A Vocalist's Survival Guide To Touring: Part 1 - Take To The Skies

Ah, touring! To be on the road! That's what we all dream of, right? The glory, the glamor, the idea of actually being in the mystical land called "out there" and really "doing it". And it is quite an experience, being in a different city, a different room, in front of a different group of people every day for 2 weeks straight.

It is also intensely exhausting, physically and mentally, not to mention vocally. About ten days ago I returned from my most recent tour: 12 shows in 12 days in as many cities, throughout Czech Republic and Slovakia. Me, my body and my voice survived - yet again. But I've built some strategies over the years, learned through trial and error, experience, and good old common sense. So after a month long hiatus from my blog I will dedicate the next few weeks to a few things I've added to my toolbox that help me go onstage every night and do a show, and hopefully do it well.

Today's installment focuses on the first hurdle of touring: Getting to the country that you're touring at. I'm, of course, talking about air travel.

As somebody who tours quite regularly in Europe, and more recently, the Middle East, I've had my share of transatlantic flights that propel you across the ocean and disgorge you bleary eyed and dehydrated nine to twelve hours after take-off. Here's my must list of items I absolutely NEED to have with me in the cabin, ideally within reach, so I don't have to get up, crawl over the person sitting next to me (if I've been unlucky enough to fail in securing an aisle seat - although... that hasn't happened in years), and rummage through my backpack hunting down my re-watering eye drops.

Good quality headphones with an adapter: admittedly not totally crucial for a healthy flight experience, but they help me not go deaf while passing the time before I go into sleep-doze mode

Ear plugs, eye mask, and potentially a mouth mask: the first two items are absolutely essential, if you even want to attempt to sleep on the plane - which you must! Otherwise it's going to take you twice as long to recover on the other end. Plus you'll probably have more liquor than you should, strapped to a chair in a tube with 350 people. The effectiveness of the mouth mask is much disputed on various websites that deal with this issue. It looks enormously stupid and marks the wearer - in this case me - as a paranoid nutso. All I can say is that it might well not keep me from getting sick on the plane, but it warms up the air I breathe in and assists me in warding off dryness in my mouth and nose - both every vocalist's giant enemy. So - use at your discretion. I personally have gotten over the looks the thing garners me. What do I care, as long as I still have a voice when I leave the plane?

Lozenges: ideally sugar free, ideally moisturizing. I like Ricola, Isla Moos, Emser Pastillen. In a pinch I'll use Fisherman's Friend.

Scarf and jacket, possibly with a hood attached: don't be fooled by the cozy temperature when you step on the plane. It can get toe-curlingly cold in there in the blink of an irritated eye, especially when it's a night flight. Plus the little blanket things they dole out tend to either cover your upper or your lower body, but never both.

Water: I always have an extra bottle with me, because, let's face it: you can't really get enough of it from the flight attendants, and you're going to be dehydrated. Might as well stock up a bit.

Melatonin: I don't like sleeping pills. They make me groggy, even the next morning, but they don't really help me sleep. Melatonin is useful once I slip my eye mask on (apparently it only works in darkness), and it doesn't leave me disoriented and drowsy the next day.

Let's quickly address the issue of alcohol on the plane. Fact of the matter is: you shouldn't drink while flying. It exacerbates the dehydration. Truth is: I have a glass of wine on the plane, because it helps me sleep. Be your own judge on that one, but be aware of the effects of alcohol, and use with caution.

So there it is. I'll address the issues of physical health, vocal prep and recovery and other issues that come to mind for the touring vocalist in the upcoming weeks. If there is a particular issue relating to this topic that you would like to know about, comment below or message me on facebook.

Happy touring!

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