Frequent fliers, cruise singers, Las Vegas performers. These environments are DRYYYYYYYYY.
Help is at hand however. Let me me show you how to keep that voice lubricated whilst also looking a bit like this Batman baddy. Two birds…
The same old story
As a vocal coach and singer there are, no doubt, going to be some stints of air travel as the calls come from overseas. As much as I love a good trip, I always seem to be slightly below par every single time I get off a flight. If the flight is long haul, my voice is the first thing to crumble and I get that sore sensation at the back of my nose. Not the perfect start to a trip where I need my voice to be tip top.
I tried a nebuliser, which was great on the short trips, but those dang long hauls still got me. As you do, I was cycling through the possibilities. Is it jet lag (which has actually been linked to dry air on flights)? Was it the early mornings and lack of sleep? Could it be that sneezing ball of microbes who’s sat in seat 22E?
Time to get nerdy
After some reading, I came across a massive amount of information on mouth breathing, hydration and humidity. It didn’t take long before I discovered the level of humidity that considerably affects vocal function. The sort of humidity levels that make it hard for a singer to sing without extra effort and fatigue. For the record, anything below 35% humidity is considered dry and could easily dry out a voice.
So if you’re performing in the Mojave Desert, which averages at 20% humidity on a summers day, then you’re gonna need more than a few sips of water every half hour. Las Vegas, which is in the middle of a desert, is reported drier! For these places, you’d no doubt need a good strategy to keep hydrated that involves more than just drinking liquids.
NB: Londons average humidity is 73%… wet!
Anyway, back to the flight
Keep that desert scenario in your head. 20%, remember?
As a completely nerdy experiment, before my next long haul flight to LA I bought two things:
- A hygrometer – This one from Amazon. If you don’t have a clue what that is (and I didn’t either), it measures relative humidity in your current environment.
- A Vogmask – From their Amazon store in black. Call me Bane! This nifty little face mask helps to keep bugs out and moisture in.
As I took my seat, I popped on my Vogmask and left my hygrometer on the tray table. Initially, it measured 31% humidity. A bit dry, but not too bad.
By the end of X-Men: Infinity War we were down to 21%. That’s pretty much the same as the Mojave Desert.
After my genetically modified lunch we were down to 15%.
Give it one more hour and we hit rock bottom…
TEN PERCENT! That is madness! That is comparable to the medical grade dry air that is used in science experiments where the main purpose is to dehydrated vocal folds as quickly as possible. And you’re sat in it for seven out of ten hours in-flight. Good luck with that.
Now it was clear. The humidity levels were completely ravaging my vocal folds to the point of hoarseness. That dry air was also drying up the mucous in my nose and robbing me of my immunity. Hence the croaky voice and sore throat for 5 days after my past flights.
BUT NOT THIS TIME YOU MUTHA!!
“And why’s that?”
Yay for Vogmask.
Seriously, this stylish face mask is a low cost way of making sure travel, or any ‘bad air’ scenario, doesn’t get on your chest. They have one or two filters (depending on use) that are able to catch tiny particles, allergens and germs before they hit your respiratory system. A major bonus when crammed in an aircraft with loads of sick people.
Recycle your water
The other excellent benefit for me was how it completely offsets humidity. The Vogmask design means that it traps moisture from your breath, which researchers have found to be consistently 100% humidity. That’ll obviously keep the relative humidity within the mask really high! This is also how a Humidflyer works, but let’s face it… this looks way cooler AND there are different colours and designs and everything.
Top tip – if you invest in a mask, get it with the head strap. Especially if you have a big head like me!
Over the course of this ten hour flight I only took off my Vogmask to go to the loo and to eat my ‘mystery meat’ lasagne. As I was flying alone I didn’t even have to take it off to talk to anyone. Funny enough, no-one really bothers you when you’re wearing one anyway so it’s a kind of conversation repellant. That might well be an added benefit for some who just want to veg in silence.
The result of my Vogmask debut was a voice that was ready from the get-go, right after the flight. No bugs, no croak, no dehydration, no ‘sorry about my voice’.
An essential for travelling singers
I need to look for more evidence of humidity in different environments but it’s looking like aircraft take the biscuit. Actually, they’re more like a cracker. So, so very dry.
I wouldn’t be surprised if cruise ships also suffered super-dry air supply, so there’s two common places where singers spend a lot of time. You could always try my nerdy experiment and take a hygrometer into your singing environment to see if you’re being challenged by dry air. I’d love to know your results if you do, so please leave comments!
Either way, if you’re in that travelling demographic, I seriously recommend you look into a Vogmask as part of your travel routine. You can find a great range in any country on Amazon.
If you don’t fly then just enjoy your time looking like a super-villian, taking over the world.
Full disclosure – any products bought through links on this page support the the blog with affiliate income.
The Effect of Air Humidification on Symptoms and Perception of Indoor Air Quality in Office Workers: A Six-Period Cross-Over Trial – LM Reinikainen at al 1992
Perception of cabin air quality in airline crew related to air humidification, on intercontinental flights – Lindgren at al 2007
The role of hydration in vocal fold physiology – Sivasankar et al
Observations on the ability of the nose to warm and humidify inspired air -Naclerio at al