Oooh, a study that examines vocal health in amateur choral singers!
The most common conversation about vocal health I have with young and amateur singers is when they are sick or stressed, and it hurts them to sing. They ask me what to do about it, assuming I’ll provide them instruction about their singing.
Most commonly, I give them this lecture:
The most important thing you can do for the health of your singing voice is to take care of your speaking voice. You sing for a few hours a week, but you talk all day every day; so speaking has a much larger impact on how those muscles act and feel.
My advice to almost every single one of them is:
Raise the pitch of your speaking voice just a little bit, and imagine using a little head voice all the time. Not whispy and light like Marilyn Monroe, or as heady as Julia Child, but just gentler and warmer than you currently speak. Pay attention to vocal fry when it occurs (usually at the ends of sentences), and back off pressure and volume to prevent it.
Many are surprised at the possibility that their voice is a thing they can change. They think “this is my voice, this is how I talk,” as though it were as fixed as the length of their limbs. Most of them believe their voice is and/or should be lower-pitched than nature actually suggests. Who can blame them, when research shows such complex perceptions of lower voices as “socially dominant,” but higher female voices as “more attractive?” Who wants to wrestle with trying to be perceived as attractive and dominant and feminine all at the same time? Might as well just push your vocal folds into a perpetual state of vocal fry and have done with it.
No! What I meant was, might as well speak healthfully, at the pitch your voice naturally wants to be, with a flexible balance of warmth and resonance.