I took a few days off from my day job and am wrapping this project my sister from another mother suggested, a song for the Bluegrass Grill. I heard my mother talk about the Bluegrass Grill and how it was a popular meeting place when she was young. I did some investigating and found a menu online and wrote the lyrics over a few days. The tune came easily. The challenge was in writing the parts and figuring out how to convey the idea that cruising to the Bluegrass was a rite of passage for generations of teens. Thanks to Audrey for the suggestion! You can listen to it here and look for it on my next CD which I’m working on now…
Never have I been more thankful for my teachers and technique, than in Sacramento’s glorious spring. A layer of gold pollen covers cars, the trees are blooming and colorful flower petals float back in forth in the light valley breeze. Everywhere I look, there’s flowers, poppies, roses, lavender, dandelions, mustard and wild weeds. It’s beautiful here and it’s beauty has been a muse to many an artist beit painter or composer.
What does it mean for a singer with notorious hay fever? Having a good understanding of the typical physiological response to allergens and a plan of action, is so important. Last year I tried a new product, Sensimist by Flonase and I have finally found real relief. I still get some breakthrough sneezing so an Allegra on top does the trick. Kudos to Flonase for coming up with this fabulous product.
I do my best to head it off early but sometimes still miss the mark. My toolbox contains:
- Sensimist by Flonase
- Neti pot
It’s a well known and ongoing issue which is why understanding the physiological response to allergens is so important for singers. The natural inclination is to become tense and press- but don’t! Just don’t!
Relax, fall back. retreat, do some easy ooohs and gentle well placed eeees – resist the temptation to panic and consider your antihistamines and environment. Listen to the people around you. So many of the workers in my office have raspy sounding voices at the moment and my best buddy told me she couldn’t even sing the hymns in church on Sunday. So I know it’s related to the environment and to rely on my understanding of my instrument and careful technique.
There are a few things I’ve done to make it easier performance wise as well:
- Lowered my repertoire
- Became good at changing keys depending on the scenario or on the condition of my instrument
- Learn to trust my technique – go low for the high notes, high for the low notes, never press, sing the vowels and be patient. When the pollen’s crazy it takes a little longer to warm up, and more awareness to keep the support.
As soon as we bust 100 degrees it gets better. But look at these guys, is it any wonder??
They’re like little assholes, standing poised to ruin your spring performances.
When you feel their affects, proceed with caution, go back to the gentle basics of good singing technique and if that’s not enough:
- After two weeks of insurmountable symptoms, see your doctor
- Hit the Benadryl when you have to. Though it knocks me out, nothing calms the stymptoms better
- Rest when you need to, wait for that 100 degree day, adjusting the pitch of your repertoire (still practicing good technique) and
- resist the temptation to look up various online diagnosis
- Resist the temptation to scratch your skin
If you can afford an allergist and can handle the shots that may eliminate the whole ordeal, and local bee honey is supposed to help as well. But if not be patient, summers coming!
“Just how lonely can lonely be?” by Southern Culture on the Skids is one of the covers I’m learning. I’ve got it down, guitar parts memorized. It’s pretty simple, just rooting the words down into my brain so they’ll stick and I can get off the page. I really like the structure of this song and it fits right in with my material.
I’ve never had much of a memory for certain types of data – the order of presidents, important years of historical events (minus the depression 29-32) have always escaped me. One thing though that does not escape me is a song. Especially a song that I’m working on. I can hear all the parts in my head and when it’s really bad it’s like a pinball machine on tilt.
I had a super interesting conversation with my father recently. He brought up this story from my past and asked me if I recalled it… I had come home from Neva King Cooper Middle School with a less than stellar report card. He was displeased. I was in my parents walk in closet and he was yelling at me. His exact words were, “What in the hell goes through your head all day?”
One thing about my father was that he could smell a lie. And lying to him was akin to an enormous betrayal. I weighed the consequences and decided immediately that the pure truth was in order. I looked up at him and said, “Songs. Songs go through my head all day.” He looked at me utterly confused and was unsure what to say. I think at that point I was wanting to audition for Annie so it was songs like, “It’s a Hard Knock Life, Tomorrow, You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile,” etc. I would hear the melodies and the songs as if they were on repeat. And it was impossible to get it to stop. Sometimes it was the last thing I heard as I got out of the car.
Now here I am, three CD’s later, songs placed with publishers and on apps and my dad said to me, “It didn’t make any sense to me back then, but it sure makes sense now.” And it does. Perhaps it’s just part of my creative process. I had a voice teacher along the way say, “It’s not how much you practice but how well you practice. Sometimes the best practice is mental.” I never have to worry about not having a radio. 😉