Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: June 2013

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

To Cancel or Go On With The Show When You Are Sick


My supportive friend Vinny Ribas and me at my gig

For this post, I invited my great friend Vinny Ribas, founder of 'Indie Connect' and wellspring of practical music business wisdom, to give us his thoughts about cancelling gigs when we find ourselves suddenly sick.
I don't know about you but I never anticipate getting sick, and making a decision about cancelling in the foggy state of my head in that condition is a little dicey. Next time (but hopefully never again) I get sick before a gig, I'll remember the following advice from Vinny:
Knowing that you're getting sick is certainly is a precarious situation to be in. I've always found that contacting the venue right away and letting them know the situation is the best thing. They are used to this. Every club owner prefers to deal with things differently. Some will demand you play, others will get right on the phones to get a fill-in, and even others will insist that you find the fill-in. Here in Nashville, there are thousands of acts who could fill in at a moment's notice, and many of whom could send a blast out to their mailing list and light up their social networks to bring in a last-minute audience in. All of that said, here is what I suggest:

1. Contact the venue as soon as you think there is a chance you'll be too sick to provide a decent show. Tell them the whole story and ask how they want to handle it. I would emphasize that if they allowed you to cancel, you would help find a replacement so the venue would not go dark for the night. I would also explain that you can't, in good conscience, promote the show further knowing that you wouldn't be able to do it justice.

2. Try to have an act 'on hold' in case you have to cancel the day of or the day before. Try to do that before calling the venue so that you can present them with some real options.

3. Consider bringing in an opening acoustic act for the 1st third to half of your show. This will cut the amount of time that you have to personally perform.

4. If you perform at all, sell CDs and merch. This can help you offset costs that you can't eliminate, such as travel and paying the band members etc.. This is an important reason why every artist needs to have residual incomes and a reserve fund.

5. Watch out for legal implications. Did you have a contract with the venue? What does it say about cancellations? Hopefully it has an 'Acts of God' clause in it that gives you the right to cancel if you are too sick to perform. The last thing you want is to end up in a legal battle over the gig.

6. Make a careful choice between the importance of this one gig and the chance that you might blow out your voice for the next month, especially if you have other gigs or studio vocals lined up.

[Judy adds: Consult your doc and vocal coach to help you make this choice.]
I hope that helps. Have an amazing day! - Vinny
[Judy adds: Vinny, you help everyone have amazing days, man... thank you for sharing your wisdom with us here!]  To 'All Things Vocal' readers: If you are a songwriter, do check out Indie Connect's Virtual Songwriter Showcase, Sept 21 - 22!

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Vocal Coach Gets Laryngitis (It Happens!)

 I'm not in pain... I'm pulling back pressure- and it worked!

I just got a fresh reminder of the depression, angst and abject fear laryngitis can give a singer or public speaker. That's because I, your trusty vocal coach, caught a cold! It's amazing the research I do for you guys, you know?!

I started coming down with it last Monday. The thing is, it's been three years since I couldn't kick an impending bug out before it became a full fledged respiratory infection. My herbs, chiropractic interventions and other remedies always (almost) come to my rescue... but this cold was bound and determined to be had!

It couldn't have come at a worse time; I had a rare full band gig that Thursday. What makes it even scarier is that I have a history of colds turning into laryngitis as a matter of course. It's just what I do. So no, the gig on Thursday was not a good vocal night for me. In fact, I probably should have canceled. Next blogpost will be on that conundrum... to cancel or not...

But this post I want to tell you how  yours truly navigated the 'L' word. I'm happy to report that in spite of singing on swollen vocal cords (DON'T DO THAT!!), because I know how to pull my breath pressure instead of push my voice, I actually could talk even better after singing! Unreal. I was also just plain lucky, I think. I only did half my set, and I drank everything I could get my hands on that had water in it, so that helped. I also 'pulled' my voice when I talked to people in the audience.

