Volume 5 Issue 10

straight from the pony's mouth


Cheryl (aka Crow)

our pal
of the month

We feature a different Pal every month as a thank you to those special people who have shared their support and friendship not only with us, but with the entire community.

l check your pal status
l update your pal status
l past pals of the month

lYou can also update your pal status at any of our shows. See your host for a -We Don't Wanna Miss A Pal- form.


Happy Birthday to our
October Pals!

l6 Shelby (Pony in training)
l7 Doug (Wolverine)
l10 Laura (Badger)
l11 Warren (Mongoose)
l13 Kathleen (Cheetah)
l14 Elise (Phoebe)
l19 Deb (Bee)
l24 Robin (Armadillo)
l27 Alain
l29 Maurice
l30 Will
l31 Muriel (Parrot)

Add your name to the Pals Birthday Calendar
Thanksgiving Monday Oct. 10 - A great time to spend with family, so Biddy Mulligan's it is then!

The full moon will grace us on Monday the 17th.
A great night to come out to Biddy Mulligans to howl at the moon with Hound & Kitty

Halloween - Monday Oct. 31st Drop in to Biddy Mulligan's for a trick or a treat. Spooky-boo!

Daylight Savings Time Ends - Sunday Oct. 30
Time to put your clock back an hour.

...and now for some unusual October observances:

Monthly Observances
- Adopt A Shelter Dog
- Alternate History
- Animals Aloud!
- Billiard Awareness
- Sun Dried Tomatoes
- Celiac Sprue Awareness
- Children's Magazine
- Diversity Awareness
- Eat Better, Eat Together
- Emotional Wellness
- Energy Management
- Gay & Lesbian History
- Go Hog Wild Eat Ham
- Halloween Safety
- Head Start Awareness
- Health Literacy
- Inter Starman
- Inter Strategic Planning
- Lupus Awareness
- Book Month
- Breast Cancer Awareness
- Chili Month
- Communicate With Your Kids
- Construction Toy
- Cookie Month
- Crime Prevention Month
- Dental Hygiene Month
- Depression Awareness
- Disability Employment Awareness
- Domestic Violence Awareness
- Down Syndrome
- Family Sexuality Education
- Go On A Field Trip
- Liver Awareness
- Long Term Care Planning
- Medical Librarian
- Orthodontic Health
- Physical Therapy
- Popcorn Poppin'
- Pork Month
- Reading Group
- Roller Skating
- RSV Awareness
- Seafood Month
- Spina Bifida Awareness
- SIDS Awareness
- Toilet Tank Repair
- Discover America
- Polish American Heritage
- Positive Attitude
- Rett Syndrome Awareness
- Right Brainers Rule!
- Self-Promotion
- Spinach Lovers
- Talk About Prescriptions
- Vegetarian Month
- Women's Small Business
- Workplace Politics

Weekly Observances:
- Divorced Parents For Children 1-7
- Universal Children's 1-7
- No Salt 2-6
- Mental Illness Awareness 2-8
- Mystery Series 2-8
- 4-H 2-8
- Carry A Tune 2-8
- Nuclear Medicine 2-8
- Newspaper 2-8
- Work From Home 2-8
- Squirrel Appreciation 2-8
- California Ride Share 3-7
- Spinning & Weaving 3-7
- America's Walk For Diabetes 4 & 5
- World Space 4-10
- HealthCare Food Service 5-11
- Emergency Nurses 9-15
- Fire Prevention 9-15
- Metric 9-15
- Business Cards 9-15
- Home-Based Business 9-15
- School Lunch Wk 9-15
- Improve Your Home Office 10-14
- Networking 10-16
- School Lunch 13-19
- Achieve Financial Differences 16-22
- Getting The World To Beat A Path To Your Door 16-22
- Kids Care 16-22
- Teen Read 16-22
- Character Counts 16-22
- Chemistry 16-22
- Food Bank 16-22
- Forest Products 16-22
- School Bus Safety 16-22
- Food & Drug Interaction Education & Awareness 17-24
- Freedom From Bullies At Work 17-23
- Businesswomen's 17-23
- Health Education 17-23
- Infection Control 17-23
- World Rainforest 17-23
- Inter Credit Union 18-22
- Celebrate Job Loss 23-29
- Give Wildlife a Break 23-29
- Magic of Differences 23-29
- Massage Therapy Awareness 23-29
- Save Your Back 23-29
- Pastoral Care 23-29
- Disarmament 24-30
- Prescription Errors Education & Awareness 24-31
- Peace, Friendship and Goodwill 25-31

