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The Performance Major's Survival Manual: Part 3 - Health Management

Table of Contents

Introduction

Part 1 - Time Management

1. Goal Planning

2. Time Management Tools

Part 2 - Stress Management

1. Stress and anxious 

2. Burn-out

3. Stage Fright and Audition Stress

4. Stresses in Personal Life

5. Finances

6. Extreme Stress

7. Help with Disabilities

8. Writing and Spelling Help

9. Transportation Issues

10. Housing Issues

11. Stresses at School

12. Being a Performance Major

Part 3 - Health Management

1. Eat right, sleep well

2. Affordable Doctors

3. Dentists

4. Eye Doctors

5. Colds and the Flu

6. Allergies

7. Sore Throats

8. Injuries

9. Marijuana

Printable Activity Sheets

__________

*Photos and clip art in this guide have been used courtesy of pixabay.com.*

Health Management

Part 3 - Health Management

1.  Eat right, sleep well

2.  I need an affordable doctor

3.  Need a dentist

4.  Need an eye doctor

5.  I have a cold—AGAIN!  Or is it the flu?

6.  I have allergies!  Or maybe it’s reflux.

7.  Lots of sore throats

8.  Too many injuries as a dancer or instrumentalists

9.  And now a word about marijuana…………….

Eat right, sleep well

1.  Eat right, sleep well

Don’t forget to EAT!  You need fuel!  And don’t skip a healthy breakfast.

See:     www.webmd.com/diet/features/many-benefits-breakfast

 

Activity 3.1

Eating on the Run

Eating on the run!

See “10 Healthy Snacks for Busy Dancers” Kathi Martuza 5/23/13 

 www.danceadvantage.net/healthy-snacks

 

Activity 3.2

 

Why is sleep important?

From Transitioning to College by Catherine L. Tully, p. 30

"Why is sleep important? Well, there are so many reasons!

•  It helps your memory

•  It helps your immune system

•  It helps you maintain a healthy weight

        •  It helps you regulate your emotions

•  It helps you repair your body, including muscles and other tissue

As a dancer (and a college student), the reasons above are crucial to your success. Take the time to make sure you are well rested."

I need an affordable doctor.

2. I need an affordable doctor.

            Unfortunately Valencia doesn’t have a clinic on any of their campuses.  If there is an emergency though, DO call Security right away:  407-582-2000.  The security officers will come to you right away, and will know what to do.

            Too often, students don’t go to a doctor and then they keep getting re-infected or the flu lingers on for weeks.  As a performer, it’s wise to nip it in the bud and do to a doctor to knock it out.  Especially when it’s a throat problem that affects your performance.                      

            If it’s not too serious a problem and you can’t get in to see your family doctor, you can simply walk in to a Minute Clinic at certain local CVS Stores, or Walgreen’s Healthcare Clinics.  Trust me, it’s worth it.  Google either of these and your GPS will give you locations that are nearest you.  You usually won’t have too long a wait.  You sign in at the computer near the Pharmacy, and there’s usually a computer screen telling you how a long a wait you’ll have, like how many people are ahead of you.  Average visit to see the nurse practitioner or physician assistant is around $70.  The nurse is trained to diagnose, treat, and write prescriptions for common illnesses like strep throat, the flu, bronchial infections, eye, ear and sinus problems, skin conditions, stomach problems, reflux, minor wounds and sprains, anxiety, trouble sleeping.  They are really good at recommending over-the-counter medications. They can also give vaccinations, like flu shots, tetanus, hepatitis.  And they’ll refer you to a specialist if need be.  They can do routine lab tests with instant results for those with asthma, high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure. 

            The downside to going to a walk-in clinic as opposed to your family doctor is that  these nurses don’t have your full health records, so they are only going on what you tell them.  For visits that need a follow-up or an x-ray or blood test, they would refer you to your family doctor. 

            You need a family doctor.  But these clinics are great for when you are so busy and can’t wait for an appointment. 

I need a dentist.

3.  I need a dentist.

Google “Dental services by students of dentistry, Orlando” and local dentistry schools will come up where you can get free and affordable dental services by grad students who need hours working with real clients to graduate. 

On West Campus, Valencia’s Dental Hygiene Clinic offers this service!  For $20 you can get your teeth cleaned and $20 X-rays (with your regular dentist’s approval).  Call 407-299-5000 extension 1305 for appointments, or stop by AHS, Room 126A on West Campus to make an appointment in person.

I need an eye doctor.

4.  I need an eye doctor.                

            Valencia does not offer student optometry services, like they do dentistry, so Google “Optometry Services by Optometry Students.”  You may be able to find a local school of Optometry that has grad students that can do an eye exam for cheap.

            You can also get student discounts on eye exams and glasses at a store called All About Vision.  And check the discounts at these stores:  Vision Max, Eyeglass Superstore, Visionworks, and Lenscrafters.  Most of them offer free eye exams, and then a BOGO free on a second pair of glasses you buy.

I have a cold--AGAIN!

