A Strained Singer’s Guide

Not many of you know, but I’m currently in Pennsylvania doing the Panto Little Red Robin Hood.

What’s a Panto? Short for Pantomime, Google says it’s “a type of musical comedy stage production designed for family entertainment. It was developed in England and is performed throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland and in other English-speaking countries, especially during the Christmas and New Year season.” I play the lead heroine Amelia/Little Red. You can read some of our reviews here or here.

Throughout rehearsals, I was careless. I pushed way too vocally hard & overused my voice. Well guess what? It caught up to me & right as we entered tech week, I lost my entire upper range. It didn’t help that the space was dry either. I was scared I permanently damaged my cords. These few weeks, I’ve been really aware of how I’m supporting my sound (so! important!), but my tendency in a high energy show is to push. So if you’re like me, & you feel vocally strained… I wrote this guide just for you.

Partial Vocal Rest

I immediately stopped talking unless it was for anything work related. I was on Vocal Rest for about 4 days before my entire range came back. That’s how inflamed my cords were. Don’t even try and ‘mouth’ things. When you talk silently, your vocal cords still act as if they’re talking.

Use a Straw

Don’t forget to warm up. Phonate using a straw. One of my voice teachers, D. Michael engrained this habit in me. When you use a straw, it encourages more vibrations of the air particles in the vocal tract & relieves pressure on the cords. I usually go up the scale and hold it out for as long as I can before moving to the next note.

Gargle Salt Water

Gargle Coarse Sea Salt water every night before you go to bed. It helps with the swelling. Your water should be warmer than luke warm.

Tongue Stretches

The back of my tongue is the root of all evil. Recently, my tongue has been so tense and my tongue goes back when I sing! That’s a big NO NO! Before you sing, make sure you stretch it out – stick your tongue as far out as you can downwards and sideways, roll your tongue out from behind your bottom teeth etc.

Massage Yourself/Get a Massage

I purchased an amazing online course on how to De-Swell Your Cords from Andrew Byrne, one of my voice teachers in the city. It takes you through how you can relieve some pressure on your cords & get your lymphatic drainage system moving, increasing blood circulation in the areas & taking the gunk out of your throat. For professional vocal massages in Manhattan, I highly recommend Sierra. She worked on me a couple days ago to relieve my tongue/neck/jaw tension & my performance the next day was crazy different.

Lozenges

I love sucking on lozenges to avoid dry mouth. My favourite so far has been these Manuka Honey Drops & Slippery Elm Lozenges. I also grew up on this Honey & Loquat Syrup. I usually have it after my show, but not during because the menthol in it de-hydrates the mouth.

Hydrate

LOTS of water. Especially ginger tea. I’m drinking so much water my pee has been colourless for weeks now hehe TMI.

Learn to say ‘NO’

When you feel strained, you have to learn to say no. You have every right as a performer, especially during tech, to say ‘I’ll be doing this full out around 2 to 3 times, but anymore than that, I need to pull back.’ Know your limits. Know that just because your very talented colleague has a loud voice & barely needs any amplification, doesn’t mean the same demands should be asked of you too if that’s not what you’re comfortable with.

Your vocal health is so important. Take care of yourselves. Only you know what’s best for you.

  I Love This! ♡

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