Do You Have The Right Strings On Your Guitar?

Each year the CMT honors country music stars at their Artists of the Year celebration – 2011’s honorees included Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney.  Before they were stars, however, they had to work up their guitar skills from the very beginning.

Of course, if you’d like to be the next musician in line for country stardom, you’ll need to keep your guitar at your side.  Ideally, you should have already found the perfect guitar (or even better, maybe one of these.) Perhaps you’ve made a list of your all-time favorite songs that you want to learn, and you’ve written down your goals. But there’s one more thing you need to consider: what type of guitar strings are best for you? The quality of your strings can affect your guitar’s resonance and tone, impact your speed as a player, as well as make a different in your ability to finger pick – especially as a beginner.

We recommend speaking to your guitar teacher, who can give you recommendations specifically for your skill level and guitar type, and who will know the best place in town to purchase them.  In the meantime, here’s a great article from Gibson about choosing guitar strings to check out:

If you’re an acoustic player…

Fade to Bleak: Since there are no pickups or amps involved in acoustic guitar playing, string composition – which affects how a string responds to being struck and the retention of tonal qualities – is particularly important for acoustic guitars. Bronze, phosphor bronze and coated strings tends to be the preferred varieties, ascending in price. Bronze strings start out the brightest, but lose their high voices relatively quickly. Phosphor bronze offers a darker tone, but still with a clear, ringing top and the phosphor allows the strings to produce their optimum sound longer. On acoustic guitars, coated strings trade a longer life for less brightness, but good warmth and presence.

– Lighten Up: Typically, heavier strings project more natural sound when struck, but for most live performers it’s practical to have an acoustic guitar with a pick-up for plug-and-play situations. Having a pickup in an acoustic guitar allows for the use of lighter gauge strings. Some acoustic guitars even respond well to slinky electric sets, like .10s, providing electric-guitar-like playability without sacrificing the chime of acoustic tones.

– Them Changes: Since the strings on acoustic guitars play a much more important role in projecting volume and clarity than strings on an amplified electric guitar, consider changing acoustic guitar strings often to keep the instrument sounding its best. Remember to wipe down the strings after playing and check for string damaging fret wear. Both can prematurely end a guitar string’s life.

And if you’re plugged in…

– Fast Fingers: If speed’s the goal, most shred-heads prefer light gauge strings. They’re easy to bend and promote fast playing by offering less resistance to the fretting and picking hands. Since guitar strings are measured in thousandths of an inch, the typical recommended gauge for players planning to burn in standard tuning are .009s, available in every guitar shop.

– Sound Judgment: Consider the sonic characteristics of the various materials used in making electric strings. Stainless steel strings are the least glamorous, but offer plenty of bright bite and sustain. Pure nickel has a warm old-school sound, for vintage tones. And nickel-plated steel is a bit brighter than classic nickel and responds more adroitly to picking attack. Chrome guitar strings are typically the province of jazz players or blues artists who are looking for the kind of warm retro tones chiseled into history by the likes of Charlie Christian or swinging bluesman Aaron “T-Bone” Walker. And then there are coated strings – the most expensive and theoretically the longest lasting. They are, however, not really the best, sonically speaking. Coated strings tend to have less sustain. Also, their Teflon exterior surfaces are slippery, which might take some getting used to for particularly aggressive electric guitar players. And when the coatings wear off, they rust like any other string.

Heavy is as Heavy Does: For low hanging alternate tunings like open D or dropped D, consider a heavy string gauge – at least .11s, although Stevie Ray Vaughan, who kept his instrument turned down just a half-step, employed a set gauged .13 to .58. Thicker strings will maintain their tension better when they’re low-tuned, which makes for less fret noise and other undesirable distortion. Many players feel thicker strings make for better slide playing, too, since the strings resist going slack under the pressure of the slide. But that’s really a matter of feel and learning to control a slide more than a string thing.

Ultimately what feels the best under your fingers and sounds right should determine your strings – so play around and figure out what your preference is.

