Singing After COVID
After almost two years into this pandemic, I managed to avoid contracting COVID…
And then came OMICRON.
My daughter got it first, apparently form gymnastics because she doesn’t go to daycare. Jorge got it again right after her. (This was his second time getting it.) It took me eight days to finally present symptoms myself, even being around Natalia all the time. But it finally got me!
Good grief, it has been the strangest virus I think I’ve ever had. At first, I just had a low grade fever and I rested for two days. By day 3 I would say I was about 75% and feeling pretty good. But then on day 4, this strange congestion started. Then it turned into like the worst cold ever. But thankfully I didn’t get bronchitis! (See my article about Singing with Bronchitis here.)
However, it’s had a strange affect on my voice. I feel my pharyngeal resonators are stopped up and not functioning correctly. But I still have to work, which means singing! (Even 14 days after first presenting symptoms!) So these are some things I’ve been doing to manage the residual affects of COVID omicron:
1. Neti Pot Every morning
The Neti pot is such a blessing for the professional singer. Whenever I get any sinus congestion, the Neti pot is my go-to for helping clear out my nasal passages. I generally use it every morning that I have any nasal congestion, and maybe once in the evening as needed. (When i was in the throes of COVID, I also reached for the LEGIT pseudoephedrine hydrochloride 120mg every morning to clear it out, but it makes me loopy so I trying to limit its use to a few days max)
Side note: Many people who got COVID had an “altered” sense of smell/taste. I had that for literally like 2 hours one evening on Day 5 of Omicron. Anything with vinegar smelled like acetone – it was horrible! I seriously got angry and started to freak out a bit, wondering if there was anything I could do to restore my senses. It finally dawned on me to try the Neti pot! So I did right away, and literally within minutes, my sense of smell was 90% back to normal and it has stayed that way since.
Thankfully I don’t get seasonal allergies, but several colleagues of mine also swear by the Neti pot to help with those as well.
2. Longer vocal warm-up
Any kind of respiratory illness is gonna affect your voice. And that generally means you will need more vocal exercise/warmup to clear off the phlegm that has accumulated on your chords. My regular “morning warmup” is like only 15 minutes. But in “COVID Recovery Mode” I’m generally extending my warmup to 20-30 minutes. It’s just a fact of life. Double-up on those morning vocal exercises! And make sure that you cover chest voice, head voice, edge exercises and pharyngeal resonators – a little potpourri of exercises for each register/resonator assures you have a well-rounded warmup.
3. Hot herbal tea (caffeine-free)
I can’t emphasize enough how important having something warm on your throat really is. I recommend any type of mint tea because the vapors soothe me so much, but even just hot water is better than nothing. And I am gonna recommend caffeine-free because you need to keep drinking it while performing, and it’s never good to take too much caffeine. So opt for a mint tea or anything without caffeine.
4. Gentle vocal exercises throughout the day
I have found it insanely beneficial to keep my voice “warmed up” during the day by doing regular humming and other gentle exercises like the lip bubble and tongue rolls as often as possible. The residuals from this awful virus seem to cause a continuous build-up of phlegm, and the more I can keep things loosened up, the better. But the key is to keep it VERY gentle whenever you’re vocalizing so much. So stick to the most gentle exercises.
5. Take It Easy (Vocally)
This really goes without saying, but you have to be gentle with yourself post-COVID/omicron! For me, this was like one of the worst colds ever and the cough and phlegm linger on even when the rest of my body feels great! So I’m not singing my most challenging repertoire, of course, and even when I am hired for a private event and a challenging piece is requested, I sing it as gently as possible.
After a quinceañera today that I thought was a questionable performance on my part (due to COVID voice!), I still received compliments on how beautiful the music was. And praise God for that! But I took it EASY and opted for a more gentle and pretty style of singing rather than bold and powerful. You can always use style to your advantage when working with a less-than-optimal voice.
Ultimately we are ARTISTS and every day we wake up with a voice that isn’t exactly the same as the day before. We have to learn to work with the voice we have that day and be as creative as possible to continue to show up, deliver great music, and pay the bills.
May God bless you abundantly in your music ministry!