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vi tenor/alto, yss-62 soprano, the martin baritone, muramatsu flute, R13 clarinet
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello sax community,

This year has been a struggle for me. I've been making most of my bread and butter on piano/vocals the last 10 years, and this year around Christmas my wife and I moved into a little temporary apartment to take a 2-month house gig. Lucky for me, in this apartment was a nice big bathroom located in the basement and I finally had a chance to blow some horn on a steady basis.

I packed up my 184xxx VI alto that I scored on eBay about 3 years ago and we made the move. I practiced daily for weeks getting my muscles back in shape and, come mid-January, noticed my vocals (which were 5-day-a-week trained and stronger than ever before) starting to taper off. It didn't seem to affect my range at first, but merely the stamina. The vocal fold connection was still there but something was making tone production a bit more strenuous. Assuming it was simply a cold or sinus infection that I commonly get in the winter time, I went my ENT and was prescribed a steroid nose spray and went back to work.

I continued to practice through January and February and, unfortunately, my vocals continued to deteriorate until I finally said "This could be trouble." I had a 2 week contract booked in a rockin' bar in Amsterdam where I would certainly need my voice. If I didn't I would be eaten alive by the crowd.

I returned to the ENT and said "I need this problem fixed. Now." I was told it could be an acid reflux problem and I began a routine of PPI drugs and a very strict diet to eliminate any acidic foods from messing with my vocal folds, LPR is what they call it. Also, I was prescribed a light antibiotic, in case it was an infection.

The Amsterdam contract came up in and, usually, I would travel to the contract with my clothes and an acoustic guitar so I could practice some tunes during the day. Because my voice was in jeopardy, I decided against bringing the acoustic and instead brought my alto. I could at least get some horn practice in and not risk overusing my voice during the daytime hours.

The contract started out ok and then, after two nights, found myself struggling. The second week I missed two days of work (the first time I've missed a day in almost 20 years) and could barely talk the last days. Of course I was practicing my horn during the day and I also managed to play a couple of open jam sessions on my nights off.

After returning from A-dam I visited a University doctor and they took pictures of my vocal folds and the surrounding area. I had a very disgusting white growth absolutely covering the surrounding area that they thought was some kind of viral infection or fungus. Strangely, the vocal folds were unaffected (hence I still had some range but no stamina!). They brought in all the professors and students and I didn't know whether to feel embarrassed or honored. They had no idea how it formed. I was prescribed a very different, very strong antibiotic, an anti-fungal medication, and also was told to continue the PPI was previously taking. If I was not getting better in 5 days they said I'd need a hospital stay. They were fearing the growth would impact my ability to breath, especially when sleeping. After moving apartments again, I had to stop practicing my horn for a few weeks. My vocal condition slowly started to improve, but never quite got to the professional level I needed it to. Today, in June, after a short period of healing, I feel my voice getting worse again. Of course we moved into our third temporary apartment and, surprise, I have a chance to blow my horn in a basement here again.

Ding: Why do my worst vocal times seem to correspond with my opportunity to practice my horn? Is it basements? Or is it something worse?

The alto. I purchased the alto 3 years ago from an eBay seller in Florida. The horn is *ugly* but I've always found original horns with worn lacquer to be gorgeous. I assumed this horn had its lacquer damage due to the humid climate in the south. Fortunately/unfortunately, upon inspection deep inside, it appears to me that there is some kind of white and green growth on the inside of the horn. Ugh. And I've always been VERY sensitive to mold-like substances.

Tomorrow I will be visiting the university doctor again for a check up and I will surely be bringing the horn. Maybe they can swab it for me and get me a 100% confirmation that it was the cause of the problem. Science, baby. What a nightmare. Coincidentally, I'm also bringing the horn to a respected repair technician tomorrow to talk about getting an overhaul.

Updates coming.

Horn photos to see the humidity damage to the lacquer:

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Inside the bell (I wish the pics were better but that's as close as I can get with a cell phone cam):

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Pictures of delicious white growth surrounding my throat-genitalia available by pm. It *is* fascinating, if you're into that kinda thing.
 

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Just a guy who plays saxophone.
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4,162 Posts
Yeah. Sorry to hear about your health issues, but I'd be beyond shocked if the green stuff you show in your pictures is the cause of your problem. That's not mold. There might be something less-than-nice in terms of mold or bacteria living in the case or even in/ under a pad or two, but not on the brass itself. I'd be more suspect of your dingy apartment basements than a giant piece of brass in terms of harboring infection-causing mold and bacteria.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
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Regarding vocal stamina when practicing horn: Are you staying sufficiently hydrated? You may be moving a lot more air - or at least moving air at higher velocities. Regardless, that can have a deleterious impact on your throat.
 

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vi tenor/alto, yss-62 soprano, the martin baritone, muramatsu flute, R13 clarinet
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191 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Regarding vocal stamina when practicing horn: Are you staying sufficiently hydrated? You may be moving a lot more air - or at least moving air at higher velocities. Regardless, that can have a deleterious impact on your throat.
You know, that could be entirely possible!
 

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vi tenor/alto, yss-62 soprano, the martin baritone, muramatsu flute, R13 clarinet
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191 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
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