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How to be a Rockstar… On a Budget

If you haven’t already seen it, the Rolling Stone recently released their list of 100 Greatest Guitarists, and none other than Jimi Hendrix has topped the list.  We thought this was an excellent pick – his distinct style continues to inspire and influence musicians to this day.  Hendrix is a true rock legend – and if you want to get to that status someday, you’d better keep working hard.

Yesterday we discussed 7 must-read tips for planning your band’s tour as you start organizing and contacting promoters.  If you don’t have a lot of cash saved up, though, the idea of a tour may be much more difficult to conceptualize.  Luckily, it’s still possible to tour while on budget.  Just consider that a part of the adventure!  Here’s how to make it work:

1.  Consider how you will be traveling. For most bands this will mean long hours in a van of some type. Before you set out, have the vehicle serviced at your local shop. Have your mechanic change the oil, check the spark plugs and wires, air filters, radiator fluid, washer fluid, tire pressure, A/C operation and anything else that you can afford. This will help to uncover any issues before you find yourself on the side of the road outside Podunk, Iowa. Repairs on the road can be costly and interrupt your schedule.

2. Prior to leaving, determine how many hotel rooms that you’ll need and any special requirements. Do some homework and know how far you will travel each day and where you plan to spend the night. Check the Internet for hotels in the area and for special deals. Some of the discount websites can offer great savings, but be sure to read the fine print. Sometimes calling the local hotels directly will actually get you a better deal. Ask to speak with the general manager or reservations manager and explain your situation. If they can rent several rooms together, they might offer a lower price.  It never hurts to ask!

3. Food can also be a major expense if not handled correctly. In the van, bring along a large cooler and purchase drinks at the grocery store prior to departure. These are cheaper than at a gas station and will prevent some unnecessary stops.  For breakfast, consider the complimentary breakfast if your hotel offers one.  Also: sometimes before your show, the venue you’re at may provide food.  Always ask the venue owner about this possibility and you can even use it as a negotiation point.

4. Payments for gigs should be immediately deposited into a bank account. This can be done via an ATM or bank drive-through. Before you leave, check your bank for locations in the area of your gigs. This will prevent you from spending this money and limit you to the budget that you have prepared before departure.

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Hittin’ the Road with Your Band? 7 Must-Read Tips

We’re stoked to hear that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have announced an upcoming U.S. tour – especially since they haven’t hit the road here since 2007.  So far just six cities have been released, kicking off in Charlotte, NC, on January 25th – will you be part of the crowd?

If you’re in a band yourself, touring is a great way to get your name out there and of course, do what you love best – play music!  But it’s also something that takes a lot of planning.  Take a look at these 7 essential tips to consider before planning your tour!:

1. Make sure you have written at least one album. Not a couple of songs, an entire album; you’ll need a lot of songs for your shows. Plan on having enough material to play a 45 minute to hour-long set, plus one or two encore numbers (think positive – you want those encores!).

2. Save up money for a few months. Each person should have enough money to pay for his/her own food on the tour and the band should have some money to get started off with – you will need gas for the van, some upkeep money for oil, transmission, brake fluids, etc., and sundry money for sundry needs – maybe one of you will get a cold, and need some NyQuil or something. It’s best to be prepared with more than you think you’ll need.

3. Come up with a route or plan for your tour. Plan which town/city you would like to play on which days. Try to plot a route that makes sense, i.e., try to make a circle rather than playing in one city one day, traveling 150 miles to the next city the next day, and then doubling back to play back in that same starting city the day after that! Instead, try to book two shows in City #1, a day apart, and then travel on to City #2, 150 miles away. Make sure all of your band members are available during the entire time allotted.

