Big Neck!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Thorny00, Sep 7, 2005.

  1. Thorny00

    Thorny00 New Member

    I ahd quite a shock today when I saw myself playing in the mirror! I noticed then when I play, my neck gets really big and fat!:eek: I have a re-occuring problem in my throat which keeps making funny buzzing noises and cuts of my air supply, and so I was wondering if this may be the cause. Should the neck really expand at all when you're playing?

    Any ideas?

  2. madsaz

    madsaz Member

    relax - everyones neck gets bigger when they blow.

    Firstly, you will be ensuring that you keep your larynx and pharynx open to keep a good flow of air.

    Secondly, when you take a deep breath in, you use what are known as the accessory muscles of respiration - one of these is sternocleidomastoid which runs from your collar bone to behind your ear - so this muscle appears bigger on both sides.

    Thirdly - when you take a deep breath in you increase the pressure inside your thorax (chest). One of the consequences of this is that it pushes on the heart, which is essentially a bag in a closed box. In a healthy person, this doesn't adversely affect heart function, but it does increase intracardiac pressures. You will see this as a rise in the veins in the neck - its just simple plumbing - the blood backs up in the neck because pressures are high.

    This is the same reason why lots of us go red in the face when blowing full out.

    Its unlikely any of this causes a clicking sound and drying up of your air flow - that sounds like a valsalva manouevre - which is an involuntary spasm and closing up of your glottis (the bit that caps your windpipe when you swallow).

    This often occurs more with nervousness and is not that easy to deal with - can be helped with relaxation and things - sometimes means you may need to arrange some sessions with an experienced teacher to try and get to the bottom of it.

    Finally, having a fat neck can cause serious breathing difficulties - but only when asleep. There is a condition called obsructive sleep apnoea - which stereotypically occurs in men with collar sizes more than 18 inches. If you are awake you keep your airway open regardless - but if you have a fat neck, the airway collapses in sleep. Even worse if you have a drink!

    Shouldn't affect your playing but can lead to a long term chest problem. Wouldn't be at all surprised to find a number of brass players are affected....... although if your neck is that big - you probably wouldn't see a difference when blowing.
  3. Thorny00

    Thorny00 New Member

    OK thanks. I haven't got a big neck normally btw - so no worry there.

    As for the throat sound - it doesn't appear to be related to nervousness because it happens at home as well as at practice and in concerts. It did happen in a solo once - but no worse than at other times. It happens in batches. It's been happening for about the last 2months now, but before that, it hadn't happpened for about a year. I'll speak to my teacher about it in my next lesson (haven't been able to have one for over a month, hence why I haven't asked!), but if anyone else has got any suggestions as to reasons/cures etc, I'd be appreciative.

  4. madsaz

    madsaz Member

    theres an article on 4barsrest by Roger Webster - though to be honest it didn't give much help. Might give some ideas about what you are experiencing.

    Do your ears pop? Might fit with a clicking noise if you have eustachian tube dysfunction (an inability to equalised pressure on either side of your eardrum - though it shouldn't stop airflow.
  5. Neil Glynn

    Neil Glynn Member

    Does the throat sound happen when you're trying to use vibrato? If so it's probably what's known as 'Nanny Goat' vibrato. It's not too difficult to fix with the help of a good teacher.
  6. Thorny00

    Thorny00 New Member


    I have read the article by RW, but like you said, it was really of little help, and he seemed to attribute it to nervousness, and mine isn't.

    My ears don't pop, and never have done thankfully. An earlier teacher did get me using Albas Oil sticks incase it was related to the synuses, but they had no effect.

    As for vibrato, I don't think so. It's does happen when I'm using vib, and it kind of makes it realy bad - a massive dip in airflow and then back up again, before cutting it off altogether. but it's not an exclusive relationship - it can happen when I'm not using vib, and it doesn't happen all the time I vib. I'll check though:)

  7. Di

    Di Active Member

    Vicki has had this problem and I think it could be a form of VPI (search for "velopharyngeal insufficiency brass" on google), but she is almost over it now so don't be too concerned.

    If this is your problem, then the noise is caused by the back of the throat failing to close completely and allowing air to leak down the nose. We believe Vicki developed the problem when she was spending many hours a day playing with a practice mute which caused increased strain on her throat, but we don't know. When she first developed this she thought the sound was air coming though her ears and you could hear a crackling noise, but we realised after a couple of months it was her throat. When it was at its worst her throat would 'give way' on high hotes and the sound would just collapse away.

    If you read about this on the internet (theres not much stuff but it is there) you will see that the problem is more common that you would think and in many cases the problem disapears by itself.

    We purchased a research paper on this - out of 148 musicians in the survey 24 showed some symptoms of it currently and 15% of the symptom free musicians said they had suffered from it in training.

    There can be many causes to this problem - playing for too long and overworking the throat is probably the most common in brass players, but it can also be caused by polyps and a cleft palate. The best thing to do is to talk to your doctor and try to take it a bit easier. If you are lucky, your doctor will refer you to a consultant if the problem does not go away, and then you can find out if there are any physical causes.

    In Vicki's case, the consultant checked out her thoat with a camera (while she played her horn!) and could see no problem. She has practised a bit less, without the mute, and taken anti-histamines as the consultant wondered if hay-fever could be a contributor. Over the past 6 months her symptoms have almost completely gone away so there is no need to be too concerned at this stage.
  8. Thorny00

    Thorny00 New Member

    Thanks, I've PM'd Vicki and that is definately what it is.

    I also wondered about hayfever, but as it's happened at Christmas, I ruled that out as the main cause! I'll have a tlak with my doctort (damn, I was only there today!)

    I know about the giving way bit too. It's horrible. I play Sop too, so it can really wreck a concert/practice if it keeps doing it on the high notes. It almost feels like you're choking when it does that.

    Thanks for the help all :)

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