[Note: This is one in a series of posts on being prepared to weather the best and worst of times when you depend on your voice for your livelihood. As stated in the preface for this series of articles these tips aren't meant to take the place of advice from a Medical Professional, if you need to see a medical doctor, see one!]
There’s a story I heard that was credited to a well known piano accompanist (I don’t remember who) about accompanying a famous diva. The accompanist was on stage and the diva walked out to begin the program. Just as the accompanist was about to start playing, the diva, leaned across the piano and hissed in a stage whisper “Don’t play too loud.” Taking a moment to recover from being startled by the outburst, the accompanist was just about to start again, when the diva leaned across the piano again and hissed “But don’t play too soft.”
While that story doesn’t speak specifically about phlegm, it does speak about something directly related to it; balance. While it’s pretty much there all the time, the only times you notice phlegm, mucus, snot or whatever you want to call it, is when you have either too little or too much of it.
Phlegm is the axle grease of the human body
Phlegm protects your nasal passages, throat and vocal folds by trapping all sorts of things keeps it from interfering with the works and it keeps them lubricated so things don’t get irritated or grind and cause more damage. The big difference is that a car doesn’t produce its own axle grease. The body does and because of that, it also has to get rid of it on a regular basis. That’s usually done by absorbing it or expelling it (yeah, I don’t want to know what you’re thinking right now). If that gets out of balance, then there’s trouble usually. You don’t want too much and you don’t want too little (Hello diva!).
Whenever the seasons change, I tend to have an issue especially when the weather turns colder. That also tends to coincide with one of my busiest singing times of the year. If I get out of balance, then I can be sick through the entire season and that’s neither good nor fun.
So what can you do?
I start doing a daily Saline flush. I know some people use this as a last resort when they’re so congested they can barely breathe or they have a really bad case of post nasal drip that leads to what I call the “Naso-Pharynx of Fire”. I use it to flush the system and give it a fresh slate to do it’s work. I know it sounds gross to a lot of people, but it’s very similar to gargling with warm salt water (same principle). It cleanses the nasal passages without prohibiting production of more phlegm; giving a good base for the body from which to work. Once you’re used to the process, it can be pretty soothing too.
There are two main ways to do this: a Neti pot, which uses gravity to circulate the Saline through your nasal passages and a squeeze bottle, which combines gravity with the force the fluid as you squeeze the bottle. You should figure out what works best for you, but always be careful and read all instructions first. There are specific ways to use these flushing techniques and you need to know what you’re doing before you do it. If it’s done right, it’s a very good thing and if it’s not, you can easily damage yourself, so be careful. It takes a little getting used to.
Stay hydrated. Yes, you’ve heard that you should drink water, but or the most part, as long as you’re drinking something, you’re hydrating. I’m not going to give you a set amount of fluid to drink in a day, you can figure that out by paying attention to how you feel. You might have to focus on that or a bit until it becomes a habit, but if you feel dry, drink something.
The exception are fluids that dry you out or make your vocal folds feel thick. That can vary from person to person, but things like red wine, caffeinated drinks (yes, that means a ton of those energy drinks), heavy sugary drinks and even milk. It all depends on you, but you know what affects you in which way, so be smart about it. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of remembering (Oh yeah, I’m singing for six hours tomorrow, maybe I shouldn’t drink red wine tonight).
Just some things that I do and make my habits to keep it all in balance and my phlegm friendly. I’ll talk about some other things that can have an afect on this, but aren’t directly related to this topic in future posts.
Up next: Protecting your energy.
I am NOT a Medical Doctor.
Who I am is a professional singer with a Masters Degree in Vocal Pedagogy (Teaching Voice) and over 25 years of professional performance experience.
Having said that, I’m currently in my busiest time of year as a singer. Which means that I’m pushing myself as hard as possible. And that means I’m concentrating on taking care of myself and my voice to make sure that I perform to the best of my ability.
That includes a lot of things that I have learned over the years through training and experience that I can pass on as tips to you. So I’m starting this series - Keeping Vocally Fit. I’ll try to keep them short and I can’t guarantee a set schedule for posting them, but they’ll be here.
