I Want My Raspy Morning Voice to Stay!

Doctor with an actor

Dr. Jahn,

My career is just starting to take off but I have to admit that my voice only sounds the way I want it to for the first 30 minutes in the morning! It is very pliable, unique, a bit raspy and powerful. This “magic” will only last until my voice gets warmed up, and once it does, I lose the biting and unique sound, and it becomes weak, less pliable and has much more “breaks”. What is happening in the morning, and is there a way to sustain this voice for performances? 

– Tim

Dear Tim,

I read you question with interest – most singers dislike their “morning voice”, and are often apologetic during a morning visit to my office if I ask them to vocalize. 

So the question really has two aspects: what makes your voice different in the morning from later in the day, but, equally important, what is you idea of a good voice? I ask this because for some types of singing, raspiness, huskiness and lower tones are considered better, whereas the warmed up voice, which is centered at a higher pitch and may be clearer, is not what is called for.

Consider that during the night, your vocal folds are at rest – not completely immobile, since they gently open and close with each breath, but certainly not moving significantly. Consider also that they may dry out a bit: you don’t swallow while asleep, you don’t drink water, and you may breathe through your mouth. The surface of the folds can then be dry. Further, if you have reflux while sleeping, the larynx may be come elevated, and even a bit inflamed, resulting in edema and a temporary thickening of the folds. When you phonate with such vocal folds, you need to muscle the voice a bit more, which also changes the quality. 

Any of these phenomena can explain what you describe, although I can’t honestly explain the pliability – most singers find that pliability increases as they warm up, especially in the mix.

Now: how to hang on to this voice? I would suggest that you go to a good voice coach and demonstrate the two voices to him/her, to see if you can learn to mimic that morning voice any time of the day.

-Anthony F. Jahn, MD, FACS, FRCS(C)

This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.

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