5.  I have a cold—AGAIN! Or maybe it’s the flu.

You work so closely to one another, working on a show, and work yourself ragged, it’s no wonder Fine Arts majors pass around colds. I recommend that you take Emergen-C Immune Plus System. Drink it every day.

Washing your hands really IS a preventative.

 

Slideshow:“13 Tips to Strengthen Your Immune System” by WebMD

http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ss/slideshow-strengthen-immunity 

“5 Fast Tips for Preventing Colds” by Everyday Health.

www.everydayhealth.com/cold-flu/preventing-cold-and-flu.aspx

“Preventing Colds and Flu” by NHS Choices.Answers to common questions like, Can vitamin C stop a cold?

Does Echinacea reduce cold risk?

Will zinc put off a cold?

Does getting wet or cold cause colds?

So what does work to prevent colds and flu?

www.nhs.uk/Livewell/coldsandflu/Pages/Preventionandcure.aspx

 

This is just my advice, but when I’m not over the “cold” in 3 days, or feeling better and better day by day, I go to the doctor.I go to a Minute Clinic at CVS or Walgreens.I’m always glad I did, because otherwise the symptoms persist and persist. They don’t just go away on their own with over-the-counter products. I’ve seen my students ill for weeks and weeks, or catch the cold again, and are sometimes ill all semester. If they’d just bit the bullet and gone to the doctor, it would be nipped in the bud.

I have allergies.

6. I have allergies.  Or maybe it’s reflux.                                           

           Allergies are a huge issue in Florida.  Everyone has them.  You may be bad enough that you need an allergy doctor to administer all the costly tests and get you on a program, possibly for years.  If over-the-counter medication like Claritin works for you when seasonal allergies hit, then keep doing this.  But every medication has a side effect, and it may make you sleepy.  Clink the link below for 50 self-help tips that really work, to keep allergies under control, taken from Dr. Art Ulene’s book, How to Outsmart Your Allergies, Richmond, VA: Healthpoints, 1998.  There is a lot you can do to prevent flair-ups.  

***LINK

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1346&dat=19980517&id=PyQuAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Mf0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=3488,3685165&hl=en

"Reflux" (burping up stomach acids, which irritates the throat) is a really common problem and it’s dastardly for vocalists and actors.  It may or may not be accompanied by heartburn.  It could just show up as a need to constantly clear your throat, or coughing.  See a doctor if you suspect reflux.  The doctor will recommend taking antacids like "Tums," avoiding acidic food at night, caffeine drinks, and elevating the head of your bed with a wedge.  But be aware that reflux is sort of the catch-all diagnosis by many doctors today.  Your problem may be allergies or a virus instead.

If you suspect reflux, don’t take an antihistamine or it may cause your throat problem to get worse!  Instead take Musinex or some other store brand “mucus control” pill.  This dries the mucus deep down the throat instead of making the mouth all dry.  You could take this every day.  I do.

I have lots of sore throats

7.  I have lots of sore throats.

This is definitely my area, as a Voice and Speech expert, with 30+ years of experience working with clients, and a second Master’s Degree specializing in vocal health and vocal therapy.  Below are some of the many articles I’ve written that will guide in…

How to Keep Your Voice Strong and Healthy

How to Keep Your Voice Strong and Healthy

How to Keep Your Voice Strong and Healthy

Your VOCAL HEALTH is affected by:

1.  If you warm up (and cool down) properly

2.  Your technique on stage--"misuse" and strain can result from improper vocal    

            technique, like neck and jaw tension, posture, and poor breath control.

            Adjusting your character voices and dialects is important too.

3.  Overuse--"abuse" results from pushing it too hard, too often, and trying to maintain a too-rigorous schedule with inadequate rest .

4.  Adjusting to your acoustics and performing environment

5.  Your overall health--how you take care of yourself outside of your performing day,

            including what you eat and drink, and how you control allergies and viruses.

            Your past, your "vocal history," affects your current vocal health.

On the next several pages, I will share "How to Keep Your Voice Healthy,"

offering dozens of helpful, practical tips for what you can do:

                                      Before work

                                       During work

                                       After work

                                      On breaks and days off

These are tips I've collected over a 25 year period, from ENT doctors, scientific research, voice therapy texts, and personal experience coaching thousands of actors.  These work!

If you have a question or a special vocal tip that works for you, please share it with me and I'll include it in my next edition.  Contact me at gkopf@valenciacollege.edu  407-924-8928

How to Keep your Voice Healthy article

HOW TO KEEP YOUR VOICE HEALTHY

by Ginny Kopf, Voice and Speech Trainer

 

BEFORE WORK:

1.  Come to work in top form physically--rested, and neither hungry nor too full.

2.  WARM-UP:

                On the way to work, do a mental inventory of how you feel physically, mentally, emotionally.  CHOOSE to leave problems at home.

                CHOOSE to be in the present moment, so as to best serve the audience.

                Talk, sing to the radio, or recite your lines, so your voice wakes up.

