Strengthening your vocal chords

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by SmalltownPastor, Dec 1, 2013.

  1. SmalltownPastor

    SmalltownPastor
    Expand Collapse
    Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2012
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    0
    I frequently lose my voice while preaching. It probably happens several times per year. I didn't think too much of it my first year preaching. I thought that it would become less frequent as I strengthened my vocal chords from consistent preaching. But it seems to be happening slightly more often lately.

    We have amplification in our sanctuary, and I'm always hooked up to a mic, but I still naturally project my voice when preaching. I guess I could work on pulling back a bit, but I'm really not the type that is constantly shouting, just speaking loudly. So I think that it's reasonable that I should be able to preach the way I'm used to preaching.

    I think Spurgeon wrote that he told young preachers to toughen up their vocal chords by not wearing a scarf in the winter. I'm not sold on his method, but I wonder if there are some things I could be doing to help my vocal chords become less likely to go out on me. Do any of you have a similar problem? What do you do?
     
  2. annsni

    annsni
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    Administrator

    Joined:
    May 30, 2006
    Messages:
    20,193
    Likes Received:
    374
    I would say to find a vocal coach maybe. My husband preaches loudly - but loud is his default state for speaking anyway so his vocal chords are used to it. :) Seriously, sometimes he hurts my ears when he's talking right next to me and he's always been known as the one who doesn't need to be mic'ed in the church plays. :smilewinkgrin:
     
  3. Baptist Believer

    Baptist Believer
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2002
    Messages:
    6,655
    Likes Received:
    189
    If you are losing your voice, you are abusing your voice. As a preacher, you are destroying the instrument that God has given you. This needs to be corrected immediately.

    My advice:

    Go to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat specialist) and tell the doctor of your symptoms and have the doctor examine your throat and larynx to ensure that you do not have a physical problem that is irritating your throat or causing the symptoms. It could be something as simple as an allergy or worse, such as nodules on the vocal cords.

    If everything checks out, ask the ENT for recommendations for a voice teacher. You may want to take singing lessons which will help you train your body to support your voice (everything from breathing techniques to methods of projection) without straining the vocal cords.

    I grew up singing and learned to breathe from the diaphragm, so I've never had to deal with voice problems, but I know a number of people who have.

    Jerry Vine had a book on preaching a number of years ago that had quite a few tips for delivering sermons, including breathing, warming up the voice and how to modulate the voice effectively without yelling. No matter what you might think of Jerry Vines, it was excellent advice and I would highly recommend it. Somehow that book has escaped my library over the years, but I'm sure it is still available in some form. I'll see if I can find the title for you and post a little later.

    UPDATE:
    The book I used to have was one half of what is apparently now called "Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons." It looks like some of the same material integrated with the other preaching book he had at the time (how to prepare sermons) and updated. Looking at the Table of Contents in the preview on Amazon, I see he still includes the breaching and relaxation exercises as well as a section on the voice.
     
    #3 Baptist Believer, Dec 1, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2013
  4. Baptist Believer

    Baptist Believer
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2002
    Messages:
    6,655
    Likes Received:
    189
    Spurgeon was wise in many things, but that's foolish advice. As a young minister, I ran into many old preachers who could not speak anymore because they had ruined their voices. I took that lesson very seriously.

    If you are regularly losing your voice, getting hoarse, or your throat hurts after preaching, you are damaging your throat.
     
  5. SmalltownPastor

    SmalltownPastor
    Expand Collapse
    Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2012
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for the tips. I did a quick google search for "vocal coach" in my small town and can't find any. But perhaps (as you suggested) singing lessons would be just as effective.

    I guess I should also mention that my voice is back to normal 30 seconds after I stop preaching. Hydration seems to help somewhat while I'm preaching, but often by the time I realize I need water, it's too late. Perhaps I need to get in the habit of taking a sip every few minutes or so.
     
  6. padredurand

    padredurand
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2004
    Messages:
    4,384
    Likes Received:
    20
    I'm not a vocal coach by any stretch of the imagination. You have two voices: a head voice and a chest voice. Your head voice is the one you use when you're telling the Missus that she's looking pretty as a new pony. It the voice you use to order a coffee or chat. It doesn't take a lot of air coming out of your lungs to vibrate the vocal chords and make an audible sound.

    Your chest voice is that booming sound you make when the Cowboys fumble the football or the neighbor's dog is watering your petunias. It is loud and forceful. It takes a lot of air coming out of your lungs.

    What strains the voice is trying to get a chest voice sound out of your head voice. Where a voice coach will help is teaching you how to get that lung full of air and letting the instrument in your throat work at peak performance without forcing or straining it.

    Now about that sound system you have.... Properly mic'd and well designed you should be able to whisper and everyone in the place should hear you fine- but that would be a discussion for another thread.
     
