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Discussions of phlegm are something pianists normally associate with singers.  But phlegm can cause problems for pianists, too!

If you are a singer or have ever played for them, you know the term.

Phlegm is the stuff that congests your sinuses, sits on your vocal chords, and generally gets in the way.  It affects the voice, so singers are especially vulnerable.

During last week and this week, I have it, too!  Phlegm is a big feature of the Disease of the Month, the one that’s going around.

Plan A

Usually, I would attempt to ignore a cold and practice anyway.  That is exactly what my intent was one day last week.

Just before going to the piano, I Tweeted about the way I felt, saying that I was going to practice anyway.  A fellow Tweeter who is also a collaborative pianist responded immediately, suggesting that I take care of myself instead.  Thanks, Geraldine!

This time, I listened.  Practicing would have gone nowhere.

Time for a Plan B

When your neck hurts, you’re so congested that it’s hard to read anything, you can’t hear well, and even your hands hurt, that’s an excellent time for a reality check.

Pushing through when you honestly don’t feel well is probably going to be counterproductive.  (But be sure you’re not just making excuses.)  You’ll miss lots of notes, be unable to shape phrases well (due to blocked hearing and body pain), and likely end up feeling frustrated.

So why not take some time off, get some extra sleep, and practice again when you feel better?

Taking a break

In the meantime, you can look at your music away from the piano and listen to recordings if you want to.

Taking time off when you need it is not a disaster.  Instead, taking care of yourself ensures that you will be fresh when you get back to practicing.

Day 12

Today, Monday, is Day 12 of this cold (or whatever it is).  Someone who had the same thing said she was congested with no change for 2 weeks.  The next morning, she woke up feeling fine.

Thursday, here I come!

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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August 2011 review by pianist Robert W. Oliver

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