The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December Vocal Health/How to Rally

Without a doubt I will lose my voice at least once per year. This approximately happens between the months of October to December. This is mostly due to the drastically shifting climate in Oklahoma and the measures us Oklahomans take with an unpredictable thermostat.

Wildly shifting climates makes the allergens quite awful. Allergy attacks can cause a lot of excess phlegm and mucus to build up, which if not taken care of can lead to a sinus infection.
Colder temperatures can obviously lead to colds, fevers and flus. However, I take very good care of myself nowadays and I'm rarely susceptible to these general ailments. However, the thing I cannot avoid is the havoc the common house heater can inflict on the voice. 
It was only the past few years that I discovered and began to understand the correlation between my voice feeling like hell in the morning and the cranked heater blasting throughout the night. 
Heaters can "dry out your cords. If you're like me and find yourself sleeping with your mouth open, this can cause you to wake up with thick, swollen cords. 
Even if you sleep with your mouth all closed and what not, the heater combined with the cold can suck the moisture right out of your skin, and your body when dehydrated drains from all parts of your body, including your vocal cords. This is why lip balm, moisturizers and cough drops are extremely prevalent during this season.

The key is to NOT lose your voice.

Once you've lost it, the only thing you can do is get a steroid shot, a z-pack and to go on vocal rest. This is lost practice time or worse, cancelled performances and auditions and lost paychecks. The best thing you can do and hope for is preventative care.

Procedure to not lose your voice.
You must be hyper aware of your instrument. Which, after about 3 or so years of consistent singing you'll start to get a real feel for the voice in the seasons.
Sleep with a cool mist humidifier. Not warm mist. Warm mist spreads bacteria apparently. You don't need that shit hosing your house down all day, turn it on when you're going to sleep and turn if off when you wake up. 
If you start developing excess phlegm or gunk, nip that shit in the bud asap. Take a mucinex and triple your fluid intake. Keep up your exercise, especially your cardio. It will help clear out your deep bronchial tubes. You don't want that gunk to linger and harden. Even if you're not feeling 100%, make sure you vocalize frequently throughout the day to keep the voice moving and getting that gunk off your cords. This is a very horrific process to put yourself through because you're not going to be pleased with the sounds or how it feels. But, it's for the better good.

Rob Peter to Pay Paul

In some circumstances you will feel yourself on the brink of vocal collapse and be forced to make a decision to either sing through the junk or cancel. It is not healthy to sing through sick, swollen cords and can actually be dangerous. The best thing you can do for your future is to cancel and live to fight another day. But in the real world of singing for a living, you're going to be put in a position where you're obligated to sing even if you feel like complete garbage. The best thing you can do in this situation is minimize collateral damage. Switch out rep that's less taxing if possible, don't exert yourself more than you have to. And if you give more than you got, you've got to live with the consequences. 

Here is a small tale of how I nearly lost my voice and how I was able to rally.

These past few weeks I was piled with many singing obligations. Christmas is a very busy time for singers and musicians. It's generally a very good thing. However, this can also be a lot of additional work to be piled on to an already demanding life.

This week I not only had no less than 5 singing engagements (or was it six...can't remember) but I also needed to make a few recordings of some of my more demanding repertoire I sing.

Long nights, early mornings, progressively demanding training, training other people, writing another book, planning a large move/life change, all while the climate is shifting and the heaters are blazing, all led to me not having an ideal week in regards to vocal health. And when you sing on unhealthy cords, you reap the consequences.

The recording session went very well. I'm particularly pleased with my recordings of "Marianne" and "Music of The Night." However, that day had already been a bear with a lot of training others, training myself, and the night before I got less sleep than ideal. After the recording session which lasted an hour and was spent with me singing the entire time, I quickly went to another rehearsal where I sang a few group chorus pieces where I sang low bass, I sang the Grinch song and capped it off with O Holy Night.

My voice is very versatile. This is both a blessing and a curse. Because I'm capable of doing lots of different music and enjoy doing so, I often find myself in a position where I'm literally singing the entirety of my range. I know very well that this can often come at a cost, meaning some really worn out vocal folds. It's something I've come to grips with and I'm learning how to navigate.

The next morning I woke up with the worlds supply of phlegm resting on my cords. This isn't too alarming, this happens all the time when I push my voice too far, it doesn't necessarily mean I won't be able to sing. Once I clear the morning gunk out and begin to vocalize, that's when I find out how the day is going to go. I found out about mid afternoon that I was NOT going to be able to sing O holy Night and that my voice was extremely swollen and fatigued. I had no access to my high voice.

That day turned into survival mode. I had more than a few singing engagements left to complete and could not afford to cancel on any of them. That evening after mucking through the group numbers and the Grinch song, I bought a humidifier and slept with it going full blast in my room. I went on a full on mucus relief medication regiment and said a few hail marys. I made sure I got 9 hours of sleep despite not being tired and waking up three times through the course of the morning.

That day I vocalized throughout the day. I tested the high voice and after each vocalization made sure I cleared the gunk in my throat by gargling apple cider vinegar.

In the end, I didn't lose my voice. I sang all of my engagements which included singing O Holy Night on two concerts. But now, I'm resting the voice. I'm letting myself recover from what I put that sucker through last week and focusing on things I can do to improve my career that don't require me to sing. At least until this weekend.
Until Next Time,
Lift Big, Sing Big, and Look Great Doing It.
The Opera Bro

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