Tips & Techniques - December 1992

Sergeant Throat Reports for Duty

from John Pellegrini, Production Director, WKLQ-FM, Grand Rapids, MI

Last December, because of all the weird weather patterns we were subjected to in West Michigan, I became acquainted for the first time with LARYNGITIS (aaaack!). Along with that came one of the worst sore throats I've ever experienced. I didn't have a voice for two days, and when it finally came back, for about three or four days afterward, I sounded like the late, great Jim Runyon (narrator of the Chicken Man series). While it made a cute comic effect, none the less, it caused me no end of problems at work.

So what does one do when the old larynx decides to take a vacation? For many, the answer is head to the Doc for a pill and a shot. Well, that's great if you're on an HMO, but I found out the hard way that most medical offices expect you to pay your bill in full the day of your visit if you don't have HMO. Not too convenient when you're only paid twice a month. Of course, there is also the concern that the drugs you get are merely pain killers that do nothing to prevent more damage being done. So what do you do?

Believe it or not, your Granny's old cold and sore throat remedies work just spiffy! And there are lots of other inexpensive ways to guard your voice during the cold and flu season. For example, to help relieve the pain of my sore throat, I drank a tea which I brewed up from dried mint leaves, dried lemon peel, and a little honey. The mint and lemon are readily available in the spice section of your local food store. Or, try just a tablespoon of honey, or gargle with salt water. Use about one teaspoon of salt per glass, BUT, be sure not to swallow because it's not exactly the greatest thing to digest. A shot of fine brandy or cognac can also be good for the throat, but don't take any if you're on medication of any kind!

If you're the type who doesn't care for home-made remedies, there is a company that has special herbal teas for sore throats. It's called "Throat Coat" tea, and it's made by Traditional Medicinals, 4515 Ross Road, Sebastapol, CA 95472. The box I have doesn't list a phone number. You can usually find their teas in health food stores, but if you don't have any luck, try writing the company and maybe they'll know of some stores in your area that stock it. I don't know if they offer mail order. A friend of mine from acting class in Chicago recommended this stuff to me, and I've used it for every sore throat since completely natural and contains no caffeine. You can usually get a box of a dozen tea bags for well under five bucks, but I don't want to quote a price in case I'm wrong. Besides, I'm not on commission for this. Sound familiar?

Other things to keep in mind: if your home or apartment doesn't have one, run out and get a humidifier or vaporizer as soon as possible. Dry air can wreak havoc on your throat, and when you've got the heat going in your living quarters, the air can turn dryer than a desert. There are some really good humidifiers that also act as air cleaners to eliminate dust (another throat problem), and the price is usually under a hundred bucks. Good investment.

As long as I'm on the subject, here's another voice saving tip, although it has nothing to do with sore throats. Stay away from milk and other dairy products (like ice cream) before you do any voice work. The reason is, milk causes a film on your larynx which can alter your voice clarity. Even cream in coffee can cause this. Yummy, huh? Milk builds up your muscles as well as your phlegm. Enjoy!

Since no one else has offered their nomination, I hereby appoint myself Official Spokesperson for Laryngitis. All those in favor, tap out AYE in Morse Code. 

R.A.P. Technical Consultant Paul Strickland, P.B.E. offers up this tip to help cure a CD player problem we've all encounter at one time or another. Unless you're technically oriented, this is one to pass on to your engineering department.

I was recently asked if I knew of a cure for one of the most common problems that we all have with CD players, that being the ever present skipping problem. One answer that was obvious was to keep the back of the CD clean from finger prints and other goo. But, after that, what else can cause this problem in the system?

I learned along the way, by destruction, that the laser optics are mounted in a rubber gimbal about the same way a microphone is mounted in a cage, the big difference being that the mount is a lot more solid. I also learned that these mounts get hard from age and smoke, one of those habits that is to be curbed in the control room. Here comes the cure (pun): I regularly clean the pinch-rollers in cart machines with a product from Scotty Enterprises called "Rubber Drive Cleaner." This product deep-cleans the surface of the rollers and preserves the soft texture of the surface. I used the same approach to "clean" the surface of the rubber mount that holds the laser optics for the CD player. The mount is too small to pass a Q-Tip through, but a toothpick soaked in the cleaner could be inserted gently into the passages to soak loose some of the stuff that was growing along the edges. You have to be careful that you do not damage the mechanical drives attached to the optics package in the process.

With some care, you can reduce the number of skipping problems that are common among CD players found in a lot of studios. And all this time you thought the manufacturers were putting out bad CDs!

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