Colorado singers share advice for World Voice Day

April 16, 2015
Photo: Megan Burtt
Megan Burtt

April 16 is World Voice Day, dedicated to celebrating and studying the human voice and its practical, biological and musical functions. 

According to the World Voice Day website, the voice is a crucial everyday tool for about 30 percent of the world's working population. 

Colorado singers Brian Beer of Bud Bronson & the Good Timers and Megan Burtt are certainly among that percentage. And they have seen their careers threatened by vocal loss.

"It feels very paralyzing," Burtt says of losing her voice. "It's your livelihood."

Burtt has received formal vocal training since the age of 15. She experienced significant vocal loss while recording her first album and on a 2011 summer tour, causing her to cancel several performances. Those instances left her wary of the effects of stress and sleep deprivation on her voice. 

"I've got a really old vintage guitar. Every time I travel I'm so paranoid of anything happening to it, but I should be just as paranoid [of losing my voice]."

Beer suffered a similar malady on a recent tour with his band. He blames campfire smoke inhalation, overexertion while adjusting to a shoddy PA system at a Santa Fe show and alcohol consumption.

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Photo: Brian Beer of Bud Bronson & the Good Timers
Brian Beer of Bud Bronson & the Good Timers shows off his favorite throat remedy 

To recover, he replaced beer with water, throat spray, tea, grapefruit extract and 36 hours of silence. As a result, the band's bass player, Austen Grafa, took over vocal duties for the next few shows.

"It really frustrating to have to sit back and not being able to talk," Beer says of his muteness. "Sitting from the sidelines and watching, it kills you."

So what steps might Colorado vocalists take to prevent losing their voices, especially in a climate where oxygen is a bit more scarce?

Burtt practices a number of warm-ups to keep her vocal folds intact. She likens the voice to any other muscle: An athlete wouldn't lift weights without warming up to prevent injury, and so a vocalist shouldn't sing without some preliminary exercise.

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She also recommends plenty of sleep and avoiding alcohol before shows. 

"Basically, I live a very not-fun lifestyle in order to preserve my voice," she says with a laugh. "Don't come to me for party tips."

Beer plans on taking a more drastic measure to keep his pipes intact while maintaining the rock and roll lifestyle.

"I'm probably going to get my tonsils taken out because I get swollen glands," he says. "I'm tired of dealing with those things. I'm going to find someone to pluck 'em out and then maybe I can start doing all the things I like doing without worrying about it."

The operation could prove costly, but Beer isn't too concerned.

"I'm totally gonna write that off [on my taxes]." 

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