Swelling tests

These tests are designed to detect acute or chronic vocal fold mucosal injury
reliably; they are to be done every day in the morning and evening. Be sure to
check pitch levels on a keyboard or pitch pipe.

TEST I: “Happy Birthday

1. In your upper voice range, sing the first phrase of “Happy Birthday” as softly as you can,
using a “boy soprano pianissimo.” Resist the temptation to “make it work” by getting louder!
2. Repeat the phrase at progressively higher pitches.
3. Verify carefully the pitch at which you falter (onset delays or air escape) or can’t go higher
without getting louder. This is your mucosal ceiling pitch, for this task.
4. If your mucosa is normal, the soft and loud ceilings should be about the same.
5. If your mucosa is abnormal, the loud ceiling should be higher than the soft.

TEST II: Staccato
1. Sing again “boy soprano pianissimo” using the descending staccato figure so so so so so fa mi re do. Attack each note precisely in the middle of the continuum between an aspirated ho and a coupe de glotte.
2. As for “Happy Birthday,” repeat at progressively higher pitches.
3. Again carefully verify the pitch at which you experience onset delays or air escape or can’t go higher without getting louder. This is your mucosal ceiling pitch, for this task.

Daily testing is crucial. After a few days of performing the swelling tests, you will discover your “mucosal ceiling.” Above this point, the voice will falter—experience increased air escape and /or onset delays—unless you get louder. If your ceiling lowers, this may mean that you have developed swelling, or that known swellings have increased in size. You should then analyze recent voice use to see if it has been excessive in any way. In this way, the swelling tests can serve as an early warning system and prompt you to relative voice rest until the ceiling returns to its usual pitch.

Common pitfalls
. First and foremost, is the tendency to adjust how the voice is produced when the voice begins to falter. A singer will, for example, unconsciously get a bit louder or use a slight glottal attack to “make it work,” thereby reducing the sensitivity of the tasks. Another might be to perform them without a pitch reference at hand, so that the value of comparing with one’s known ceiling pitch is lost. A third might be to become a bit too obsessive and easily “spooked” with any ceiling change. And finally, comes the tendency to “lose the habit!”

*Vocal overdoer: Defined as an individual with both of the following:

1) a high propensity to use the voice. Generally, “sixes and sevens” on a 7-point (maximum) intrinsic talkativeness scale.
2) A high extrinsic opportunity or invitation to use voice, based on family, social, vocational, and avocational considerations.