4. Search for contacts in each city you hope to play in. The best contacts are local bands that play in the area and venues. Send the band/venue/promoters in each city a message asking them to check out your band and let them know that you are interested in playing a show with them/at their venue on such and such day. You can’t always get a show on the day you are looking for and sometimes have to change your route or find a different venue to play at.  Of course, make sure you aren’t playing on a night when another, bigger band is in the same town. (i.e. If you are an AC/DC tribute band don’t play in Denver on the same night that AC/DC is in Denver, because no one will go to your show).

5. Write up a contract for promoters and venues. You don’t need to hire a lawyer to write it up, just use common sense. Make a form with spaces for venue name, address, phone number, load-in time, sound check time, show time, and pay. This works both as a means of making sure you do not get screwed over, and also is useful as an itinerary. That way you have a contact sheet for every show and know when you need to be there, and other important information.  Send these contracts through e-mail or regular U.S. Mail to each venue or promoter you have arranged a show with. Have them fill it out and send it back. Keep all of the forms they send back for use as an itinerary and also to make sure things go the way they were agreed on.

6. Make up a flyer for each of the shows with the venue name, show date, address and what bands are playing as well as start time and send them to the venues/band/promoters you are playing with. Sometimes promoters or other bands do this for you and send the flyer to you. Either way, make sure it is up on your MySpace and website, if you have one. If you’ll be playing a large number of dates, you may want to make a template poster with a big blank spot to write in the date, time, location, and cover. Make sure your website is on the flyer, so you don’t have to write it out.

7. Get merch made and CDs pressed. If you only have a demo or a three song “EP” you can still get them pressed and labeled packaged inexpensively. You can also do it yourself; it doesn’t really matter, just as long as you have them available to sell/give out on tour. If someone hears your band and likes it but can’t get a CD, odds are they will not remember you. Make sure to include your band name, a track listing and a website/MySpace URL so that they can find you online.

Start planning these things and you’ll make some great headway on organizing your band’s tour.  However, you may also want to keep one thing in mind: Plan for making zero dollars. Most bands just starting out are lucky to just get a gig with a bigger name band – they rarely get paid. You do it for exposure (to get your music out there) and because you love it – not because you have to make a lot of money doing it.  But keep doing what you love and who knows?  Maybe RHCP will open for YOU someday!

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5 Unique Music Gifts for the Season

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you know that today is Black Friday, officially marking the beginning of the holiday shopping season.  If you didn’t make it out to all the midnight madness last night, don’t worry – you still have some time.  But instead of procrastinating until the very last minute this year (we know some of you out there are guilty!), why not get a head start?  We know there’s bound to be someone on your list who’s notoriously difficult to shop for, and we’re here to help.  Read on to see some unique ideas for the music-lover in your life, courtesy of the Houston Press’s list,15 Odd Christmas Gift Ideas for Musicians:

1.  DIY Guitar Pick Punch

Nothing is more useless than a guitarist without a guitar pick. Save yourself a few practice-room shouting matches with this handy punch that turns old credit cards, Xbox game cases, military IDs and lapsed health insurance cards into functional guitar picks. Toss this baby into the gig bag, and you’ll never have to bum a pick off your bassist again.

2. Build Your Own Ukelele Kit

The ukulele gets a bad rap. Sure, it was the favored instrument of Tiny Tim, but it’s also been twanged by the likes of George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Even the most jaded musician will gain a new appreciation for the uke after building and decorating his or her own courtesy of this nifty DIY kit. With the New York Times writing stories about them and Hawaii 5-0 back on the air, it’s only a matter of time before these amazing instruments become megapopular again.

3. Playable Synthesizer T-Shirt

By widely accepted generalization, indie musicians have two major turn-ons: Vintage musical instruments and graphic tees. Whomever you give this playable synth t-shirt to may well go into hipster overload as he or she bangs out “Axel F” in eight-voice polyphonic sound. On their T-SHIRT.

4. iKlip iPad Music Holder

​Sheet music is so 19th century. In the dawning digital era, all sight-reading will be performed using high-definition, rare-earths-rich LED touchscreens. Prepare the musician in your life for the promised day when performers will be able to afford tablet computers with this handy iPad music holder! Finally, they’ll be able to say goodbye to shuffling pages, illegal photocopies and agonizing papercuts. At least until music stands become retro-chic, anyway.

