Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: December 2015

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.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

New Year's Resolutions For Your Voice - What, Why, How to Make Them Real

How true it is!
Subscribe on AndroidThe idea of making New Year's Resolutions is a strange tradition which mostly becomes a to-do list that doesn't get done. Michael Hyatt suggests if we turn the idea of a resolution into a goal we are much more likely to act on it. I'd go farther and say every goal needs a plan. So as we pause here between the old and new year, I suggest you make a plan to turn some resolution(s) and goal(s) into reality for your voice:

Find It

Finding your voice includes exploring both nature and nurture... also known as hereditary and environmental factors. Both physically and psychologically, you can resolve to explore your vocal territory. Most people have more range and resonance than they know. And, most people have deep waters of life-experiences, spiritual connection and world view they have not consciously explored and possibly even reformed. Who are you and what do you know that could make the world a better place? It's time to choose or create songs that deliver the messages you want to speak or sing, with your own full voice. 

Heal It

Almost all vocal damage can be reversed by taking enough time for voice rest and then diagnosing and addressing the cause of the damage or strain. Quite often, bad vocal techniques need to be re-training to get excessive air pressure and tightness off the vocal apparatus. Sometimes it's the speaking voice that is straining or damaging the singing voice. Sometimes it's acid reflux requiring dietary changes and possibly medication. Sometimes it's psychological issues creating a whole body tension and guarding behavior that sabotages breath control. And sometimes it's some other physical disease or condition. Change your diet or other habits, get yourself healthy or to the doc or the coach. Whatever it is... it's time to figure it out and then do something about it!

Improve It

Everyone, as long as they have breath, including yours truly, can learn something new. If you know you have chronic vocal issues or limitations, there truly are keys to help you to break through those seemingly solid walls. If you stopped using your voice for some reason, it's time to get it back, and then some.  If you are currently singing or speaking consistently, it's time to get curious about just how far you can go to gain more vocal ability and less vocal fatigue. 

Protect It

OK this is your vocal coach mama speaking... no more gambling with those tiny 1/2 to 3/4 inch vocal cords! No more yelling, screaming, pushing or straining; no more not drinking enough water! Resolve to make it a solid goal to warm your voice up before performance! (Of course it should go without saying that you actually know HOW to do those exercises. If you don't, just sing a light melody instead of doing vocal tighten-ups!) Also, do all the other things that help keep your voice healthy. The awesome bonus is that the same things will make your whole body and spirit healthier, too!

Use It

The last goal resolution I'd like to suggest is that you actually use your voice. Haven't sung in a while? Maybe start in the shower, the kitchen while you're cooking, serenade your baby or your puppy dog. Go join a choir, participate in karaoke events. Don't let fear stop you. Were you really good back when? Have you been off tour for too long? Resolve to work it back - and have confidence that you can indeed meet your goal. Make another goal to look for places to sing, and sing everywhere you can! What about your speaking voice? What do you need to say that you have stuffed for too long? Have you ever thought about having or re-starting a speaking or voice-over career? The world needs your wisdom, your view, your understanding and your vocal connection. Use it or lose it. It's time. 

So what's stopping you? 

  • Time? You are in charge of your time allocation. Accept responsibility to do so. 
  • Finances? You are reading this blog at no cost, aren't you? There are economical ways to train your voice, including CD courses such as I have available on my site. You don't have to take 10 vocal lessons to get better... even one should move you to your goals. 
  • Fear? Don't let being afraid, timid or stuck be your payoff for not putting forth the effort. Trade fear for persistence, patience, and don't expect others to do it for you. This is your life!
  • Lack of knowledge? Whether it's career success, places to use your voice, or finding out who is trust-able and can help you, just resolve not to be lazy... because the information is out there! Choose to reach out, brainstorm with others, use internet search engines, study music business books, enroll in workshops and training programs. 
I'd love to hear from you: What goal(s) will you choose to reach for next year? If you need help, let me know. Thank you for being part of my village; Happy New Year from All Things Vocal!

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Cold, Cough, Laryngitis! 9 Day Journal of a Desperate Vocal Coach


Desperate times call for desperate measures!!