                Humming is the best warm-up.

                FOCUS yourself with deep breaths.  Deep breathing both relaxes you when you're stressed and energizes you when you are feeling low.

                Before you go on stage, "FIX" yourself physically with stretches, shoulder rolls, head rolls, breathing deeply to relax shoulders, throat, jaw, mouth.  Do vocal exercises.  Learning how to keep the throat open and free takes daily practice.

DURING:

1.  Check posture--avoid neck straining forward, straining up, or pulled back.

                            --keep shoulders relaxed down, so neck is long and floats up easily

                               --no veins popping out of the neck when you speak!

                               --aim voice out to your guests as much as possible; think of splashing them with the sound.

2.  Breathe deep and low in your belly.  Avoid breathing high in a tight chest or the throat will close off the sound.  Literally "choreograph in" a breath when you have to yell.

3.  It's important to establish rapport right off, with very clear diction and strong emphasis so that the audience focuses in on you.  This focus will help them listen so that you don't feel you have to push to reach them.

4.  Instead of straining to be heard:

                Use very clear articulation, because your lips and tongue won't get tired, but your throat will.

                Open up your mouth and thus your throat on the vowels.  Don't squish the sounds with a small mouth opening.  Aim the sounds forward and out.   It's important not to pull your mouth back tensely, or the sound gets stuck in the nose or the throat.  

                Use inflection on important stress words, because monotone is hard to understand.  But don't go too high or low out of your range or you'll get that fake sounding "mic mouth."  Going too high or low pitched is also strenuous on your voice.   

                Stress the important stress words by opening up the vowels and stretching them out, rather than hitting them hard and fast with a tight throat.  On loudest sounds, the jaw and throat should be especially open.

                Physicalizing is often much more effective than a lot of fast-talking yells.

                Adjust the placement of character voices and dialects so that they are more forward, not affecting the back of the throat so much.  Try to be clear and strong without any tension or pullback of the jaw and tongue.  Support the tone. 

                Avoid speaking out of your natural pitch range, too high or too low.

                VARY your voices and volumes.  Pushing one voice in one range for too long will tire out your throat.

                Ask a voice and speech coach to watch your performance to check for tension and other troublespots in your technique, and to suggest ways to adjust for maximum tone.  Even the most experience performers need a little feedback every now and then.       

5.  Acoustics:  Know your sound track.  Contrast in pitches of ambient noise.  Time your yells between spurts of sound track.  Don't try to compete with noises. 

                Keep aware of the need to adjust to changing microphone conditions.

                Whenever possible, make sure the audience can see you and that you are standing above them

                Use proper mic technique.  Talk across the mic, not into it with a small mouth opening.

6.  Weather:  In high humidity, you literally have to choreograph in deep breaths.  In cold weather, wrap your neck with a scarf to keep it warm. 

 

AFTER WORK:

1.  Especially when you've pushed your voice all day, do a "cool down" of some slow stretches, head and neck rolls.  Hum for about 3 minutes, as humming is literally a massage for the vocal chords.

2.  After the cool down, avoid speaking and stress for at least an hour.  This may mean not going directly home, if your home situation or the drive home is stressful.

ON BREAKS AND DAYS OFF:

1.  Try to rest your voice.  No whispering, which is straining.  If you have to talk, save your voice by speaking in a bit of a light, breathy, higher voice.  Don't talk in a low, gravelly vocal fry voice.

2.  You can talk softer on breaks than you think.  Get closer to people, rather than yell across the breakroom.  Articulate instead of talking loudly on the phone.  Get away from noise and others who are talking loudly, so you don't have to compete.

3.  Water, water, water is going to be your life saver.  It will clean you out.  If you're really hot, avoid icy water, which shocks the throat.  If the water is cold, roll it around in your mouth first, then swallow.

4.  Milk and chocolate causes excess phlegm in some people, but not in others. 

5.  Smoking is the worst thing you could do to your voice--you know that.  It irritates those tender tissues till they puff up and rub each other raw; so raw that you're numb to the soreness.  It's just like "smoked" meat--your soft palate gets tough and loses the flexibility to raise and lower with the full control you need for speaking and singing.  (Alcohol too is very drying, and marijuana is ten times hotter than cigarettes.)  If you still smoke, at least try to wait until your shift is over, and try to cut back when your throat is sore. 

6.  Fans and air conditioning are very drying.  Avoid fans blowing at your face, adjusting them so that the air blows up or around the room instead.

7.  No throat clearing, as it's very jarring.  If water and a big swallow doesn't work, then clear your throat very gently.

8.  Keep your neck warm on breaks and at home with a towel or scarf, especially if you have a sore throat, or if you go back and forth from heat to air conditioning during your shift.  If it's cold, wear a hat outdoors, too to keep all your warmth from escaping out the top of your head.

