I have a theory that part of the reason that live sound is marginal these days despite advances in equipment is the fact that an entire generation of live mixers (maybe 2) learned the wrong way, focusing more on the drums than on the element that needs the most attention – the vocal. It appears the same may also be true of singers as well, as an increasing number of vocal celebrities, even those that are classically trained, are not only losing their voices, but require surgery to get it back.
In a fantastically in-depth article in The Guardian, major stars like Adele, Sam Smith, Lionel Richie, Bono, Cher, Michael Bublé, Keith Urban, Meghan Trainor, Celine Dion. and more than 700 others have undergone delicate high-risk microsurgery by Dr Steven Zeitels, who directs the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation.
That in itself is startling statistic, but it appears that at least an equal number of singers have taken an holistic approach to treatment encouraged by Lisa Paglin, a former opera singer turned voice coach, and Marianna Brilla, her coaching partner. They claim that the surgery pioneered by Dr. Zeitels is nothing but a temporary fix, and that many of his patients will eventually have problems again that will most likely be even worse.
So what exactly is happening here? Essentially a singer develops micro-tears in the soft flesh of the vocal chords, and at certain frequencies they don’t come together properly so no sound comes out. The reason this happens is because the demands of modern singing encourages all vocalists (even opera singers) to fall into bad habits, like taking big gulps of air, tensing the throat and jaw muscles, forcing the mouth to open to exaggerated proportions, and the urge to scream out the high notes (sound familiar).
If you’re a singer, I highly recommend that you read this article. It might save not only your singing voice, but your career.