5. Numark iDJ Live Software Controller

​Back before entire music libraries fit on a single iPod, DJs used to create mixes using vinyl records. Now that iPods are also almost obsolete, this digital iPad controller will let your friends use modern musical technology to create their own mash-ups using turntables, just like the disc jockeys of old did. Just plug in an iPad and scratch, chop and screw tracks straight from iTunes.

We hope these ideas make your holiday shopping a bit less stressful.  Still stumped?  Don’t forget the gift of music lessons, whether it’s to sharpen a skill, extra help for an audition, or simply to try something new!

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6 Bands We’d Like To Eat On Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and all around the U.S. people are scrambling to get the last-minute ingredients for the big meal.  Of course, if you’ve already done your grocery shopping – or if you’re lucky enough to have someone else doing the cooking this year – sit back, relax, turn on the tunes and take a look at this list we found over at Loudwire.  Here are some bands we’d love to invite to our Thanksgiving feast this year:

1. Buckcherry
You may think of Warrant when you think of cherry pie, but for the ultimate cherry pie we only use the best, Buckcherry. Frontman Josh Todd and his crew are as sweet as can be since not only did they tour nonstop in 2011 but they also held a charity concert earlier this year for a great cause. If Buckcherry isn’t your cherry of choice, there’s always Black Stone Cherry.

2. Meatloaf
Forget the turkey, this Thanksgiving is all about Meat Loaf. The artist known as Meat Loaf, whose birth name is Marvin Lee Aday, is not only a successful musician but a bit of a veteran actor, making appearances in films such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Wayne’s World and Fight Club just to name a few. He even showed off his own cooking skills as a contestant on the most recent season of Celebrity Apprentice.

3. Pearl Jam
Most people can’t have their biscuits without some sugary jam. Pearl Jam have been rocking since the early ’90s and gave Nirvana a run for its money during the height of the grunge music era. PJ just celebrated their 20th anniversary with a festival in Wisconsin and a documentary film. Our list would be incomplete if we were to leave out Eddie Vedder and the rest of the sweet Jam.

4. Korn
Corn is a great side dish for any feast whether it’s frozen, in a can or on a cob. But when corn becomes Korn, it turns into delish dish of nu-metal goodness. The band’s upcoming album ‘The Path of Totality’ incorporates dub-step into the mix, adding a new chapter to the storied career of Korn. With a new single called ‘Narcissistic Cannibal,’ we just hope Korn stick to eating a traditional meal at Thanksgiving this year.

5. Red Hot Chili Peppers
For the lovers of spicy food, no meal would be complete with some Red Hot Chili Peppers, which spices up any of the dishes on this list for Thanksgiving. This band remains as flavorful today as they were when they first started out in 1983. Jump ahead to 2011 where they have released their 10th studio album ‘I’m With You.’ Let’s face it, who doesn’t like a little spice in their life — whether it’s on their plate or on their iPod!

6. Smashing Pumpkins
Pumpkin Pie anyone? What Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a little bit of the season’s favorite dessert. And how do you get the filling for this delicious treat — by Smashing Pumpkins, of course.

What other bands would you add to the list?  If you can think of any, stop by our Facebook page and leave a quick comment.  Have a safe, happy and filling Thanksgiving!

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Practice Makes Perfect, But Are You Doing It Right?

Piano practiceYesterday we discussed some common excuses for not practicing and how to overcome them.  If you’ve already read that and corrected your mindset, the question remains:  How much do you really need to practice?  There’s a difference between mindless practicing and deliberate practicing – read on to find out how to get the most out of your practice sessions, courtesy of this Bulletproof Musician blog post that we loved:

Deliberate Practice

So what is deliberate, or mindful practice? Deliberate practice is a systematic and highly structured activity, which is, for lack of a better word, scientific. Instead of mindless trial and error, it is an active and thoughtful process of experimentation with clear goals and hypotheses.