  7. annsni

    annsni
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    Administrator

    Joined:
    May 30, 2006
    Messages:
    20,193
    Likes Received:
    374
    Unfortunately, I don't think my husband doesn't have a head voice. He is so loud all.the.time. Part of it is partial hearing loss and part of it is just him. I'm so grateful he lost 30% of his lung capacity to asthma because if he had it all.......
     
  8. padredurand

    padredurand
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2004
    Messages:
    4,384
    Likes Received:
    20
    [​IMG]

    :laugh:
     
  9. Baptist Believer

    Baptist Believer
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2002
    Messages:
    6,655
    Likes Received:
    189
    I mentioned your post to my wife, as well as the advice I gave, and she mentioned that you may have acid reflux issues - so mild that you don't notice any discomfort, but enough to irritate your throat.

    She is a musician and a singer and went to a voice therapist last year for issues with her voice. She now takes an antacid when she eats foods that may cause acid reflux and avoids lying down within an hour after eating. He voice has improved and the irritation is gone.
     
  10. Baptist Believer

    Baptist Believer
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2002
    Messages:
    6,655
    Likes Received:
    189
    If there is a local college or university, I suggest you contact the school of music or possibly voice therapy (if they have such a program) and ask for guidance. Quite a few music professors make a little extra money doing that kind of work on the side.

    That's good. You may just be preaching in a dry room. You may want to take a small glass or water or a water bottle to the pulpit. No one should be offended at that and it doesn't have to be a distraction.
     
  11. dh1948

    dh1948
    Expand Collapse
    Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2003
    Messages:
    550
    Likes Received:
    0
    Sorry I am late coming in on this thread. I just read it. I want to share some information with all of you. It may or may not be relevant. I have been a preacher for 40 years. 39 of those years were spent as a full-time senior pastor. I was not a "screamer" as a preacher. I did raise my voice for emphasis when it was appropriate.

    About 6 years ago I noticed that I would have to often clear my throat as I preached. I chalked it up to sinus drainage. Later on, I noticed that I would occasionally get a bit hoarse as I preached. Again, I didn't pay much attention to it. I just made sure I had some throat lozengers handy, and I would pop one in my mouth a few minutes before I would preach.

    After a couple of years, I started being hoarse most of the time, in and out of the pulpit. I found that at times it was difficult for me to form certain words and difficult to get enough air to speak clearly.

    I went to a specialist and discovered that I have spasmodic dysphonia, a condition of the vocal chords that is often contracted by people who sing and people who speak publicly. I went through speech therapy. It did not help. The only treatment for SD is botox injections into the vocal folds. For some people it is a temporary fix, but the shots normally have to be repeated every 6 months to a year. For some people...such as in my case...the shots were ineffective. After the first injections, I could not speak above a whisper for 4 months. My voice cleared slightly for about three months, but it returned to raspy and has never changed. That has been three years ago.

    The amazing thing about it is that when I speak forcefully, as in preaching or speaking to a large group, my voice is crystal clear. I used to think it was a miracle. My doctor explained it was because I was forcing enough air to cause my vocal chords to vibrate.

    I still teach and preach, though not every Sunday. SD is not painful. It is aggravating more than anything. One thing for sure, it will make you appreciate having a clear voice.

    There is no cure for SD. Some people resort to surgery on the nerves of the vocal chords, but few people notice only a minor difference.

    I shared this information in hopes that those of you who are experiencing some hoarseness in your voice, especially when you preach or sing, will take it seriously and seek medical advice if it worsens. There is a lot of information about SD available online. Do a search and read for more information.
     
  12. preachinjesus

    preachinjesus
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2004
    Messages:
    7,406
    Likes Received:
    99
    I too missed the original posting and would add a few things:

    1. Check your habits before you preach. What are you eating and drinking? is a big first question. Keep in mind, the way God made us, what we put in our mouths will impact our vocal chords. When I was first out of seminary, I always had coffee with me when I preached and taught. At one point, I pretty well blew out my voice while preaching one time due to lack of water (lack of my preparation really.) So I had to reconstruct things. Removing caffeine and drinking a hot, herbal tea (decaf) was a great move for me. I also use mineral water after preaching (san Pellingrino) to help prepare for the next sermon.

    2. Spend time with a voice coach - Learn how to support and use your voice. If you're blowing out your vocal chords regularly it might be due to how you talk. If you talk out of the front of your mouth it is harder than supporting and talking from your abdomen (to put it oddly.) Let the coach work with you and learn exercises to warm up before preaching. Also a trip to an ears, nose, and throat specialist will be a good thing. Acid reflux can be a hidden danger.

    3. Listen to your sermons, do you yell or use loud words? - Maybe how you preach is in need of change too.

    I was able to get some practices in my life that certain help today. Let us know how its going. :)
     

Share This Page

Loading...