Day 1 Monday 

I noticed I started a weird dry cough that evening. Didn’t seem to be a reason for it. So I just ignored it and kept watching the rerun of Castle I was into. The new episodes have been awful… they split up over no good reason. Kind of like my cough.

Day 2 Tues

I started feeling like I might be developing some kind of  ‘something trying to get me’ which could possibly have hitchhiked a ride to my office with some students who recently said they’d felt something, too.  But in positive mind-over-matter mode ‘I never catch it- I’m bulletproof, I got this’… I ignored the danger like a female Bill Murray in the ‘Scrooged’ movie I just watched. 

Just to hedge my bet, I began taking OnGuard (DoTerra), Kick Ass Immune (Wishgardens) and using my neti pot. I carefully disinfected mics, stands, surfaces and doorknobs in my office and took a few students, making sure not to touch or breathe on them. The last lesson of the night, I ominously noticed that I was starting to lose my speaking voice. Yes. Play the low warbly keyboard pad here.

Day 3 Wed

Cancelled all lessons. Dry hacking cough relentless, mucous around larynx thick, complete laryngitis set in. Voice rest is mandatory when you have no voice. Ate very light meals, including homemade chicken soup and potassium broth. (Thank you, God I had some in the freezer!) My husband got his pillows and moved into the guest room to keep my air separate from his. (OH yeah I’d have done the same!) 

Took a hot bath with Epsom salts before bed, kept up with neti pot and herbs, salt water and raw cider vinegar gargle. Internet search for natural cough remedies suggested sleeping with Vicks salve or eucalyptus salve on the bottoms of feet. Socks were mandatory to keep the bedsheets from getting matted up with the stuff, so I went for my fluffy loose pink pair. Poor things, they’ll never be the same. I knew I’d be better by morning.

Day 4 Thursday

No better. Cancelled all lessons. Nothing stopped the constant voice-abusing dry cough. Again ate very lightly, including fruit smoothie, green drink and broth. My mother, still possessing her 6th sense intuition, called and upon hearing my lack-of-voice reminded me of 2 old remedies for cough she doled out when we were children: honey and onion, honey and whiskey. My internet search provided a recipe – apparently many mothers made the same discoveries and went on to teach digital age children who spread the word. 

Went to the grocery for organic honey and red onions, liquor store for a small bottle of Jack Daniels. Also fresh ginger for tea. Gave the elderly bag man who helped me out to the car some of my hand sanitizer. Came home and made both the cough syrups.  The honey and onion seemed to help calm the cough for the first time. The honey and Jack just made me feel tired and well, yes, I did sleep deeply. Still wearing the now salve-infused pink socks. Looking forward to feeling great when I woke up.

Day 5 Friday

Woke up coughing like I’d been waterboarded, with horrible mucous still encasing larynx. Cancelled all lessons. When I asked, John said my coughing didn’t wake him... it was my snoring! He exclaimed slowly, with his eyes really wide, that he could not describe the decibels I reached. The way he said it brought up visions of  a moose cow with bronchitis, maybe giving birth to quintuplets. 

To speak still hurt from the laryngitis, so I went on voice rest most of the day. Kept up everything I was doing, but honey and onion syrup was the only thing that would touch the coughing. I actually felt better, and our son wanted to come for dinner, so I ate salmon, rice & veggies. Probably ate too much, channeling healing energy into digestion, because uncontrolled coughing and tight pharynx seem to worsen. Tried alternating food grade hydrogen peroxide with my salt- raw cider vinegar gargle – that always works! Didn’t. Slept with now freshly icky pink socks and knew this thing would be over in the morning!

Day 6 Saturday

Slept good but I don’t think John did. Laryngitis still almost total and tight, inflamed pharynx still creating that hacking cough. Cancelled all lessons. Still doing honey onion syrup, adding my friend Barbara’s homemade colloidal silver, ginger tea, Yogi’s Cold Season tea, Throat Saver, On Guard, Old Indian Wild Cherry Bark Cough Syrup, Ricolaaaahhh , and EVERYTHING ELSE IN MY CABINET! 

Epson salts, pink socks, and I was sure tomorrow would be the turnaround.

