone should stay away from alcohol, smoking, and drugs. Remember for a singer and rock singer, anything they put into their mouths goes straight past the vocal cords. Alcohol, smoking, and drugs are a no-no.
Do not sing from your throat
Remember to use the correct technique and not scream or shout directly from your throat. There are techniques that you learn to implement proper screaming. Use them.
Do not sing if it’s sore
Having tightness or pain in your throat is a warning. If this happens then stop singing or screaming and take a break until your voice is recovered
Warm-up & cool down
Use beginner exercises, tongue trills, and lip rolls to warm up in the morning, before a show and then use them and use gentle sirens to cool down after singing for an extended period of time.
Keep your voice hydrated
Drink pineapple juice and keep your body hydrated. When your body suffers so does your vocal cords. Not being hydrated can cause tension and tightness in the muscles that surround the larynx
What rock singers have lost their voice due to damage or age?
Here are top 5 rock singers who damaged and lost their voice due to improper technique and/or age:
James Hetfield – Metallica
Bono – U2
Roger Waters – Pink Floyd
Dave Mustaine – Megadeath
Our conclusion is that due to improper technique and then with age and not using the voice as many rock singers lose their voice.
Improper technique is a big factor when rock singers are still performing at the hight of their careers. Combined with substance abuse and ill-treating their voice off stage, the consequences can and are sometimes dire, requiring tour cancellations and surgery.
As rock singers get older the vocal cords lose their elasticity. On top of that, the years of substance abuse and improper technique can deteriorate a rock singer’s voice so bad that they are not able to sing anymore. Combined with the fact that they do not use their voice as often as they used to, and singing to some degree is a perishable skill when used with the improper technique they are unable to sing.
If you liked this article be sure to check out my other articles on rock singers here