Daily Observances
- Fire Pup Day 1
- Inter Day of Older Persons 1
- Inter Frugal Fun Day 1
- Pumpkin Day 1
- Scare A Friend Day 1
- World Vegetarian Day 1
- Custodial Workers Day 2
- World Farm Animals Day 2
- Intergeneration Day 2
- World Communion Sunday 2
- Child Health Day 3
- Supreme Court Day 3
- World Habitat Day 3
- Ten-Four Day 4
- Toot Your Flute Day 4
- Balloons Around The World 5
- World Teachers Day 5
- Jackie Mayer Rehab Day 6
- German-American Day 6
- Physician Assistant (PA) Day 6
- Depression Screening Day 6
- Diversity Day 7
- World Smile Day 7
- Back to Basics Day 8
- Cosmopolite's Day 8
- Leif Erickson Day 9
- Children's Day 9
- World Post Day 9
- Columbus Day 10
- Hunter's Moon 10
- Kick Butt Day 10
- General Pulaski Memorial Day 11
- Coming Out Day 11
- Inter Moment of Frustration Scream Day 12
- Emergency Nurses Day 12
- Bring Your Teddy Bear To Work & School Day 12
- Inter Day for Natural Disaster Reduction 12
- Navy Birthday 13
- Be Bald and Be Free Day 14
- Lee's Denim Day 14
- World Egg Day 14
- Grouch Day 15
- Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day 15
- White Cane Safety Day 15
- Sweetest Day 15
- Dictionary Day 16
- World Food Day 16
- Boss's Day 17
- Mulligan Day 17
- Facility Service Workers Day 18
- World Menopause Day 18
- Evaluate Your Life Day 19
- Black Poetry Day 20
- Get Smart About Credit Day 20
- Get To Know Your Customers Day 20 (also January 20, April 21, July 21)
- Inter Credit Union Day 20
- Day of Concern About Young People & Violence Day 20
- Mammography Day 21
- Inter Stuttering Awareness Day 22
- Color Day 22
- Make A Difference Day 22
- Reptile Awareness Day 22
- Mother-in-Law Day 23
- Mole Day 23
- TV Talk Show Host Day 23
- United Nations Day 24
- World Development Information Day 24
- Cartoonists Against Crime Day 25
- Sourest Day 25
- Mule Day 26
- Cranky Co-workers Day 27
- Navy Day 27
- Separation of Church & State Day 27
- Frankenstein Friday 28
- St. Jude's Day 28
- Ugly Pickup Truck Day 28
- Bring Your Jack-O-Lantern To Work Day 29
- Internet Day 29
- Create A Great Funeral Day 30
- Haunted Refrigerator Night 30
- Knock-Knock Jokes Day 31
- Magic Day 31
- UNICEF Day 31

Now all of the registered users on our message forum can enjoy their own personal BLOG hosted on our site FREE.

You know Heinlein's excellant term -to grok- as in -the grok the fullness of...-? That's the beauty of the blog; musings and daily diaries, personal growth & sharing with others.

I'm amazed and delighted at how well and differently people express themselves. Some have taken to blogging when they have something to get off their chests. some are blogging regularily...

I know we started our blogs a little late in life for some of you as you likely have a blog (or six) housed elsewhere...
but...I'd like to encourage all our members to put a little something together (profile, interests, a few musings, stuff that you'd like to share). As ours is essentially a community that actually meets in the real world.

