Friday, September 30, 2011

My Merry Mom Made Marmelade

Progress! I just had my third voice rehabilitation session. I am pleased to report that my voice is... improving! Jennifer Keyges, my therapist, noted that my voice is less scratchy and I am able to sustain notes longer and with better quality. She deemed me ready to go to the next level. This is the tool to help me get there.

Yes,  a kazoo!

The exercises I have been doing thus far centered around the middle of the body stack that we use to speak and sing.  At the bottom is respiration (diaphragm and lungs). In the middle is phonation (the vocal folds)  and at the top is resonance (mouth, nose).

We've been mostly working on phonation because of the damage to my vocal chords. As I've been working to sustain sounds, there has been some breath work involved and there will be more as I progress.  But now I am ready for resonance work.

Which brings me to the kazoo. As I was focused on taking a deep breath to sustain the sounds in the first set of exercises, I had some trouble switching from the gentle expelling of air to the "hum" necessary now. To play a kazoo, you don't blow, you hum. So these exercises start with a hum of the sound on the kazoo for about two or three seconds and then flow into chanting voiced "m" or "n" exercises. It begins with molm, molm, molm and goes to meem, meem, meem, and then moom, moom, moom. If I didn't feel silly enough doing that... we moved to sentences.


Mary made me mad.
My mom may marry Marv.
My merry mom made marmalade.

None know nothing now.
Nine knew nothing.
Name nine new names now.

I am becoming more and more aware of how I produce sound and where in my body the sound travels.

My assignment for the next few weeks is to continue the original exercises and add resonance chanting three to five times a day. I am happy to do this. My voice feels stronger and I find myself singing in the car a bit. I'm not ready for singing publicly but now believe it will happen one day. I'm so grateful.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I Just Wanna Go to Rehab

I said, “Yes, yes, yes!” 

I used to sing well. And, I loved to sing. But chronic, allergy-related coughing and misuse of my voice left me with more of a croak than a singing voice. It got to the point where I would not even sing when I was in the car, alone!

I tried throat lozenges, allergy medication, cough suppressants and resting my voice. Nothing helped, I felt discouraged and, well, sad. I finally found my way to The Blaine Block Institute for Voice Analysis and Rehabilitation.

After an endoscopy to examine my larynx and esophagus (my vocal chords), I got the good news. There is no permanent damage, just severe bruising. The even better news is that, with therapy, I should be able to recover my singing voice. It was amazing to look at the photographs of my vocal chords. This is a whole new level of getting in touch with my body!

Now, comes the rehab part. My speech and language therapist gave me a series of exercises to rehabilitate my voice. The first round of exercises (they’ll change as I make progress) takes about ten minutes, twice a day. After sounding a note on a pitch pipe, she had me repeat and sustain that note for as long as possible while singing "eeee." Then I do the same exercise, on the same note, while buzzing the lips. The second exercise is to go from my comfortable low note to my comfortable high note. The third is the reverse, to go from my comfortable high to my comfortable low. The final exercise is a series of notes (G A B C) where I sustain the note for as long as possible to "oooo." I immediately noticed I was having trouble with the breath necessary to sustain a note so next time we'll work on that.

To assist my practice, she provided a CD with all the exercises including the sounding pitches. Most of the time I do these in the car. The first time I did them, my son asked, "Is that you or is that the CD?" I told him it was both. On the next set, I heard a third voice, his! Now the joke around our house is to let loose with some "eee's," "ooo's," or lip trills to locate one another! Our two Yorkies are quite amused!

I'm grateful to have this opportunity to reclaim my voice. I'm looking forward to relearning how to effectively use my breath. Last December, at my Solstice Celebration, my chosen word for the year was "breathe." Lovely how its significance is affirmed in this rehabilitation process.