Deliberate practice is often slow, and involves repetition of small and very specific sections of your repertoire instead of just playing through (e.g. working on just the opening note of your solo to make sure that it “speaks” exactly the way you want, instead of playing the entire opening phrase).

Deliberate practice also  involves monitoring one’s performance (in real-time, but also via recordings), continually looking for new ways to improve. This means really listening to what happens, so that you can tell yourself exactly what went wrong. For instance, was the first note note sharp? Flat? Too loud? Too soft? Too harsh? Too short? Too long?

Few musicians take the time to stop, analyze what went wrong, why it happened and how they can correct the error permanently.  Make that a habit during your practice sessions.

4 Keys For More Effective Practice

1. Duration
Keep practice sessions limited to a duration that allows you to stay focused. This may be as short as 10-20 minutes for younger students (or if that’s all you have time for), and as long as 45-60 minutes for older individuals.

2. Timing
Keep track of times during the day when you tend to have the most energy. This may be first thing in the morning, or right before lunch, etc. Try to do your practicing during these naturally productive periods as these are the times at which you will be able to focus and think most clearly.

3. Goals
Try using a practice notebook. Keep track of your practice goals and what you discover during your practice sessions. The key to getting into the “zone” when practicing is to be constantly striving to have clarity of intention. In other words, to have a clear idea of the sound you want to produce, or particular phrasing you’d like to try, or specific articulation, intonation, etc. that you’d like to be able to execute consistently.

When you figure something out, write it down. As I practiced more mindfully, I began learning so much during practice sessions that if I didn’t write everything down, I’d forget.

4. Smarter, not harder
Sometimes if a particular passage is not coming out the way we want it to, it just means we need to practice more. There are also times, however, when we don’t need to practice harder, but need an altogether different strategy or technique.  Think creatively.

Make the time you do have count, and you’ll be well on your way to mastering the music.  Readers, do you have any of your own strategies to share?  As always, we’d love to hear – leave a comment below!

 

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5 Excuses for Not Practicing – And How to Overcome Them

Sometimes, no matter what our age, practicing just might not sound appealing on a given day.  If you’re starting to learn an instrument later in life, you might get home from a busy day at work and feel like relaxing on the couch instead of breaking out the book of scales and etudes.  Unless you have a specific goal you’re working on, it can be all too easy to lose focus and think up a dozen excuses to avoid practicing.  Sometimes it’s just easier to be stubborn.

Still, practicing is an unavoidable part of learning anything – so it’s about time to face your excuses head-on.  Here, Lisa at the Music Made Easy blog tunes us into the most common excuses for not practicing… and how to overcome them:

1.  Not Having Enough Time

Solution: This barrier is simply perspective.  Sometimes you may feel like you haven’t got enough time to practice because you think your minimum practice time should be an hour or half an hour.  It’s ok to practice for five, ten or even three minutes at a time.  Doing these short amounts of practice with focus is still better than not doing any practice at all.  When I ask students if they could find five minutes in the day to play their instruments, they always answer that they can.  If you adopt this mindset, you will find you will practice more and feel better about your music.

2.  Lack of Motivation

Solution: Most commonly, lack of motivation is due to not having any goals for your music or having unrealistic expectations of what your progress should be.  So, start by setting some realistic goals for yourself, one that you can achieve in a single practice session, one you can achieve in a week and one that you can achieve in a month.  Once you have something to work towards and something you want to achieve you will find your motivation levels improve.

3.  Not Enjoying Practice/It’s too Boring

Solution: Make sure you have some goals for your music and design your practice activities towards achieving these goals.  Having resources you like to work from is also important.  Practice can only be boring if you are stagnant, repeating the same exercises and routines over and over.  So try to change this if it is your habit.  Try to have a practice goal for every session you do and collect resources that will help you achieve these goals.