The forum and blogs help to break the ice with people who you regularily see on the periphery but haven't yet gotten to know (or might not have previously known that you'd like to get to know better).

So take a wee bit of time and put a small blog together, maybe copy an entry or two from one of your other blogs here to save you the time.

We'd love to hear and see from you.

Adding your birthday to the
Calendar has never been easier. Simply add your birthday to your profile when you join the forum and it will automatically appear on the calendar each year.

You can also add special events such as your birthday party. Let us all know where and when you will be celebrating.

Our message forum is a great way to get to know the people you see at many of the shows. It is also the 1st place to learn about special events, parties, newest songs and what's happening in the community. Keep up on the latest news, weather & sports...uh...songs, shows & events.

Drop us a line when you register so we can grant you access to the special areas for our local singers ...
-the PALS Zone-.

We're always adding new photos to all the venue galleries.

Check out the ongoing antics of various friends inspired by our DOG & PONY Sound Logo:
-Living Logo- Series

... And our -Masterpiece Theatre- Dog & Pony Style: where we applaude the creative, the inspired, the wacky and the zany...various singers taking songs quite literally.

Subscribe to the
DOG & PONY sound
Newsletter today!

Subscribe today!




l Special Events: New Venue Paw Party!
l Venue News: News from your favorite venues, Swizzles now Thursdays
l Staff News: What's happening in the stables
l Pal News: Paws for thought
l Pal Stories: Personal Story Submissions
l Pal Birthdays: Pals don't get older they get wiser
l Song Library News: Online Library Updated, New Songs added
l Newest Web & Forum Features:
l Singing Tips: Singing With A Cold
l What's The Deal With... The Rotation ?
l Show Schedule: October 2005

In this newsletter we bring you tips on singing with a cold (yes, it's that time of year again), plus an indepth look at how our rotation system works, exciting news about new shows & paw parties, schedule changes and more.

Fall is officially here! I love this weather; cool, breezy, and fresh. I love the smells, the sights…without doubt, my favorite time of the year. Thanksgiving falls on Monday the 10th. A great evening to celebrate family and then join friends at Biddy Mulligan's. Halloween also falls on a Monday this year. We'll keep you up-to-dae on where the Halloween parties are going to be (see our forum). One thing we do know is Hound and Coyote will be serving up both tricks and treats at Biddy Mulligan's for a bit of good olf fashioned scary-oke! This month is also Daylight savings, so don't forget to "fall back" in the 30th.

On a goofy note, October also marks Sun Dried Tomatoes Month, Pork & Popcorn Month, Toot Your Flute Day on the 4th, Scare a friend Day on the 1st, Ugly Pickup Truck Day on the 28th, Bring Your Jack-O-Lantern To Work Day on the 29th, and Haunted Refrigerator Night on the 30th. What fun! [more]

As the seasons change so does our schedule. This Swizzles is moving their Friday show to Thursdays (beginning this Thursday Oct. 6). And another new venue starts in November, Sonny's with Hound. We'll remind you again as the date approaches. Don't forget to get your PAL Card punched. If you don't yet have your wallet sized card to keep track of the paws you've earned ask your host for your Pal Card. [see Pal News for more info]

We had a wonderful time this year at the Annual DOG & PONY Pal BBQ. As always, the BBQ took place on Labour Day Monday. Over 50 guests joined us at our home to enjoy hotdogs, hamburgers, sausages, chicken, cold cuts, potato salad, chicken & peach salad, veggie platters, fruit platters, pickled eggs, salsa & chips, cheezies, pretzels, chips, cookies, brownies, cake, cheesecake, pop, juices, wines, beers, coolers and each other!

Everyone brought a little something to share for an amazing day of feasting, laughing, playing and singing. Various hosts took turns running a steady stream of karaoke through the house and into the backyard. 
[See BBQ photo gallery]

The 2nd Annual Pump Idol Competition was a great success! It was hosted by Canadian Cultural Icon & Comedian Jon Dore and Jason Harper with Judges, Woody (CHEZ 106), "Mrs Woody" (Cathy), Jenny From The Block (105.3 Kiss FM) and journalist Gary Dimmock and music by DOG & PONY Sound.