These tips aren’t meant to take the place of advice from a Medical Professional, if you need to see a medical doctor, see one!
First up: Phlegm is Your Friend!
Photo Credit: The Local Tourist
If you follow us, you know we had a gig at El Sombrero Restaurant last Saturday night.
We had a great time and from all the indications, so did everyone else. There was a lot of dancing in a room with no dance floor (the aisles were packed), a few of “That’s my most favorite @#$*in’ song” proclamations and then singing every word along with us, a request for a ‘foot’ song (I don’t think I can tell that story by myself if I wanted to, but ask me sometime and I might try) and a couple of impassioned pleas to the bartender to let us sing ‘One more song’ at the end of the night. But the one that got me thinking was when one of the dancers danced close to us and at the end of the song was looking around to the side of us and on the floor, looked at us and asked
“Where’s your tip jar?”
And we replied in unison “We don’t have a tip jar”.
First, let me tell you, I’m all for tipping. If you want to tip us, we’re going to let you. We just don’t have a tip jar. And that got me to thinking about it and why we don’t.
I think that like all things, tip jars can be used well and abused. That goes for musicians as well as anywhere else you see them. I expect to see tip jars when I see:
- Someone Busking
It’s the way they’re making money, after all
- A piano player at a piano bar or a house band that appears more than once a month at a venue
They’re usually taking less money per performance, they take a ton of requests and are building a fan base and that’s the way people will show their appreciation
Where I don’t expect to see tip jars:
- A band playing at a festival
It’s a one time shot, or you’re looking to get asked back next year
- A band booked into a venue once or on a long rotation (every other month)
Same reason as above
Last Saturday’s gig falls into that second category. In that case it’s not about us, it’s about you. Now before you go thinking I’ve gone all saccharinely sweet “our music is all for you” on you, there’s a business reality to that statement too. If the owner thinks that having us back to play will get you back as a customer, we’ll be back to play.
So dance in the aisles, tell us that’s your most favorite song, sing along with us, beg the bartender to let us play longer, tell the staff you’re having a great time listening to us play and even ask them when we’ll be back there. Have a great time and let the staff know about it. If that happens, we’ll all be back together to do it again.
And if you feel like it, feel free to tip us. We’ll take it, just don’t expect to see a tip jar at our gigs anytime soon.
Recorded 12 June 2012
I was in a reflective mood when I recorded this week’s show. So here is an outline of my reflections.
First reflection, a Happy Birthday to Cara Carriveau, a friend and someone you should thank if you listen to this show. You’ll understand why when you listen and listen closely you should, I’ll leave it at that.
Second reflection, a farewell of sorts, I was surfing the web as I am wont to do occasionally, and I came across the Elburn Days website (The home of the 2007 seven and a half hour Jim & Tim Gig) and saw the Jim & Tim won’t be playing this year for the first time in quite awhile. And we’ll miss it. But things change and this is one of those changes.
Third reflection (well, this is multiples, but along the same line), is in regard to people who are impressive. a little about Paul McCartney as an example, but mainly about Jay Conrad Levinson, the creator and author of Guerrilla Marketing. I saw him speak over the previous weekend and there was was a quiet elegance and air around this man and what he had to say.
Fourth reflection(s) are about the internet and business at large and how they’re adapting to each other. I had the opportunity to attend a seminar/convention whatever you want to call it call Internet Prophets. Interesting to see and hear and I share some of my somewhat muddled thoughts about it with you. and how they might affect this show itself.
Listen above or download by right clicking and saving.
Photo credit: Will Clayton
Recorded 15 May 2012
This show is about three topics.
Jim & Tim‘s first gig of the season, a private birthday party, and all the ins and outs surrounding that. I talk a lot about those ins and outs, too.
A vocal tip about what to do when you want to relax your vocal folds. [Editor's Note: Before you try any tip, check with either your voice teacher or vocal coach, or if you're having physical issues, check with your Dr.] It came about because of the outdoor gig the night before and I talk about what I do .
The joys of website ownership/maintenance. A cautionary tale about having your Domain Registrar and Hosting service be the same company.
Listen above or download by right clicking and saving.
Photo Credit: Bigbadvoo