4.  Being Too Tired or Not in the Mood

Solution: If you practice a lot and this happens every now and then, that’s ok, take a break.  However, if this is a recurring theme for you, you may need to do some reflection work and see if the cause is something a little deeper, like not feeling motivated or not having goals or not knowing how or what to practice.  If the problem is simply that you are a busy person and tired at the end of the day, you need to have the mindset to just play your instrument for five minutes, beginning with breath focus and relaxation, knowing that this five minutes is like a meditation and a break for you.  It means framing your music practice not as work and effort but as a relaxing and energizing activity.

5. Not Having the Right Equipment / Don’t Like Current Instrument

Solution: Firstly, don’t be under the illusion that you have to have the best equipment in order to learn music.  You can definitely start simply and build from there.  Secondly, if you haven’t got the money to get the equipment you need, you have to think creatively about it.  You could borrow a friend’s instrument, hire a practice space, or rent an instrument.  Where there is a will, there is usually a way!

Continue reading the article here.

Do any of these excuses sound familiar?  As you can see, it’s all about mindset.  At one point, you were excited to try a new instrument – set some goals and do what you can to get that excitement back.  And don’t be afraid to talk to your teacher about it if you’re at a loss – they’re here to help!

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Do You Have What it Takes to be a Successful Musician?

Before Lady Gaga was making headlines with her off-beat music videos and selling millions of albums, she was just Stefani Germanotta, performing in school musicals and open mic nights around New York City.  The whirlwind of success she attained between then and now has made her one of the most well-known artists of this decade.  She has continued to stay a media favorite, with her head-turning wardrobe, die-hard fan following, and numerous award nominations.  Wondering the secret to her success?

Musicians who have catapulted themselves into stardom often have many personality traits in common – from strong networking skills to get them in the door to a commitment to working hard at their art.

Here, Suzanne Glass at indie-music.com describes the essential personality traits for today’s successful musician – and we couldn’t agree more!

1. Patient – From the studio to traveling to rehearsing to making business calls, being a musician requires attention to detail. It takes a lot of practice to get it down perfectly. Being patient and relaxed about the inevitable delays is necessary.

2. Thick-Skinned – From the time you first perform in public, some people are going to judge your music harshly. This might come from a label rep or a departing band member or a publisher, but you can’t let it get you down. Keep believing in yourself, and move on to the next thing.

3. Persistent – You have to have drive to succeed in the music business, and that has to carry you through times when things aren’t going very well.  If you can’t get up and try again, you’ll be out of the game early.

4. Optimistic – Remember that you got into music first and foremost because it was inspiring and FUN. Look on the bright side of things, take criticism constructively, and enjoy the process of “getting there”.

5. Extroverted – If you naturally love going out and meeting new people, that will be a tremendous asset in this networking-heavy business.

6. Self-directed – You need to know what your dreams and goals are, and you need to keep yourself focused on them.  You have to have internal drive, and you have to depend on you own instincts.

(View the full article here.)

If you’ve honed these skills already, you’re already one step ahead.  Stay committed to your music lessons, continue to follow your passions and you’ll reach your goals in no time.  Sometimes, all it takes is perseverance! (Need a music teacher?  Search for one near you here.)

 

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Our Biggest Event of the Year – 30% Off All Lesson Packages!

We’re in a giving mood this year – and our extended Black Friday deal was so popular last year, we just had to do it again!

From November 18th through November 27th, new students receive 30% off all Monthly or Quarterly lesson packages* when you mention the offer code “BLACKFRIDAY”.  If there’s someone musically-inclined on your list this year, lessons are a unique gift they’ll remember forever.  Or purchase lessons for yourself, and surprise your loved ones with a holiday performance they’ll never forget.

This offer is good for private in-home or in-studio lessons with a TakeLessons Certified Teacher, as well as lessons at one of our Best Buy locations.

This is our biggest sale of the year – don’t miss this opportunity to sign up for music or singing lessons at this special price!