Previous years Raffles, 50/50 draws, silent auctions and contestant pledges helped to raise over $8000.00. This year we raised $10,000.00
100% of the proceeds donated to The Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre.

Congratulations to Moe who won a DVD Home Theatre System, Larry J who won a beautiful Mountain Bike and Petey who won a terrific Golf Package. Congratulations too to Adam who won a hotel prize package for most pledges raised by a single singer, $758.
[See Pump Idol photo gallery]

What's The Deal With..?. This month we explain our Song Coding System. Why we do it and what it means to you?




Saturdays with Hound
beginning Nov. 12th


Venue Specific Special Events: Monthly Calendar

Oct. 6  - Swizzles begins Thursday Karaoke to replace Fridays
l Nov. 12 - Paw Party at Sonny's! 9pm - 1am

is incredibly fun every Monday.

Hound & Coyote are having so much fun hosting Biddy Mulligan's together that Coyote will now co-host 2 Mondays a month: the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month. Hound is joined by Kitty the 3rd week and Gator the 1st week each month and on those months with 5 Mondays, look for Beaver to come out of hiding.

Great food, great service, and great fun! 9:30pm-1:30am every Monday! and now, Mondays feature ½ price pizza!

BRIG PUB (Kanata)
501 Hazeldean Rd.

features Karaoke 2 nights a week!

Thursdays w/ Dog 9:30pm -1:30am
Fridays w/ Hound 10pm-2am

A fun room that often has more people partying than singing so if you like to sing lots, this is the place to be on a Thursday or Friday night!

THE LOOKOUT, 41 York St. (Market)
howl at the moon with Dog Wednesdays 9:30pm-1:30am

You gotta love the balcony overlooking the Market... oh the beautiful people!. Bartenders Matt & Donnie (Thing 1 and Thing 2) are always upbeat, quirky & fun. You never know what they'll do next.

Last month they held a Rodeo Themed Party.


O'BRIEN'S, 1145 Heron Rd.
promises a rousing good ole Karaoke Party EVERY Friday & Saturday with the Dog 9:30pm-1:30am!

O'Brien's has a long standing reputation as "the place" to hold that karaoke stag, bachelor party, birthday party. In fact, It's always a party!
[map] [photos]

ROYAL BRITANNIA PUB, 1475 Richmond Rd.
absolutely rocks every Thursday with our Hound 9pm-1am.

It's just a crazy jumpin' hot night of music, dancing and fun!

Thursdays also feature $10 pitchers.

[map] [photos]

SONNY'S BAR & GRILL, 1119 Baxter Rd.
A brand new show
beginning Saturday Nov. 12

with Hound.

Saturdays 9pm-1am
Don't forget to get your paw card punched! [see paw cards]

We'll be bringing you more information as we get closer to the opening date.

[map] [photos]

SWIZZLES, 246 Queen St.
is now the ONLY venue to offer ALL 3 Libraries!!!

Sundays 8:30pm -12:30
w/ Dog - Library #42

w/ Kitty
- Library #9¾
Thursdays 9:30-1:30
w/ Kitty- Library #33.3
[see all libraries]

AND NOW your weekend can start earlier at Swizzles with the NEW Thursday night show!

Join the Dusty Owl Poetry Group the 3rd Sunday of every month for a special featured reader & open stage 5pm before karaoke.
[map] [photos]

is the original little pub with the big heart. VIP continues its deliciously naughty karaoke nights every Wednesday & Saturday
w/ Gator
[map] [photos]


STAFF NEWS from the stables:
Pet the Dog Sundays at Swizzles, Wednesdays at The LookOut, Thursdays at The Brig Pub and Fridays & Saturdays at O'Brien's.

