Living With Your Voice

by
Gigi Mitchell-Velasco

PART III

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KNOW THY VOICE:

All in all, no matter what you do, there is NO substitute for a good diet, good sleeping habits and getting lots of rest; good hydration and sensible speaking habits. Make sure that you always see your E.N.T. when you have problems. Don't have one!? Shame on you. You're a VO Talent. Find one today. Get recommendations from other artists or from your doctor. I would ask singers and other VO artists as they are bound to know the real singers and artists doctors! It is a specialty within the specialty and all the docs that treat us are very proud of it! It's very important; it’s your livelihood! Everyone is individual and my best advice is - KNOW THYSELF! For example, I have found that Flonase which is supposed to decrease allergies and sinus problems actually makes me worse, and that Humibid, generally known as guaifenesin that dissolves and loosens phlegm, hydrates and moisturizes, actually just plain dries me out!

POSSIBLE INFLAMMATORY FOOD:

Remember Dr. Pericone’s wrinkle cure where he said some foods caused swelling in the body? Hmm...what about vocal cords? Yep you got it! SAME THING! Of course, some people will say I would rather not use my voice if I can’t eat this thing or that thing. Make a decision. You may be lucky enough where it's good enough to just avoid them days before or even the night before sessions. But what if they call you last minute to come and tape a audition for a spot? It's your call. A healthy body is a healthy voice! Light, clear and clean! I guarantee it! Here’s a quick guide to:

FOODS and/or HABITS TO AVOID or CUT BACK ON:

    Refined flours (pizzas, pastas, cookies, cakes, etc. sorry!)

    Refined sugars (ditto)

    Table salt (use sea salt or Kosher salt) once you start doing this you will notice how iodized salt actually burns your tongue and throat! We have gotten used to that. Also, use sea salt to gargle and to wash out the sinuses.

    Be sparing on wine, especially the day and night before sessions! It can dry you out or trigger reflux.

    I drink tons of coffee, but be smart: you might not be able to tolerate this, and Jim is right - it is drying!

    Citrus, specifically orange juice, can also cause phlegm.  Lemon juice is fine.

    Easy on dairy products - milk, yogurt, cheese and cream (including cream sauces).

    DO READ LABELS! All of the stuff listed above can very well be hiding in your favorite pre-prepared things!

    NO MSG! It is drying and will swell you AND your cords up!

    NO ASPIRIN 24 hours before you use your voice. I don't care HOW bad your headache is! SUFFER. You run the risk of thinning your blood and bursting capillaries. Also, no Advil or anything else that causes the blood to thin. I believe Tylenol is okay. Better check with the doc on that. Using a voice for characters or other sounds can be as stressful and tiring as a big opera aria. You want to make sure that you are not vulnerable to a vocal bleed as it’s called!

    NO TALKING on AIRPLANES. I know it's really hard when the little old lady next to you wants to bend your ear. Read a book or listen to THEM talk. The noise in the cabin and the combination of filthy, dry air can pop a capillary faster than you can imagine. It happened once to a very famous Wagnerian tenor and he arrived at his singing engagement with no voice and had to cancel. Nothing like turning a big hero voice into Elmer Fudd! Of course, most of you out there can do that anyway! Keep it a voluntary choice!

THE AIR THING:

The last newsletter dealt with what Joni Wilson called "speakers flat" and needing air to make the voice work. This is something I hardly think about anymore as most singers have the “air thing” down. Believe me, breathing and using the breath is another long subject for singers and wind instrumentalists. It’s always important to ‘stay on the breath,’ as we call it in singing. When I am working on copy and scripts, I find myself doing what I would never do if I were singing, and that is ‘getting off the voice,’ or not really using proper support (breath and placement) in order to produce my speaking voice. It is something to be ever mindful of because it can cause fatigue quicker than anything. Another thing we in the singing world say is, that if you sing or speak too much, you lose the "bloom" on the voice. This can also come from too much rehearsal, over-singing or long sessions of using your voice. The “bloom” is when the voice sounds live, voluminous and beautiful and resonates in the head of the listener or in your own head in those earphones. It is overtones basically; that purring, gorgeous sound of a healthy voice. Nothing but rest can restore the "bloom" on the voice, so be careful and learn to pace yourself! Usually, a good long night of sleep and you're good as new!

I hope all this is helpful to you and hopefully someone out there may recognize that some of their problems are stemming from some of what you read today. I wish you all lots of luck. Now go SHUT UP! Just kidding!

Peace!

Mezzo-soprano Gigi Mitchell-Velasco lives in Rhode Island with her husband, tenor Noel Espiritu Velasco, and their two Pomeranians Frankie and Tobie. Visit her on the web at www.BravaDiva.com. 

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