9.  Allergies, or suspected allergies??

                Keep breakroom and home environment free of dust and allergens.  Vacuum and dust a lot, especially in your bedroom (including the ceiling fan),and wash your bedding often.  Dust mites are a common allergen.  Buy those special sheets that keep dust mites from living in your bed and pillows.  Get a wet-vac, or a micro-filter system vacuum cleaner.  Wash and brush your pets weekly if you're allergic to fur or dander.  Very helpful:  get a cool-air humidifier (they aren't expensive at a Walgreens or such store) but be sure to clean it out every night. 

                Allergies are rampant in Florida, even for those who never had them before, so if your throat problems are not going away, it's highly suspect it is an allergy.   Natural methods may not be strong enough.  Please go see an allergist before it gets worse.  An allergist can give you lots of tips on how to control allergic reactions at home and at work. 

                "Reflux" (burping up stomach acids, which irritates the throat) is a common problem, usually accompanied by heartburn.  See a doctor if you suspect reflux.  The doctor will recommend taking antacids like "Tums," avoiding acidic food at night, caffeine drinks, and elevating the head of your bed with a wedge.  But be aware that reflux is sort of the catch-all diagnosis by many doctors today.  Your problem may be allergies or a virus instead.  

10.  Have a sore throat, or the beginning of a cold??

                If your throat feels thick with mucus, put some lemon in your water sipper to cut the phlegm.  But if your throat feels dry, don't use lemon or drink grapefruit juice, as it robs your throat of the mucus it needs to function--instead drink lots of water and suck on lozenges. 

                The best lozenges are natural ones like "Riccola" cough drops and vitamin C drops, without drying antihistamines, mentholyptus, or a lot of sugar.  Zinc lozenges (Cherry flavored "Cold-Eeze") are proven to cut the length and severity of a cold by 45%, so use them when you first feel a sore throat.  Do not use numbing chloraseptic sprays. 

                Warm tea is fine.  "Throat Coat" is a recommended herbal tea.

                A cough may be a from a cold or flu, but often it is an allergy, so get it checked out.    

                Wrap your neck so it stays warm.  Baby your throat at night by sleeping with a scarf or sock tied around your neck.  The warmth will aid in healing by comforting you and relaxing your neck muscles.  Keep your hands away from your mouth and wash your hands a lot, to avoid picking up and spreading cold germs!

                Breathe in the steam of a hot shower.  Aim the spray at your forehead to massage your sinuses.

                Clear your sinuses by humming, humming, humming for at least 3 minutes.  Do easy neck rolls and spine roll-downs, and physical massages and presses along the sinus points.  Direct the hums right into the nose.  Vocalize "sirens" on an "EEEEEE" which is the most resonant, vibrating vowel.  Light humming also helps sore throats--do a siren around the pitches that seem to vibrate where your throat hurts the most.

                A natural way to clear your sinuses is the yoga cleansing of tilting your head to the side and back and pouring warm water with just a bit of salt into one nostril, then shift your head to the other side and letting the water run out the other nostril.  You can use an ear-cleansing bulb or just a paper cup.  It takes some getting used to but people swear by it.           

11.  Best tip yet--a warm salt water gargle is nature's healer.  You can do it many times a day without harm.  When ENTs are asked what products to buy for the throat, they all recommend water and rest are best.

12.  When to seek professional help:

                a. If you think you've strained your voice and it does not recover after a day or two of resting it.

                b. If your sore throat keeps recurring.

                c. If you wake up with a sore throat every morning.

                d. If your voice is consistently raspy or hoarse and does not seem to be getting stronger after 5-10 days.  It's important to note that a raspiness in your natural speaking voice (not in your loud performing voice) can signal a problem.  Your throat needn't be sore to signal a problem.

Above all, don't ignore a throat problem.  Get help from a doctor and a qualified vocal therapist or trainer.  And take precious care of your instrument every day.  

Vocal health evaluation

On this page is a form I have my students fill out so that I can begin to narrow down their vocal problems.  You may be able to do some self-therapy and "fix" some of your vocal health issues with a vocal therapist or ENT (Ear, nose and throat doctor), but DO see a qualified coach like myself if you have continual vocal problems or want an assessment of how serious the problem is.  I can refer you to an ENT that works with a lot of performers in the Orlando area.  All of these areas listed below can have an impact on your overall vocal health.

 

VOCAL HEALTH EVALUATION

Braces? When, how long?

Teeth problems? (spaces, overbite, underbite, crowding, etc.)

TMJ or jaw problems?

Allergies?  Allergic to what? Symptoms, duration?  Do you do anything to control them? (see an allergist, shots, pills, avoid certain environments, etc.)

Past illnesses or accidents?

Present (or chronic) illnesses?  Do you do anything to treat this?  Do you have dyslexia, ADD, learning disability?

Throat problems? (chronic sore throats, chronic raspiness or hoarseness, lose voice easily, bronchitis, reflux, phlegm, etc.) Do you do anything to treat this?

Any surgeries, past or upcoming?  When, and what was the outcome?

Smoke?  (cigarettes or otherwise)

Drugs, prescribed or recreational?

How much alcohol and/or  caffeine do you drink daily, weekly?