Bay with the Hound Thursdays at Royal Britannia Pub, Fridays at The Brig Pub and Mondays at Biddy Mulligan's. Don't miss the Paw Party opening night at Sonny's w/ Hound Saturday Nov. 12th.

Tickle Kitty behind the ears Tuesdays & Thursdays at Swizzles and the 3rd Monday of every month with Hound at Biddy Mulligan's

Catch Coyote howling with Hound the 2nd & 4th Monday of every month and Beaver and Hound the 5th Monday of the month at Biddy Mulligan's. Speaking of Beaver, he has been a very busy one indeed: Official PRIDE photographer, recently contracted by ToBe Magazine for their nightlife section, arranging various band promo shoots and Official D&P photographer for Pump Idol. Special thanks to Beaver for doing a wonderful job of documenting the event and Kitty for her invaluable organization skills.

Party with
Gator Wednesdays & Saturdays
9:30-1:30 and the 1st Monday of every month with Hound at Biddy Mulligan's.

[ Meet the entire stable ]


Puppy Paw Pals have sung at 2 (or more) of our venues and have earned the paws for each venue
Pony Paw Pals support our singers by coming out to 2 or more venues to enjoy the show.
check your own pal status online
update your pal status

Pocket Pal Paw Cards

Last month we introduced our new PAL Cards, wallet sized cards to keep track of the paws you've earned. If you have sung at 2 or more DPS shows, ask your host for your Pal Card.

     All our hosts are equiped with:
Pal cards
for 1-20 paws, 11-20 paws and 21-30 paws
Paw punches
to punch your cards (for the paws you've earned)
Pal list
(in case you forget how many paws you've earned)

(collect the whole set)

100% cotton, silk-screened T-Shirts
"I Got Pawed"
front breast/DPS logo back
Available at all venues
S,M,L,XL -$20       XXL-$25

Pal News: visit the BLOGS to find out who's up to what. who's seen what movie, who's vacationed where, who's bought a house, a car...

Baby Marcel was born to Marcel & Marie France on August 31st.

Special Thanks to all of you for supporting our shows, our hosts and our company. We're proud to have been named Ottawa's Best Karaoke 4 years in a row! But we couldn't have done it without your support! 

message forum is a great way to get to know the people you see at many of the shows. Currently we have over 200 registered members.

The forum is
the 1st place to learn about special events, parties, newest songs and what's happening in the community the same day we do. I post the newest songs on the forum the day they arrive (although it may take several more days to get the information on the website or printed in the new additions songbooks).

Some areas of the forum are specifically for local patrons and are only accessible to registered users. Drop me a quick message when you register so I can adjust your access.


Personal Story Submission Via Website:

Richie The Hound Shares

I first discovered music and singing when I was 9 or 10 years old. Before then, I heard music but had never really listened until I discovered Metallica (still my fav). Then I started to sing along to everything I listened to. But I would only sing while alone or with only very good friends around me. I didn't have much confindence and was easily embarrassed.

When I was 19, my friend and fellow Dog & Pony Pal Andrew (also known as -Puppy-) introduced me to Karaoke. I needed a lot of liquid courage. I find it very fitting that the first song I ever sang at Karaoke was -Courage- by the Tragically hip. As time went by, I became increasingly more comfortable and needed less and less liquid courage to sing. I knew I wasn't an excellant singer but I found songs that i could do well enough. I am told by Puppy that my singing has actually improved over the years, the result, I think of practice and gaining more confidance in myself.

I love Karaoke and always have a blast when doing it. The hosts have always made me feel comfortable while singing and made sure I had a good time. This is what I want to do for others. It doesn't matter what your voice sounds like, the fun you have is what is important.


Submit Your Personal Story for Publication.
Let us know what karaoke and community has meant to you.