Give us a call at 877-231-8505 between November 18st & 27th and mention “BLACKFRIDAY” to receive this awesome discount.  Remember, this deal is for one week only, so don’t delay.  We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

*Offer valid for purchases made from now through Sunday, November 27, 2011 ONLY. Lessons can take place at a later date. Mention offer code BLACKFRIDAY2011 to redeem. 30% off applies to monthly or quarterly lesson plans. Number of lessons in first month’s lesson plan is dependent on selected start date; quarterly lesson plans are 13 lessons. Discount applies to first month’s or first quarter’s lessons only. Auto bill required to receive discount. Subsequent billing cycles will be charged at full price. Discount given at time of purchase; any changes made to lessons after purchase may not be applied in full. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer or promotion. Offer has no cash value. Discount not available online at this time. Teacher availability is not guaranteed. Current TakeLessons students with an active account are not eligible for this offer.

 

 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Don’t Let It Damage Your Voice!

Great news for Adele – the singer is officially on the road to recovery after her throat surgery last week, following a vocal hemorrhage that forced her to cancel all remaining tour dates for the year.  “I’m doing really well, on the mend, super happy, relaxed and very positive with it all,” she wrote on her blog.  “The operation was a success and I’m just chilling out now until I get the all clear from my doctors.”

When the news of her injury first broke, we breezed through a few tips for caring for your voice. But when it comes to your health, the more information you have, the better.  And especially as the winter months begin, we want you to be in tip-top shape as you prepare for your holiday performances!  But if you’ve already fallen victim to a cold or flu this season, don’t let it cramp your style.

Here, Joanna Cazden, a Los Angeles-based speech pathologist, discusses vocal care for when you’re feeling under the weather:

The common cold — what we in health care call an upper respiratory infection or URI — is caused by a type of virus that likes cold, dry conditions. You can ward off some URIs by washing your hands frequently when in public places, and keeping your immune system strong with good nutrition, exercise, rest, and social support. But a further recommendation, especially for singers, is to keep your breathing environment humid rather than dry.

Running a vaporizer at night will make you less susceptible to colds, and more comfortable if you catch one. Take longer showers and baths; if you have access to a steam room, use it! Keep a hot beverage near your workspace, and sniff the steam in between sips. Steam soothes and protects your entire airway, and also helps clear extra phlegm.

If a URI bug does make its way into your throat, the vocal cords can become inflamed. Swollen cords vibrate more slowly, which makes your pitch lower. The vocal cords may also vibrate unevenly, leading you to sound hoarse or rough. Other vocal symptoms of a URI can include a smaller pitch range (inflamed cords don’t stretch as far) and less control over loudness (that all-or-nothing honk.)

Extra congestion in the nose or sinuses can temporarily block resonance, making your voice sound dull. Chest congestion or overall fatigue can diminish breath support. Repeated coughing can irritate otherwise healthy vocal cords. Under any of these conditions, pushing or tensing to try to sound “normal” will give you more trouble in the long run. Instead, a few days of relative silence — plus sleep, fluids, and steam — will help your voice recover quickly.

Avoid excessive use of over-the-counter decongestants, because while you feel more comfortable, your airway will be drier and more vulnerable to infection. Pain-killing throat lozenges also tend to be drying, and may tempt you to use your voice more than is wise. Drink steamy beverages instead, and use that vaporizer at night.

If you’re fluey and weak but the show must go on, warm up your voice with extra care. See an ear-nose-throat specialist if necessary; some prescription inhalants can knock back an acute laryngeal inflammation. But don’t push your luck by constantly singing when ill.

We hope these tips help – and remember, there’s nothing wrong with resting when you don’t feel well!  Instead of pushing yourself (and your voice), think of your health and take a break.  Your singing teacher can help with further advice and recommendations, so make sure you speak with him/her if you’re feeling under the weather.  (Need help finding a voice teacher near you?  Click here to search by your zip code!

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