Neck or spine problems?  Describe them and what you do to treat them.

Tension and/or pain, where?

How is your exercise program (aerobic-type exercise)?

Describe the condition of your diet/nutrition program?  Where does it need improvement?

Training--describe what, when, where, and briefly what you covered and accomplished.

Sing Stronger, Longer

Sing STRONGER, LONGER

A workshop for Vocal Endurance

with voice trainer, Ginny Kopf

A strong voice that will last is dependent on:

~~Your TECHNIQUE:  how you USE your voice, warm-up and cool down, how you train to build strength

~~Your SCHEDULE:  knowing your personal endurance, so you don=’t ABUSE your voice in rehearsal and performance

~~Your overall HEALTH and lifestyle

~~Your understanding of ACOUSTICS in different performing situations

1.  BREATHE from the BELLY

Let your bellybutton go!  Open the ribs to RECEIVE the breath.  LET the breath drop down to the bottom of the “elevator shaft.”  And then, PUMP from the gut (the diaphragm).

Ya gotta practice power breathing.

**Counting exercises with catch breaths; and holding out steady notes

**Check in a mirror:  Are your shoulders raising to breathe?  Are you trying to breathe up high in your chest so it feels tight?  Then try holding the bottom of a chair as you sing, or laying down.

**You need to literally choreograph your breaths in a song.

2.  TAME the TENSION

Because tension actually DAMPENS sound.

Believe it or not: SOFTER is STRONGER !

         ~~Soft neck, shoulders, chest, jaw, entire spine (neck to tailbone)

Aim for FULLNESS not PUSH.   Use your whole body to sing!!!       

Use ALL your resonances (your open tubes).  Your whole body RINGS (vibrates) IF your entire spine is flexible.  No need to push from the throat.  Instead, let your gut do any pushing.

**Practice your moves and choreography (just on the breath first) and check that your neck is soft, the “tube” open all the way to your gut.  Learn to isolate the tension out of the neck, even in highest emotion, highest activity, highest notes.

3.  CHECK your NECK

Are veins popping out of your neck when you sing?

The sound (raw emotion) comes from your gut (your passions) and just passes through your neck and out of your mouth.  If the neck is tense on the outside, the sound is getting squished on the inside, unable to pass through.

**Watch your neck in a mirror as you sing.

**Feel under your ears, to make sure the muscles stay soft, even on high notes or really loud sound.

Watch for this: Don’t strain up (nose up looks snobby, anyway)

                        Don’t strain forward (chicken head)

                        Don’t pull back (looks too defensive and macho)

                        Don’t get shorter or taller!  (don’t squash down for low notes or pull up for highs)

4.  MAXIMIZE your MOUTH

A bigger mouth simply means more volume.

A bigger mouth on high and low notes will help you reach the note.

Release your jaw.  LET OUT the emotion.  Jaw and lip tension dampens sound.

**Do warm-up drills that will get the jaw flexible to open-close-open-close-open-close, like “Mama, Papa, Baby,”  “la-la-la,” “doe ray me,” or any vowel exercises  

Think the sound OUT and FORWARD, not back and down the throat.

Create a lot of space between your teeth and over your tongue, with tongue hump down and out of the way.

Don’t pull your mouth or jaw BACK or the tongue will go back too, and the sound can’t pass through the tube.  It’ll get stuffed down the throat or go up into the nose!

5.  ENERGIZE your ENUNCIATION

You ARTICULATE because your “character” needs to get their message out.

It makes what you’re saying IMPORTANT.  Slurring makes it no big deal.

Let the lips and tongue tip do the work, so the throat doesn’t have to.  Your articulators won’t get tired like your throat will.

**Do warm-up drills that are tongue twisters.

6.  WHY WORRY

No scrunched together eyebrows!  Guess what?  Whatever the eyebrows are doing, the throat is doing.

**Try singing high notes with worried eyebrows, and feel how the throat scrunches just like the eyebrows.  Then try singing with the eyebrows slightly lifted and apart, and feel how released the throat is.

**Watch for this in the mirror.  Go back to the TEXT and you’ll usually see that a worried look isn’t the right look for that phrase anyway.  Let the emotion out, confess it to the one you’re singing to. You don’t want to look mad at them, or like a worry-wart or a loser!

FINALLY

TRUST IT!  Once it’s full and loud, don’t add any extra push from the back of the throat.  Again, trust it.

VARIETY will save your voice, so that you don’t wear out the same part of your throat.

(i.e., don’t do three screamin’ Janis Joplin songs in a row at the beginning of your concert!)   PLAN your song line-up and your concert tour schedule with care.

ENDURANCE has everything to do with healthy habits in your daily life.

Vocal health tips are on the next page. . . . .

How to keep your singing voice healthy

HOW TO KEEP YOUR SINGING VOICE HEALTHY

To sing STRONGER, LONGER you need to make adjustments in your technique, as outlined on the previous pages, AND you need a good vocal health regimen.