Libraries OnlineOur online database has been updated as of September 1. 2005
3 libraries at a glance (the holy trinity)
Library #42 by Artist
Library #42 by Title
Library #9¾ by Artist
Library #9¾ by Title
Library #33.3 by Artist
Library #33.3 by Title
French songs
Guide to understanding our song codes
Children's songs

We've just reprinted the Library #42 Songbooks:
Now Library #42 consists of 2 books:
1. Songs by Artist and by Title [download Artist pdf] [download Title pdf]
2. Songs by Genre and New Additions
[download Genre pdf]

We add new songs to all our libraries regularly.
Keep up to date via our forum:

New to Library #42
New to Library #9¾

New to Library #33.3

Find Your Favorite Library:
Library #42 in use at: LookOut, O'Brien's, Swizzles & Brig Pub
Library #9¾in use at:
Swizzles, VIP, Royal Britannia, Brig & Biddy Mulligan's
Library #33.3 in use at:
Swizzles & Sonny's

easy popup & print: [weekly calendar] [monthly calendar]

What's The Deal With...

...The Rotation?

We pride ourselves on running a fair show. Fair fun for all! You'd be amazed at how many times we've been offered huge cash bribes to bump someone up or how many excuses people have presented for wanting to sing next. These requests are usually backed up with "aw c'mon! No one will notice". But we know, people might forget where they parked their car, but they never forget where they are in the rotation.

It's important to us that we strike a balance between rewarding dedicated 'early birds' and getting new singers involved in the fun as quickly as possible.

So how do we determine a rotation?
The first request slip handed to the host establishes the start of the rotation. Once the show has started we build the rotation in the order of slips received. We strive for a rotation for approximately 60-90 minutes - usually 12-18 singers and then go around again. It's not uncommon to have several people already in line in the first few minutes of the show, so get your slip in early. Each singer gets a labeled slot in our rotation tray. We will keep your spot in the rotation for one full cycle. If your turn has come and gone before you give us your second request you will be added to the end of the current rotation, or the next [new singer] spot.

Possible rotation scenarios:

Quiet start:

We leave two spaces between each to filter in new singers in the next rotation. So then, if we run 8 singers in order and go back to the beginning, singers #9 and 10 will be filtered into this 2nd rotation (alternating one old with two new singers) like this:
Rotation #1 singer1 [space] singer2 [space] singer3 [space] …singer 8
Rotation #2 singer1 [singer9] [singer10] singer2 [singer11] [singer12] …

Busy start:

We start with the first slip received, and proceed through the next and the next and… People who turn in a song slip within the first hour of the show are in the first rotation. It may take up to two hours to get through them all but we will. We then come around to old-new-old-new-old…

Challenges for Hosts:

One Singer - Multiple Names
Sometimes singers use stage names or funny names as a joke. While we appreciate playfulness, we become concerned when someone purposely changes their name to try to sneak in an extra turn.

It has occasionally caused a great deal of grumbling when "John" gets up to sing and then and a few songs later, we call "Jon" and the same guy comes up for a 2nd turn. We try very hard not to let this happen.

One Name - Multiple Singers
Just as John, Jon, Johnny, John Boy, Wonder John, JMan and Johnny Z, could all be the same guy, we could get 2 slips for "John" and think they're one guy only to find out that another guy named John had been waiting all night for his turn that never came. You have no idea how bad we feel when this happens.

You can help by putting your last name or initial on your song slip. We've actually had as many as 5 "Chantals" singing in one room… just imagine the "'Johns" & "Toms" & "Bobs" oh my!

Karaoke Gangs, Gangs of Gangs & Duets
We try, as fairly as possible, to manage people in groups and duets so each person appears only once during a rotation. Otherwise we hear "hey! that person has been up twice and I haven't had a turn to sing yet!".

The Invasion of the Microphone Snatchers
Occasionally an uninvited singer, moved by some force greater than their ability to reason, decides to join in. If this happens during your turn, rest assured, we won't activate the extra mics unless it is very clear to us that it is fine with you.