I kept up with the herbs (I'd have been burned at the stake in the old days if someone looked at the bottles on my kitchen sink), chiropractic visits for diathermy, the hot epsom salts baths and neti potting. The only time I truly experienced laryngitis was one day when I coughed a lot from the inevitable move of mucous into my lungs. Amazingly (for me), though I'm still blowing my nose, I'm back to vocalizing high C's with my students, and it's only been 9 days. It used to take me three weeks to recover my voice.

Here's a summary of my research on the matter of laryngitis. Now, I don't want to have to repeat this experiment, so take notes:
  • HAVE SUPPLIES ON HAND BEFORE you have any signs of problems! Figure out what nutritional supplements work to enhance YOUR immune system. A cold thwarted is better than a cold fought! Then keep those supplements stocked. You may not be able to get to a health food store (or feel like it) in time when the germs come knocking. Consult with a nutritional medical practitioner. Check out sources of info and products like the Superior Vocal Health company. Another recommended concoction is  Consider signing up for my newsletter; you get a 5 page bonus report full of vocal health tips).
  • CATCH IT EARLY! Try to nip a cold at the slightest catch in your throat - before the infection can take hold. Most (but not all) of the time, you can if you act fast. Steam your throat, take hot epsom salts baths (unless your have circulatory problems or could be pregnant). Take your immune boosting supplements! Go to the chiropractor for an adjustment and/or diathermy treatment! [I want to take a second and thank Dr. Dwaine Allison, my chiropractor, who took special care of me... his treatments and advice made all the difference.] Get a lot of sleep!
  • HYDRATE LIKE YOU ARE A FISH!! Your voice needs a thin layer of mucous... and when vocal cords are swollen they evaporate a lot more water from their edges than normal. Steam, drink, don't ingest anything dehydrating. Keep doing it all day... and definitely at any performance or speaking engagement you feel you have to do.
  • EAT LIGHTLY... if at all. Your body needs to devote its energy to fighting infection so give it a break and don't make it digest normal meals. Also, I personally find that eating a lot really revs up mucous production when I have a cold. Whatever you eat, make it easy to digest - mainly fruit and vegetables, and try some ceyenne pepper on it. Yes, homemade garlic-laden chicken soup can make your feel better. But I mostly let my digestive system rest.
  • REALLY GIVE A NETI POT (or similar nasal irrigation device) a good try. If you can wash out the allergy- causing substances before they create a petri dish-like condition in your nose and sinuses, you can often avoid becoming a bed of roses for the floating pathogens around you. ALSO... using a Neti pot before bed can dilute post nasal drip and keep so much of it from going on down to bathe your laryngeal tissues all night. I believe my Neti pot use is a big reason laryngitis doesn't set in like it used to after every cold I had.
  • DON'T PUSH YOUR VOICE! If you HAVE to speak or sing, do your very best to use as little air pressure to make sounds as possible. You do this by pulling back as powerfully as you send sound forward. Power, Path and Performance technique really works to limit the strain you put on your vocal cords.
  • TRY VERY HARD NOT TO COUGH! It's the surest way to get laryngitis. If you have to because you're drowning in mucous, do it as softly and easily as possible. 
  • AVOID DRYING DRUGS. You'll dry your vocal cords as well as your sinuses. Some otc remedies work for some people, but do take note of any drying effects on your voice. Check with your doc for her/his recommendations, but be sure and tell them you are a vocal performer.
  • GO TO THE DOCTOR... if at all in doubt that you might have a bacterial infection of some kind. Viruses don't even shrug at antibiotics, but bacteria are another matter.
  •  CONSIDER CANCELLING your performance. We'll cover that next blogpost.
  • KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR if at all possible... check your pulse, you are human. Even nutritional health practitioners get colds from time to time. Simple colds can be whisk brooms to sweep out a lot of toxins along with the copious mucous. Chill out, silence can be sweet and peaceful. You'll feel, and sing, GREAT when you get well!
Anyone else like to share some experiential research in laryngitis? What worked (or didn't) for you?

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