Before your gig:

  1. Come to work in top form physically--rested, and neither hungry nor too full.

Learn what foods that give you natural energy and make you alert.

  1. Warm up.  Warm up.  Again I say, warm up.

3.   Get yourself ready in natural ways, without having to depend on synthetics          

      (drugs), and you’ll be more confident.

On breaks and days off:

  1. Water, water, water (not coffee, not sodas--water).  Room temperature is best.
  2. Relax on your breaks--avoid stress, talking on the phone, or calling people across the room.  TRY to rest your voice.  No whispering.  No vocal fry.  If you have to talk, save your voice by speaking in a lighter, breathy, higher voice.
  3. You may need to avoid dairy and chocolate, as it causes phlegm in some people.

4.  Smoking is the worst thing you could do to your voice--you know that.  It irritates the tender tissues till they puff up and rub each other raw; so raw that you’re numb to the soreness.  It’s just like “smoked” meat--your soft palate gets tough and loses the flexibility to raise and lower with the full control you need for singing.  If you still smoke, at least try to wait until your concert is over, and try to cut back when your throat is sore. 

5.  Alcohol too is very drying.  Wait till after the gig to do any social drinking (unless you have a gig the next day).

6.  Keep your neck warm with a towel or scarf, especially if going back and forth from heat to air conditioning.  Wear a hat if it’s cold outdoors.

7.  Heaters and air conditioning are drying to the throat.  Turn them off at night.  Avoid letting fans blow right at your face all night. 

8.  No throat clearing, as it’s jarring.  Clear it gently if a big swallow doesn’t work.

9.  Check yourself for tension before each set--do a short warm-up, and

       --do a cool down after each set

After your performance:

  1. Cool down, with humming and slow stretches.
  2. Avoid speaking and stress for at least an hour.  Get away alone if you have to.
  3. Help people to respect your regimen for staying healthy.  Don’t be swayed by their teases, just do what’s right for you.

Yikes, I've lost my voice!

Yikes!  I’ve Lost My Voice!

                                                                                                by Ginny Kopf, Voice and Speech Trainer

                The big audition or taping is today and you have a sore throat.  What can you do?  Maybe you suspect it’s the beginning of a cold or flu.  Or possibly reflux.  But you have to consider that maybe it’s from overuse or abuse (you pushed it too hard the day before, screaming, tensing up your throat, shoulders, or jaw, not using good breath control, talking all day, being stressed out).  In that case, you need rest, plain and simple.  And you need to prevent it from happening again by figuring out what you are doing to contribute to the sore throat, in terms of improper use and technique.   

            Self-diagnosis isn’t easy—especially because your sore throat might be the result of a combination of overuse, misuse, a cold coming on, or allergies.  But let me offer some practical tips that just might help you minimize some of those nasty symptoms.  All of these are natural remedies, no drugs at all.

            1.  If your throat feels thick with mucus, put some lemon in your water sipper to cut the phlegm.  But if your throat feels dry, don't use lemon or drink grapefruit juice, as it robs your throat of the mucus it needs to function--instead drink lots of water and suck on lozenges. 

            2.  The best lozenges are natural ones like "Riccola" cough drops and vitamin C drops, without drying antihistamines, mentholyptus, or a lot of sugar.  The second you feel a little something wrong in your throat, take Zinc lozenges (Cherry flavored "Cold-Eeze").  They are proven to cut the length and severity of a cold by 45%. These have kept a cold at bay for me for years.  Do not use numbing chloraseptic sprays.

            3.  Some people swear by “Airborne” but it doesn’t have much in it to help you once you ARE sick.  Airborne is great for building up your immunity if you are going into public places, like airplanes or schools.   I’ve discovered “Germ MD” which is a combination of Vitamin C, Zinc, and other natural extracts for supporting a healthy immune system.  Germ MD is just one of several similar products.  Just look for these kinds of natural supplements at your health food store, or some grocery stores.     

            4.  Warm tea is fine.  "Throat Coat" is a recommended herbal tea.  It has “Slippery Elm” which soothes.

            5.  A cough may be from a cold or flu, but often it is an allergy or reflux, so get it checked out.   If your problem is viral, unfortunately nothing is going to help but time, although natural remedies can certainly help ease the symptoms.   

            6.  Wrap your neck so it stays warm.  Baby your throat at night by sleeping with a scarf or sock tied around your neck.  The warmth will aid in healing by comforting you and relaxing your neck muscles.   

            7.  Keep your hands away from your mouth and wash your hands a lot, to avoid picking up and spreading cold germs!

            8.  Breathe in the steam of a hot shower.  Aim the spray at your forehead to massage your sinuses.

            9.  Clear your sinuses by humming, humming, humming for at least 3 minutes.  Do easy neck rolls and spine roll-downs, and physical massages and presses along the sinus points.  Direct the hums right into the nose.  Vocalize "sirens" on an "EEEEEE" which is the most resonant, vibrating vowel.  Light humming also helps sore throats--do a siren around the pitches that seem to vibrate where your throat hurts the most.