Q & A

Q: Will I miss my turn if I'm out having a smoke, in the washroom or simply don't hear my name called?
A: No. We'll call your name at least 3 different times:
1st call - we move on to the next singer then come back to you again.
2nd call - We keep the rotation moving and skip you again.
3rd call - by this time, if you haven't answered we have to assume you've left and you slip is removed. This is one of those times where a quick goodbye to the host would be very helpful

As already outlined, we will keep your spot in the rotation for one full cycle. If your turn has come and gone before you give us your second request you will be added to the end of the current rotation, or the next [new singer] spot.

Q: Should I hand in One or Many Requests?
A: You may submit multiple song slips at a time. All your requests simply go into your slot. As your turns come up you will get to sing your song choices in the order you submitted them. (or in the order your host wants you to sing them if you have given that permission)

At the end of your evening remember to let your host know you are leaving. This is a great help to them in planning and managing the rotation and gives them the opportunity to return your song slips to you so you can save them in your palvelope.

Q: I have to leave soon. Can I bump my turn up?
A: No. You are not the only one who has a reason for wanting to sing sooner. We treat EVERYONE special. This means no one will get bumped
in order to advance someone out of turn.
We've heard I need to go next because:

-"my agent is here to hear me sing and can't stay long"
-"my mother/sister/brother/father/cousin/best friend is visiting from Argentina/out of town/States/France and his/her/their plane/train/ride is leaving soon!"

-"it's my sister/brother/mother/fther/best friend's birthday/wedding/divorce and needs to sing next".
"I know your boss /the owner /God, and you'll lose your job/ /never work in this town again/ burn in hell, if you don't let me/my girlfriend/boyfriend/cousin/mother/dealer sing next/ soon/again".

Q: If I paid you $20, $50, $100 would you put me up next?
A: No. We are already paid to run a fair show for all the patrons of a venue. The exception would be if you paid for the public show to extend another 1/2 hr or hour with permission of the venue and the host. Then, we could garantee you another turn to sing before the end of he night, but still cannot bump you up to "next".

next month: what's the deal with...our song numbering system?


"Singing With a Cold"
(Better yet, how to avoid one in the first place)

by Mark Baxter

Winter and show biz don't mix.

Biting winds and piles of snow keep potential audiences at home and make things difficult for load-ins. Then there’s the additional burden of protecting your voice while everyone around is coughing and sneezing. As a singer, you can’t afford to succumb to the average two colds a year. Even if you’re a trooper and refuse to cancel, your instrument will be compromised and susceptible to harm. Not to panic, injury to the vocal folds is reversible, but taking time off to recover will put the brakes on your band’s momentum. Prevention is the answer. The good news is, for every cold-forming scenario, there is a counter measure. The bad news is, by the time the first symptoms show, it’s too late.

The germs which cause colds are always around. Constantly washing your hands and avoiding contact with others is not enough. The best defense is to keep your immune system strong by eating right (fruits and vegies), hydrating (two liters of water per day), sleeping (around six hours), and exercising for better circulation. Staying warm is also an important factor. In frigid conditions, your body works hard to retain heat. Dressing in layers, with a hat, water-proof boots and a scarf allows your body to focus energy on fighting off incoming infections. Use your brains. Wait until you stop sweating before going outside after rehearsal, and, leave a coat stage-side if a club requires a load-out directly after the set.

The winter holidays are a notorious time for coming down with something. Heavier foods and less physical activity increases the amount of toxins in our system. After a while, our bodies will clean house by producing mucus. So, find a way to stay physically active between Thanksgiving and Christmas -- and watch that third piece of pie. However, an abrupt change in lifestyle can also bring on a similar cleanse reaction. People who quit smoking cold-turkey or dramatically change their diet can expect cold-like symptoms to follow. I don’t want to discourage anyone from becoming healthier, merely suggesting a gradual change if you’ve decided to clean up as a New Year’s resolution.

Stress, of all the causes of illness, is number one. Juggling work or school with rehearsals and gigs, eating on the run with zero sleep, disrupts metabolism and forces the body to run on adrenaline. Anxiety saps vitamins, dehydrates, and leaves you vulnerable to whatever is around. That’s why colds always arrive right as your preparing for the big recording or showcase. Yes, you should be well rehearsed, but there comes a point where the push becomes counter-productive. Rest, like hydration, is an inseparable component of vocal ability. It’s important to remember that stress is 100 percent internal, and is always reduced by saying the word, -no.- So, for your voice’s sake, open up your schedule -- and chill.

