The Quartet Rehearsal Where I Lost My Singing Voice

I didn’t listen to the clues that my body was telling me that I had a cold brewing.
Posted By Mary Williams – Choir Leader, Singer & Blog Writer

It’s frustrating when a singing voice is affected by a virus, cold or flu at a rehearsal or choir. Or you’ve been singing too long or loudly, making it seem like too much hard work. At first, you feel a bit scratchy in your throat. Vowing to battle your way through – is sadly not what you expected when you looked forward to singing.

Either way, what should have been a fruitful and productive singing rehearsal turned into a limp pile of lost dreams and disappointment.

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I was really looking forward to my lovely barbershop quartet rehearsal. As a long-distance singing group with over a 3-hour drive between us – we only meet once a month at most to rehearse. 

So, it’s a privilege not just to sing together – but to catch up with each other’s news and lives as friends.

We Are Rehearsing For a Barbershop Chorus Concert

My quartet is learning fresh and exciting music as we are working towards singing in a concert in December with fellow singers at Bristol Fashion Chorus. Then we have some events in 2024 planned – including LABBS quartets prelims during June. I am thrilled about the prospect of future performances..

So, it’s imperative that we take personal responsibility to learn all our music at home thoroughly – so we work on deeper musical issues, craft and themes when we rehearse together.

So, there I am – as keen as a keen singing bean and excited for the day ahead. Despite being tired after a week of work and lacking in energy compared to normal, I was still up for it.

After initial hugs and greetings, we gathered earnestly and caught up with a cup of tea (or two) and a shared weekend lunch. 

Then, it’s time to knuckle down to work. So far, so good.

Singing Vocal Warmups To Begin

Our vocal warmups are gentle and self-driven, eventually building range and practising our resonance so our voices fit together like a glove. I enjoy singing a round or two, and we perform exercises harmoniously to match our placements. Besides this slight tiredness that made it harder to concentrate, I felt fine. 

After a quick sing-through of one of our new songs to see where we needed to focus our work, we started on the nitty gritty.

At our last rehearsal in September, we had invited Pete (Nooj) Nugent to coach us on our new barbershop ballad, so the main aim was to ensure that we 100% nailed everything we learned with him. If we didn’t get something right, we accepted nothing less than to keep redoing it until we conquered it.

Something Didn’t Feel Right With My Singing Voice

Yet, after just a few minutes, something strange happened to me and my voice. 

It felt a little scratchy, so I put it down to potential dehydration, grabbed some water from the tap and dismissed it.

In fact, I was pretending nothing was happening and continued our rehearsal.

Singing In Tune Became Impossible

I apparently struggled to remain perfectly on the pitch – something I can typically do so easily. And it felt like my hours of TE Tuner note-checking were wasted. Yet, this wasn’t normal. My previous rehearsals on this song hadn’t thrown up any note or pitch issues.

Then my voice started cracking here and there, and I couldn’t control it. This horrible, crazy feeling made it difficult to do the things I usually manage effortlessly(ish!)

I’m Worried About My Singing – So I Tried to Fix It.

At this point, I am getting concerned. But I didn’t want to alarm my friends, so I got thinking. Normally, I can sing healthily for hours without anything amiss. 

In my mind, I checked off to see if I had any tension or vocal strain to be resolved. 

This song must be sung in my chest voice for impact. I tend to flip up too quickly to a head voice in my mixed register – yet during my personal rehearsal practice, I hadn’t hit any ongoing issues.

I quietly self-checked my physical alignment and where the feelings were coming from. Nothing I couldn’t sort. Yet, my singing voice was rough and far from clear.

Then My Singing Voice Got Huskier.

As I continued, I realised that my spoken voice was getting darker and hoarser. Now, I was suffering with some discomfort. I couldn’t hide it anymore. My singing voice needed to be rested.

In one last-ditch attempt, we took a tea break (whilst enjoying chocolate muffin cheesecake!) and switched the song. 

Madly, I hoped this would solve all my singing voice ills… 

I Sung Until I Could Sing No More

I only wanted to enjoy my in-depth singing practice for a few more hours and have a fabulous rehearsal. Sadly, it was apparent after a few minutes that wasn’t the solution. 

I did the wrong thing and soldiered on until I could sing no more. 

In fact, if I had been one of my own choir singers that I teach, I would have stopped this charade in its tracks hours ago. Vocal rest is the only answer.

And eventually, I had to stop singing. Give in. 

I was beyond annoyed at myself. And for wasting my quartet friends’ time who travelled to me (not that they said that – that’s my perception!). What an idiot, I felt.

Shortly before it completely disappeared, My voice sounded awful, like a gruff drawl.

So, I had an early night. Disappointed. My body was weary and achy.

And Then I Woke Up The Next Day With A Cold

When I awoke the following day everything finally became clear.

My nose was streaming buckets, and my head was fuzzy. My throat was tight and sore. So that was it, eh? I was coming down with a cold. 

It explained what had happened at the rehearsal to me and my singing voice. And the slight fatigue was the only clue when my barbershop quartet pals arrived the following day that something was not right. 

When You Get Unexplained Vocal Issues – Stop Singing And Rest Your Voice!

So, my advice to you – is to not be like me. 

If you feel out of sorts and have a sore throat or rough voice. Just stop singing and rest your voice. If you are singing out of tune when you are ordinarily okay or can’t focus due to fatigue – pay attention to the symptoms. The importance of self-care as a singer, listening to one’s body, and balancing commitment and personal well-being really matter.

You might just be sick rather than useless.

Take care,

Thank you for reading the singing blog post. I hope you find it useful.

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