            10.  You can clear your sinuses by using “Ocean” or other similar nose sprays, which are simply saline. There is an old yoga cleansing where you tilt your head to the side and back and pour warm water with just a bit of salt into one nostril, then shift your head to the other side and let the water run out the other nostril.  You can use an ear-cleansing bulb or just a paper cup.  It takes some getting used to but people swear by it.  Nasal sprays with drugs in them should be monitored by a doctor, and they can be habit-forming!  And often, they’ll clear your sinuses, but at the expense of messing up the back of your throat.              

            11.  Best tip yet--a warm salt water gargle is nature's healer.  You can do it many times a day without harm.  When ENTs are asked what products to buy for the throat, they all recommend water and rest are best.

Now, how about allergies, or suspected allergies??

            1.  Keep breakroom and home environment free of dust and allergens.  Vacuum and dust a lot, especially in your bedroom (including the ceiling fan), and wash your bedding often.  Dust mites are a common allergen.  Buy those special sheets that keep dust mites from living in your bed and pillows.  Get a wet-vac, or a micro-filter system vacuum cleaner.  Wash and brush your pets weekly if you're allergic to fur or dander. 

            2.  Very helpful:  get an air purifier or a cool-air humidifier for your bedroom and workspace.  Humidifiers aren't expensive at a Walgreens or such store, but be sure to clean it out every night.   Air purifiers are a little costly and you change the (expensive) filter every 9 months, but they make a gigantic difference.

            3.  Allergies are rampant in Florida, even for those who never had them before, so if your throat problems are not going away, it's highly suspect it is an allergy.   Natural methods may not be strong enough.  Please go see an allergist before it gets worse.  An allergist can give you lots of tips on how to control allergic reactions at home and at work.

            4.  Avoid walking at dawn and dusk, which is when airborne allergens are most “active.” 

            5.  "Reflux" (burping up stomach acids, which irritates the throat) is a common problem, usually accompanied by heartburn.  See a doctor if you suspect reflux.  The doctor will recommend medications, avoiding acidic food at night, caffeine drinks, and elevating the head of your bed with a wedge.  But be aware that reflux is sort of the catch-all diagnosis by many doctors today.  Your problem may be allergies or a virus instead.  

            Take note--here’s when to seek professional help:

                        a. If you think you've strained your voice and it does not recover after a day or two of resting it.

                        b. If your sore throat keeps recurring.

                        c. If you wake up with a sore throat every morning.

                        d. If your voice is consistently raspy or hoarse and does not seem to be getting stronger after 5-10 days.  It's important to note that a raspiness in your natural speaking voice (not in your loud performing voice) can signal a problem.  Note: your throat needn't be sore to signal a problem.

Above all, don't ignore a throat problem.  Get help from a doctor AND a qualified vocal therapist or trainer.  Do everything you can to build up your immune system.  And take precious care of your instrument every day.

 

I've got to save my voice

“I’ve Got to Save My Voice”

by Ginny Kopf, Voice and Speech Trainer

 

Do you need “vocal rest”? When you’ve pushed your voice too much, so that it feels raw and tired, you need to rest it so it bounces back.  Perhaps your voice is worn out because of misuse, which means you need to work on your technique so this doesn’t keep happening. Possibly it’s tension in the throat, jaw, tongue, neck, or maybe a breathing issue.  A qualified vocal coach can pinpoint where your tensions are and teach you better techniques in vocalizing and breath control.

Perhaps your voice is worn out due to ‘abuse,’ which means you’ve yelled too hard or for too long.  In that case, you may have to change your habits or schedule, maybe even your job. You need to look at how you are contributing to the abuse by your overall health habits:  what you ingest, sleep habits, stress. Just like in sports, every person has different endurance levels.  And just like in sports, you have to listen to your body and keep training to improve technique and endurance.

Whether your sore throat is the result of abuse or misuse, you need to take precious care of your precious instrument. You can do permanent damage to your voice if you don’t deal with the consequences of your habits and voice use. Listen to your symptoms. Don’t ignore your body sending you a message that something’s got to change in the way you use your voice.

Of course, allergies, asthma, reflux and other health issues can make things even harder for you. They exacerbate voice problems and limit your range and strength.  Again, listen to your voice—it will communicate a suspected problem.

So, what is “vocal rest” and how do we do it safely, for the maximum results. And the results you want is quick recovery, back to full fortitude.  You must, first and foremost, be patient. Sorry, there is no pill or potion anyone can offer that will magically make your voice bounce back.  What works “miraculously” for one person, may not do the same for you.  “Complete vocal rest” would be ideal—no talking, only resting for a full 24-48 hours would, of course, be best. Not speaking for a longer period, like a week or a month, would slowly drive us insane.  It’s just not possible or practical.  A doctor suggests complete vocal rest for a week or more when things are serious, along the lines of needing vocal cord surgery.  But vocal rest for a day or two is necessary if you are an actor or singer or public speaker who pushes their voice to the brink now and then.  Here are some suggestions for how to truly rest your voice.

