This month the worst thing happened to me: I lost my voice. On set. This has never happened to me. I am diligent about health and have a killer immune system – if I do say so myself. The last eight weeks have been a very busy time and my tenacity weakened. My health became a second priority as I rushed from A to B and sleep was put aside in order to find more hours in a day. I also travelled from summer to winter for five days and my body just shut down. I wasn’t gonna stop, so it stopped for me! My voice, unfortunately, was the main casualty.
Luckily, I had the wonderful Prudence Holloway on set with me. Singer, actor, and voice teacher, Pru helped me manage my vocal performance with little strain and maximum result. I thought I would know what to do in a situation like this, but my sick, spluttery, foggy brain was so clouded I couldn’t think of anything.
It got me thinking – imagine if I didn’t have Pru on set with me! I’m sure I would have pulled it together somehow, but wouldn’t a go-to list of what to do when such a disaster strikes be awesome to have on hand?
So that is what I am giving you this month!
Prudence Holloway is an accomplished actor and singer whose credits include The Girlie Show as part of the 2016 Mardi Gras Festival, as well as Squabbalogic’s critically acclaimed Austalian premiere of Carrie The Musical (Chris Hargensen). She has appeared in Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens (Tracey, PHP), and As You Like It (Rosalind, PGT). Prudence is also a regular in the Sydney music scene.
Below is Pru’s advice for getting through a day of shooting with illness, getting back in shape afterward, and some medicines and lozenges she recommends.
What to do when you’re sick and you have to get through a day of filming:
- Vocal rest, unless you are speaking.
- Try to focus or lift the sound into the “mask” area (mid section of face around the nose) and lean on resonance to speak, rather than letting the sound drop into the throat where the sickness is.
- Keep the breath connected to the sound, even more so than usual.
- STEAM, STEAM, STEAM! It helps to lubricate the folds and re-hydrate them. Dehydration is a huge problem when we get sick. DO NOT steam with eucalyptus – yes it may open up your sinuses, but it is too harsh on your vocal folds. If vigorous vocal demands are required, do not steam for about hours hours prior.
- Drink lots of water.
- Lemon & ginger tea with honey.
Exercises to get yourself back into shape/general practice & vocal health tips:
- Sirens: on an “ng” sound (like siNG) – Going from a high note to a low note. Sirens are a good way to see where you voice is at post sickness, you want to aim for a smooth and quiet sound through your range. Think of this a gently waking up your vocal folds.
- Do tongue trills or lip trills through your range gently moving through your voice.
- Get back into your Alexander Technique work.
- The most important thing is to give yourself time to heal; pushing yourself can lead to longer recovery and potential damage.
- Always keep hydrated and make sure you are getting enough sleep.
- Know your instrument and have a regular practice regime. When everything is fine, it is easy to forget and get too busy to keep up the practice, but when you get sick that’s when you need the technique to rely on.
- Do regular voice classes.
- Avoid loud venues where you have to shout.
Medicine/things to do – there are a million and one options when it comes to medicines/lozenges you can have when you’re sick but these are my favourites:
- ArmaForce. Buy some immediately and have it ready for the first signs of sickness.
- Euco Steamer (sans eucalyptus)
- Watermelon Frost (for sore throats). Quite possibly one of the most disgusting tastes out there but effective.
- Pei Pa Koa – Chinese Cough Syrup. Can also make quite a nice rum based cocktail if you feel so inclined.
- Manuka Honey
- Lemon and Ginger Tea
- Chicken Soup
The most important thing I could say is to learn to listen to your voice. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your vocal health and it is on you to know your instrument, and treat it with respect and care.
You can contact Pru for individual advice at:
Or check out her Facebook at:
Be nice to yourselves, guys! Silly season is in full force and it can wreck havoc on your voice, body, and mind, so don’t forget to workout vocally, physically, and mentally!
Most importantly . . . breathe.move.react
Until next month . . .