Mindful Mastery Mondays #4: The Sound of Mucus (Part Two!)

Recently a Broadway performer sought me out because she was experiencing something unsettling in performance. In her solo numbers, she would randomly feel/hear an intermittent “rattle” or “click” with the power to interrupt her vibrato and even create a momentary dip in pitch! She knew it was a result of “gunk” on her cords, but was completely confused as to why it was there and why it made such random appearances. Trips to ENTs for scoping had yielded no answers. On advice from colleagues, she had tried everything, including eliminating dairy from her diet, homeopathic remedies, and upping her hydration levels. Nothing seemed to make a dent in the phlegm phenomenon.

As we began to work together, however, it became clear that the phlegm was anything but random. Her “money notes”, while exciting, were more effortful and pressed than necessary. And a phrase or two later, the sound of mucus would appear right on cue! No one was more surprised than she to learn that SHE was the cause of her “rattle”. Once we addressed her technical issues, eased her effort levels, and routed a map through those treacherous passages, the gunk was gone for good.

It’s true. Effortful singing or speaking (pressed phonation) may be the cause of that phlegm! As we explored last week, the larynx produces additional mucus in an attempt to lubricate and protect the cords when they become irritated. Yet another reason that your primary goal is always to keep your effort (at the level of the folds) as easy as possible. I promise, with the right tools, even the most aggressive rock sounds can be produced with impunity!

Brannon McAllister