Lately in the news, we hear about stars having vocal surgery or losing their voices and canceling their tours.
I empathize, sympathize and my heart goes out to them. Because the truth is, it's actually challenging to stay in good vocal shape on tour. There's the grueling non-stop schedule, dehydration from air travel, lack of nutrition from a poor diet and the stress of performing night after night non-stop for months at a time. It is challenging to prevent damage, stay healthy and continue to escape the dreaded surgery. Not to mention that the stress from cancelling a concert let alone a whole tour is overwhelming. Thousands, sometimes millions of dollars lost people instantly out of a job the cost is enormous. The venue cancellation alone costs a fortune. And then there's the frustration of disappointing your fans. It's not something you ever want to happen, on top of the fact that your recovery time can be a month or two and in some cases even longer. That's a long time in the life of an entertainer.
I find that even most managers and record exec's and the majority of vocal coaches don't know about what I am going to reveal here in this article. I am always surprised that singers are not more preventative. I guess it's the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it attitude. However, with the voice, it's too sensitive an instrument to NOT take extra care. You only have 2 vocal cords and they can't be replaced.
But the truth is, not only can you recover from most any situation sometimes you can do it within two days, if you know exactly what you're doing. I've done it many times myself and with my singers.
Last year one of my well-known artists left me a message in a panic. He was performing at a music conference and was on his way to LA for his first appearance ever on network TV (the Ellen Show) in just two days and he was losing his voice by the minute. He texted me feverishly, terrified he would have no voice by the time he got there what was he going to do?? I mean who wants to botch the Ellen Show?? He was beside himself with anxiety and was ready for anything.
What followed next was a trip to Whole Foods (usually the only place that has everything) with a detailed shopping list. I sent him the instructions, which basically included water-boarding, a vegan diet, massage and acupuncture (works wonders for vocal problems), a lot of down-dog and swallowing a mega load of supplements and herbs every 2 hours. Luckily, he had also just been at my studio in New York and I had given him some of my Chinese herbs to take on the road just in case (harder to find). Well, not only did he get his voice back, but he sounded amazing (you couldn't tell there was any vocal problem at all) and he looked so chill up there under the lights, I was sure it was from sheer relief! We were both thrilled! Thank goodness for natural remedies, knowing how to use them and a handful of tricks up my sleeve. He would not have made it without them.
Just by understanding how to take care and stock up with the right natural prescriptions in your medicine satchel and acting at the first sign of anything, you'll stay in the safe zone. I've done it a gazillion times myself with my own voice (yes, I've been my own guinea pig) and with thousands of singers over the past few decades. And now I teach all of my singers exactly what to do in a myriad of situations and how to diagnose symptoms.
The good news is, vocal problems and burnout are avoidable. With the right vocal technique and a knowledge of natural tricks and tips, the body is a healing machine. The body gets to work when you feed it the right fuel and elixirs. I have helped countless singers recover from problems as well as avoid the knife altogether.
This is usually behind closed door stuff, but I wanted you, my faithful readers, to be armed with this info, so you can sing your heart out without wearing out!
The Vocal Road Warrior Formula
First off, I just want to point out the beauty of the word Healthy. Heal-thy. That amazing healing machine thing
Heal-thy Body: hydration, diet, nutrition, massage, natural remedies
Heal-thy Voice: hydration (I can never say this word enough), sleep (at least 7-8 hrs), vocal technique: warm ups & cool downs
Heal-thy Self: positive attitude, visualization, stress management, gratitude
The Whole Foods Shopping List
- Soloray powdered Crystalline Vitamin C (non-ascorbic, won't cause reflux) 1 tsp every 2 hours (in a shot of juice) until you are better (except for nighttime)
- Bronchial Soothe (stops coughing immediately seriously, and naturally.) You want to avoid coughing as much as possible because it shreds your vocal cords.
- Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. Oral demulcent sore throat syrup you can find in Chinatown (if you can't find this, Loquat Syrup will do)
- Fresh Juice daily. Organic carrots, celery, apple, parsley, ginger for juice (Juice 3x a day.) Juicing provides that extra nutrition that your voice needs.
- Oregano oil (pure essential oil) Use topically on throat 3x day
- Oregano tea (great for vocal loss)
- Raw creamed honey (the best throat balm in the world)
- Vocal Eze Throat Spray (www.travelwellness.com) Best natural spray on the market! Use 6-7 x a day for moisture and vocal health.
- Tiger balm (or Sunrider balm my favorite.) Apply topically on front of your throat and all around your neck. Apply 3x a day (keep throat wrapped with a light silk scarf)
- Sore Throat/Hoarseness homeopathic remedy (Roxalia) by Boiron use 3-4x a day for three days.
Besides the Whole Foods list here is a list of exactly what do to avoid vocal damage.
- Always warm up your voice before singing. This is non-negotiable. Warming up warms up your muscles and avoids wear and tear.
- Cool down your voice after singing. This is non-negotiable. Cooling down cools down your muscles after singing and helps to avoid wear and tear. (you can find cool downs on my Singers Gift WarmUps here www.caricole.com/singersgift/)
- Get regular massages and/or acupuncture (1x or 2x a month or every week when on tour.) This is non-negotiable for a working singer. You are over-using the muscles of the vocal instrument causing them to contract. They need to be lengthened and relaxed or over time it will cause vocal problems.
- Do Yoga. Yoga is a way to stretch your muscles, improve circulation and general health. It also keeps your spine long, which is very important for singing and not wearing out your voice.
Over the years artists come to me when they are in trouble because I have a reputation for fixing vocal problems. I don't make any big claims to do so mainly because I'm not a doctor. But over the years I have discovered the methodologies that work and of course I train singers to sing correctly and prevent long-term damage. I became interested in alternative care for chronic problems because they work better plain and simple (but only when you really know what you're doing). I will say that there is so much more to it than I can go into in this one article. Vocal problems can arise from many different sources that I didn't even touch on here. And of course nothing is more important if you are having problems than getting a diagnosis with a professional ENT (voice doctor) and getting treatment. This list is not meant as a substitute for that. But hopefully, I've given you a good head start here.
For more information on keeping your voice healthy and preventing damage, experience my Singers Gift www.caricole.com/singersgift Warm ups and Cool Downs and get your vocal regimen established. Warm Up Don't Wear Out.
©2012 Cari Cole, Vocal Mag, Inc. All Rights Reserved.