Singing tips for those bad vocal days!

We all have them right? Whether it’s a cold, sore throat, dehydration or any number of other causes – all singers have their off days. Sometimes it happens for no apparent reason, often due to lack of sleep and/or stress. As I’m currently struggling with ongoing sinus problems (or at least that’s what the doctor tells me) I thought I’d share with you the tricks I’ve learned to deal with those off days, and also how to minimise them:

1) Sleep well, maintain a balanced, healthy diet – seems pretty obvious, right? You would think so, but it’s amazing how many of us don’t get enough sleep, or neglect our diet. I’m not the best at keeping on top of either – but it’s amazing how much better I feel when I am well slept and eating decent meals!

2) Drink LOTS of water – again, pretty obvious. But again many people don’t drink enough water – especially singers. You should be drinking more than 8 glasses a day. I find it’s helpful to keep a big bottle of water by my side, especially on the day of a show- that way I can stay constantly hydrated. This is probably the easiest step of them all, and yet the one that has the biggest difference!

3) Lemon & Ginger – both are great for a rough throat of for fighting a cold. Try ginger and lemon fruit teas – or squeeze some fresh lemon and mix it with boiled water, honey, and a bit of ginger. It tastes great and really helps soothe your throat and clear out your airways.

4) Vocalzone tablets – these things are great! They’re essentially a mixture of menthol, myrrh tincture (I think?) and other good stuff. Tom Jones and other famous singers use these. Simply take one about 10 minutes before you go on stage. They are very soothing and help you to relax when you sing. You can get them from most pharmacists and health food stores, as well as music shops. In the UK they’re about £3.50 for a pack of 24 tablets, so they’re not bad value.

5) Vocal warm ups. Just as an athlete needs to warm up their bodies before an event, so they don’t strain themselves, a singer should warm up their vocal chords. If you can, before practicing or playing a show, you should do warm ups for 10-15 minutes. I usually last 5 or 10 before I get bored! (haha)

Some simple excercises are A) humming. Start with the note you can hum with the smallest amount of effort. Keep humming that note for a few minutes. Once your voice starts to relax, starting moving up the scale. Don’t push your voice, do it gradually, and don’t force yourself out of your range. B) vocal trills or rolls. I’m not going to try to explain this – here’s a video instead as it’ll be easier for you to grasp:

Just doing these simple excercises can go a long way in making your singing life much easier. It doesn’t stop there though and there a lot more excercises and vocal techniques you can learn – which is why may professional singers opt for singing lessons.

6) Quit smoking, quit drinking – although both are considered to be equally bad for the voice, most people don’t drink alcohol constantly throughout the day, whereas many smokers smoke throughout. I used to smoke and quitting was the best thing I did. I found it surprisingly easy to quit, but it may be worth you seeking help from your GP if you’re struggling.
As for alcohol – I still drink socially every now and then, but I refrain from drinking at shows until after I’ve performed. All I’d say on this one is be sensible – your wallet will thank you for it anyway!

7) Vitamin supplements – they will help strengthen your immune system, and Vitamin C can help prevent colds. Right now I’m taking Vitamin C and Vitamin B tablets. The Vitamin C tablets are chewable and taste yummy.

Obviously this is all suggestions based on personal experience, and if you are having ongoing vocal problems it is best to go see a doctor or ENT specialist and try to get to the root cause. I am certainly no expert and not qualified to give proper advice. These tips are generally aimed at people who have the odd off day, rather than someone with ongoing issues.

Hope someone finds this helpful, just thought I’d share some thoughts with you 🙂

All the best,

Marc.

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About Marc Reeves

Folk-pop singer songwriter from Nottingham, UK. 'Sweet, soulful & sentimental songs - Reeves has a superb vocal quality and the lyrics to match' – Evening Post 'His lyrics, music and voice ooze a rare musical maturity that defies his age' – LeftLion magazine 'Listening to the tracks on the album it is staggering when you realise that the voice behind these lyrics is only just on the cusp of turning twenty years old' – Nottingham LIVE magazine
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