I want to start this post by saying I am absolutely in support of wearing masks in public to protect against Covid-19. I also think it's important to share my experience wearing the Singer's Mask in case there are other folks out there who are singing gigs while wearing them.
On Saturday, I got dressed up in my Victorian Caroler costume and headed out for a gig! I wore my Singer's Mask which is specifically designed so that when you take in a large breath, you don't suck the mask into your mouth! That feature is awesome, but when I had to wear it and sing for 3 hours, I had an interesting experience. We were in the middle of "Silent Night" when I started to feel incredibly lightheaded and found myself needing to take a breath in every 2 words. This is not normal for me! Normally, I make it through the whole phrase: "Silent night, holy night, all is calm all is bright" without needing a breath. I felt that the mask was preventing me from fully exhaling and inhaling a new breath. This is a testament to the fabric of the mask (!), but incredibly concerning to me as I am singing and seeking oxygen!
I took a small break after this experience, and went outside to take my mask off so I could breathe freely. This helped tremendously, and I didn't have any further problems for the rest of the gig. I've been doing some research about why this lightheadedness occurred:
From "Solutions to Common Face Mask Frustrations"
"Wearing a mask may can affect how you breathe. You might find yourself taking shallow breaths, or even holding your breath. This can cause you to breathe in more carbon dioxide, which can cause headaches and nausea.
Moving around while wearing a mask can also be fatiguing, because you have to breathe harder to do regular tasks.
And masks may make you feel claustrophobic and anxious, which cause hyperventilating (taking rapid breaths). This will make you feel dizzy, lightheaded, cause numbness and tingling of your lips, and possibly spasms in your hands and feet. You might be hyperventilating and not even realize it.
If you notice any of these symptoms, try some mindful breathing exercises or find a place to be alone without your mask for a few moments while you return your breath to normal."
From now on in my gigs, I will be taking frequent outdoor mask breaks to keep my breathing levels normal. The Singer's Mask is made of thick fabric and has a sticky tape so it stays in place on the bridge of your nose and cheeks. It is my belief that these 2 features contributed to my breathing issues, but by taking a mask break I believe I will be able to sing without issue in future gigs!
As always, sing on BUT mask on!
Maria Palombo is a Voice Instructor and Singer living in Central NJ. She is the founder of Finely Tuned Voice Lessons, a private voice studio in Mercer County, NJ.