1. Lots of water, water, water.Warm tea is soothing. Throat Coat brand tea, which is slippery elm, is soothing.Honey in the tea will help. Don’t use lemon, as that dries out the throat—good for when you have gunky phlegm.

2. Warm salt water gargle is nature’s healer.It is recommended by throat doctors above and beyond what you can buy at the drug store, is virtually free, and can be done many times a day.

3. No whispering.It tenses up the muscles surrounding the vocal chords. If you absolutely need to speak, it would be better to do a light, slightly higher pitched, breathy speech, kind of like Marilyn Monroe or Betty Boop.

4. No throat clearing. It’s very damaging to the tissues. If you need to clear your throat, best to drink water instead and see if a big swallow works to clear the phlegm. Or do a very, very light, sustained, easy throat clear.

5. Wear a scarf to keep your neck warm. This works like leg warmers on a dancer. Pavarotti, the opera singer, used to wrap his neck with a warm towel as soon as he got off stage, to keep his voice ‘warm’ for the next set. Your muscles will relax in the cuddly warmth of the scarf, and then can heal.

6. Humming is a massage for the vocal cords.With teeth apart, lips together, do light slides up and down to rumble the vocal tissues.Hum after you’ve spent some time not vocalizing for at least a half day.

7. Here’s a big one:get away from stress. Relax, truly relax…not easily done if you live or work in a stressful environment.

If you are doing everything you can to baby your sick throat, you will psychologically set yourself up to heal more quickly. The mind is powerful.  If you have hope and optimism that it indeed WILL heal, you will heal faster.

How to scream safely

IF you have to scream, yell, or cough in a show or song style, here are some tips.  I highly advise you to get a coach’s help in working through these.  I’ve given this screaming workshop many times through the years.

                          How to Scream Safely                                

by Ginny Kopf        gkvoice@cfl.rr.com 407-924-8928

  1.  Warm up very well.  Stretches, neck rolls, easy neck pulls, massage throat, spine rolls, jaw releases, sirens, and hum hum hum….
  2.  Drink lots of water, room temperature before and after.
  3.  Breath control is KEY.  Pump from the diaphragm. Do breathing warm-ups.  Let the sound just pass through an open throat.  Breathe deep to support every scream.
  4. Keep neck loose and spine loose.
  5. Aim the sound onto the hard palate.  LIFT the hard palate.
  6. OPEN the mouth huge.
  7. Give it a gurgle with saliva in the throat.  Clench teeth or suck tongue to create some saliva in there.
  8. SELL it PHYSICALLY.  And interject physicalized pauses and breath gasps.                          
  9. Cool down as soon as you can.  Humming, sighs, roll down and up, neck rolls.

Protecting your musical theatre voice

Here’s another great article on the “Majoring in Music” site for VOCALISTS:

“Six Tips to Protect your Voice for Musical Theatre,” by Nadine Gomes and Rebecca Schorssch.

 

***LINK:

http://majoringinmusic.com/protect-your-voice-for-musical-theatre/

Click on "Preparation and Planning," then "Tips for Music Majors," then scroll down to find "Six Tips..." article.

Too many injuries as a dancer or instrumentalist

8.  Too many injuries as a dancer or instrumentalist

“Preventing injury for instrumental musicians,” by Brittany Seits

http://majoringinmusic.com/preventing-injury-for-instrumental-musicians/

Click on "Preparation and Planning," then "Tips for Music Majors," then scroll down til you see the "Preventing injury..." article.

The same site has other articles for pianists and guitarists, specifically.

Preventing injuries for dancers

For dancers:“Preventing Dance Injuries”by Stop Sports Injuries, and “Dancing—preventing Injury” by Better Health Channel.

***LINK:

http://www.sportsmed.org/aossmimis/stop/downloads/Dance.pdf

www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/dancing-preventing-injury

 

And now a word about marijuana

9.  And now a word about marijuana……….

 

 About marijuana use:   I just want my voice and acting students to have the best information about marijuana use, and I encourage them to consider all sides of using this drug to make an informed and personal decision about whether it is worth it.  In my 30 years of teaching, I’ve never seen it do anyone any favors—more the opposite.  Here is an article by an organization I have been a proud member of for 30 years, VASTA (Voice and Speech Trainers Association). 

From the organization's newsletter, The VASTA Voicewww.vasta.org/november-2015  Scroll down to find the article.  I urge (dare) you to read it.  Here's the crux of it, according to Ear, Nose, and Throat MD in Philadelphia, Dr. Yolanda Heman-Ackah:  "As the use of marijuana increases, so does the number of observed complications associated with its use....recurrent marijuana smoking can cause vocal fold damage....Thus is terms of the effects on the larynx, marijuana smoking (both inhaled and vapor) is not recommended for vocal performers both for short and long term performance reasons as well as for the latter risk of marijuana-associated vocal, throat, and mouth cancer." p. 2. ​

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