Voice therapy

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I have been back to The Voice Clinic of Indiana— http://www.voiceindy.com/ —for a check-up on my surgery and for my first two sessions of therapy.

Dr. Parker once again snaked that infernal scope through my nose and into my throat. He immediately commented how good things look. He said that the stitches have held perfectly and noted that the webbing is forming as he had hoped. The ends of my wide smile surely were touching both of my ear lobes.

He removed the scope, then showed me the video. He didn’t even have to point out how much smaller the white area is. I am perhaps ninety percent healed. He pointed out the end of a suture, which clearly sticks out. To get rid of it, he jammed a scissors down my throat and snipped it off. (Of course, he did not!) No, he said it would dissolve.

Watching my vocal cords in action, he noted how the bottom half was not completely closing, leaving a little gap. That, he said, is the source of my hoarseness, or, as he called it, the breathy sound. That is a perfect lead-in to my session with Gabrielle, the voice therapist.

Gabrielle relates well, laughs easily, and her education, experience, and professionalism always shine through. I grew fond of her quickly. Of course, anyone who laughs at my humor is someone I will quickly like.

She talked about my breathiness. Noting the video, she said that with exercises I can close the gap where the vocal folds are not coming together and achieve a clear sound.

You surely know how singers warm up with “me, me, me, me, me”? The “m” forces one to use the front of the mouth. This gets the strain off the throat. Gabrielle gave me four exercises to do twice a day, for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. The first is to warm up by saying “meeeee” a number of times, working to achieve a clear sound.

After a couple of minutes of that, I move onto saying “whoop,” over and over, going from low to high pitch. At first, it was hard to make a clear sound with this. After a week, it now comes out crisp and clear every time.

Next the “boom” comes down. I say that word, now going from high to low pitch. This one is harder. I cannot consistently make it clear, as with my whoops, but I have improved.

The “boom” contracts the vocal folds, while the “whoop” stretches them. Moving on, to strengthen the folds I say a series of “meeee” sounds, at pitches from the lowest to the highest I can comfortably go. I usually hit six pitches. I am to hold the “meeee” for twelve to fifteen seconds. Try it. Fifteen seconds is a long time to do this. My longest is seventeen seconds.

I return to a series of “whoops” and “booms,” and then one more time to “meeee.” By now, I’ve gotten to at least twelve minutes. Whew! I can feel it.

If you find that you would like to improve the clarity of your voice, these lessons are for you. After only one week, I was seeing very nice improvement. But, wait! There’s more!

The first voice lesson was March seven. I returned nine days later. Gabrielle was armed with a new exercise.

She gave me a straw, the really wide kind that makes sucking a milkshake smooth and easy. She instructed me to place one end against my top, front teeth, close my lips around it, and suck in air. She modeled it for me. When she sucked in, you could hear the air. When I did it, there was silence.

My tongue was in the way. I had to consciously drop it, touching its tip to my lower row of teeth. That did it! Suck-cess!

Next, she had me breath out, focusing on the front of my mouth. Then, she had me add “meeee” to it, and then remove the straw as I did it. The goal is to “meeee” with clarity, removing all breathiness. This came easily, a perfectly clear noise.

Yet, when I returned to regular speaking, here came the breathiness. Wow, do I have a lot of work ahead of me.

I am to continue with exercise number one, and add this one for five to ten minutes at a time, twice a day. After “meeee,” I say a bunch of “m” words, like “mama” and “milk” and motion.” After doing well with those words, I move on to non “m” words, which are harder to voice clearly, words like “vote” and “rain” and “lamp.”

Gabrielle recognized how many questions I have been asking, so she knew that I was enjoying learning how all of this works. She told me that this exercise comes from Joseph Stemple. Here is a video, showing him working with a patient.

When you are on this YouTube page, the menu should show other, similar videos. You might find what you are looking for, if you long to improve your voice clarity or strength.

So that I can chart my progress, Gabrielle had me download a voice pitch analyzer app on my phone. On it, I can record my voice and chart my pitch levels. Here is a screen shot of my first effort.

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Note the gray bar. It shows the range at which I spoke. See that I never went below the female range, and I also reached the top of it. On another page, which tracks my recordings, it says “Your voice is in the female range.” Wonderful!

I have not posted any videos since January 31, when I was permitted to begin speaking.

On that day, you heard a terribly raspy voice. I am pleased to report that I have improved a lot. You hear a tiny bit of that in the two voice lesson videos.  Since I have a ways to go, I will forego a new, regular video for now. With how rapidly progress is coming, I hope to show you my new voice by early April. Then, try to shut me up!

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