Day 7 Sunday

Woke up and felt better in general, but laryngitis, dry cough and thick phlegm still there. Tried to rest. Didn’t have to cancel lessons, first day I mercifully didn’t have any booked! Kept up with everything on blind faith it was doing something. 

Around midnight, woke up with a burning sore throat for the first time. UNFREAKIN REAL!! Looked in the mirror and my throat was beet red on both sides. What’s THAT about?!! Suddenly scared sick it was turning into strep or bacterial infection. Oh, and also coughing up green stuff. Desperately turned on computer, google searched and came up with the ‘garlic + honey + cayenne pepper’ remedy. Started off to the kitchen, tripped in the dark over the mini tramp in the hall I’d been using to try and move lymph fluid around. (Lot of good THAT did!). Somehow didn’t wake John. My snoring must have been IMPRESSIVE! Anyway, I lay there for a few moments counting ribs and letting the throbbing of my leg subside. 

Didn’t seem to be any major damage, so I picked myself up, off to the kitchen to peel the garlic and, with mortar & pestle, fix the horrible tasting concoction. Mortar & pestle not very efficient at mashing the fresh garlic cloves, I had to chew the still chunky garlic before I could swallow it. My considered opinion is that John would rather die of pneumonia than take this stuff. But he’s a drummer, not a singer! Cautiously I took ¼ teaspoon of it and almost threw up. Shivered, walked around til things settled, back to bed. I wake up, I take ¼ tsp more, almost throw up, shiver til it settles, back to bed, to rinse and repeat all through the night. Not sure I even want to live to see how I’ll feel in the morning. Thinking 'kill me now and I won’t have to take the next dose!'

Day 8 Mon

By morning, almost all of the redness and soreness was gone! So was the coughing! Chest congestion mostly gone, too! Some laryngitis still evident but no pain. Cancelled all in-person lessons to keep students safe; planned on giving an evening Skype lesson. The student cancelled because she has a sore throat! It's everywhere. 

Industriously I created more 'torture cure' adding lemon juice to the honey+garlic+cayenne and using an immersion blender this time to make it slip down more smoothly. (Found out it doesn’t help. Still nauseating) Made some homemade hummus and ate it with fresh veggies and corn chips. Then back to the garlic-honey-cayenne pepper torture. Wondering if I turn my naked back to the mirror I will see a hole has eaten through my inward parts. My taste buds, now numb as little doorknobs, are on strike. Can’t taste anything, but I have a distinct feeling there is a garlic cloud going before me every step I take. I must smell like a pizzeria on acid. Steering clear of John, who mercifully has a diminished sense of smell from sinus trouble!

Later that night, I noticed the side of my tongue was sore and the back of my throat was starting to get a little red. Paniced now. Went to the internet and AAAHHHH read that you CAN eat too much garlic and it CAN eat holes in your intestines (We all believe the internet, don't we?) OK, hot epsom bath and no more garlic tonight... going back to the honey onion syrup and On Guard throat drops! Tomorrow, tomorrow… ok now I sound like Annie.

Day 9 Tues

I'm back!! Woke up after a restful sleep, cleared out my lungs/throat/nose with neti pot and some productive coughing, then felt great! It's done, it's done, just the dregs of the debris to get rid of. My head voice is back and talking feels fine. Thank God! I'm fresh with empathy for all singers and speakers who get colds! Time to begin gentle rehabilitation vocalises... 

Conclusions:

  • There is no cure for the a common cold. This respiratory virus is nature's internal whisk broom, and everyone needs a housecleaning from time to time.
  • Shortening it, protecting ourselves from bacterial overgrowth secondary infections can be possible. I hope there was a reason I ate that garlic!!! But if a secondary infection does brew, it's time to see a doctor. If in doubt, check it out!
  • Can't believe everything you read on the internet, but it can be helpful if taken in careful doses.
  • If it hurts to talk, stop using your voice! Cancel performances. No phone calls, no singing, vocal exercise should be stopped, don't even listen to music. Voice rest, hydration and sleep are non-negotiable to create a short duration of viral laryngitis and keep vocal inflammation from turning into vocal damage.  

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