I know it’s seems uncool to worry about health, but ask anyone who has toured for a length of time -- getting sick on the road sucks. It is not inevitable that you will catch a cold every winter. Hold firm to a belief that you will not get sick. If it's too late for this season, then for next. Adopting healthy habits now will pay off in spades in the future when you’re in demand. There is no remedy as effective as prevention. I’m sure your mother already told you most of these things, but that was so you wouldn’t miss school. I’m telling you so you won’t miss a gig. Big difference.

Okay, now let’s pretend that, despite your best efforts, you’ve come down with a nasty, aching, head clogging cold three days before an important gig. Is there anything you can do besides crack open a bottle of Jack Daniel’s? The answer is yes, but they aren’t nearly as much fun. To minimize the effect a cold has on the voice you’ve got to act quickly. Keep in mind that congestion, mucus, is what your body produces to flush out toxins. Over-the-counter medications (anti-histamines) dry up congestion but prohibit the necessary house cleaning. They also dry mucous membranes, like your vocal folds, which will cause you to lose your voice. So, reach for the decongestants as an absolute last resort. However, it is better to experiment with medications at rehearsals, rather then waiting until gig day. You should always know the effect something will have on your voice before you use it under the spotlights.

If you have time, instead of squashing the symptoms, help speed up the cleanse. Flood yourself with water and real juices to thin the congestion, lubricate your folds and flush your body. The juice should be freshly squeezed in order to get the most benefit. The best types during a cold are Orange (vitamin C), Celery (retains fluids), Cucumber & Cranberry (cleans acid deposits) and Carrot (vitamin A). If you’re not into juices, take supplements. The water-based vitamins like C and B complex are the first to be depleted when you’re fighting a cold. Unfortunately, a Mountain-Dew slushy has no vitamins, but does give a great brain freeze.

An important benefit of hydrating is that it may keep a cold from reaching your lungs. Throat clearing and coughing, which normally accompanies a cold, is very irritating to the vocal folds. The delicate membranes in and around the larynx become swollen and rigid, which is why your voice gets so deep and restricted. Inhaling steam will help loosen congestion in the lungs as well as soothe the vocal folds. Be careful when inhaling steam, you can burn your lips and nasal passages. Gargling with warm salt water will also help draw phlegm away from your larynx. (If the salt is collecting at the bottom of the glass, you’ve put in too much.) This is a good routine to get into daily, to clean and increase circulation of the mouth and throat. Teas, honey, or any other coating therapy may soothe soar muscles but will not heal the vocal folds. To reduce the swelling and get singing again, you’ve got to vocalize (warm up).

Low volume, barely audible, humming is a great way to start. Let your larynx choose the pitches. It’s better to stay with one single note (whichever is most comfortable) than to push or force the range. Allow plenty of time for your voice to loosen. Rushing the warm-up when you have a cold will greatly reduce the longevity of your voice and make conditions worse the next day. I once did a ten hour warm-up for a forty minute set. Refer to the warm up routine in lesson three, but remember, it’s not what you’re singing to warm up, it’s how.

Sleep as much as you can during the days leading up to your performance, even if that means skipping rehearsals. But, on gig day, don’t hibernate. Get up, take a long hot shower and do some light stretching and exercising to get your blood circulating. Mentally prepare for the long day ahead. Yes, it would be much easier to numb yourself with a bottle of Jack, but your condition the next morning will be twice as bad. The bottom line is, if you want a career as a performer, you’re going to have to learn to sing with a cold. Might as well start now.

Mark Baxter is a vocal therapist who offers private and video lessons. To contact him, call: (800)659-6002. Visit his website at:

(reprinted with the kind permission of Mark Baxter)


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