Jan 28



Over the years I have known several singers who have severely damaged their voices. Some were fortunate, and after a couple of weeks rest were able to sing again. Others were less fortunate. The damage was irreversible, and was the end of their career as a singer. Others developed nodules on their vocal chords, resulting in an operation. Some were fine after the operation. Others never sang again. FRANK SINATRA is an example of one of the lucky ones, who could sing again after having nodules removed.

The NO PLAY, NO PAY catch phrase affects a vocalist more than any of the other musical disciplines. So as a vocalist attention to VOCAL CARE is extremely important.


Like any athlete who repeatedly uses repetitive muscle actions, all vocalists are at risk. However pub singers, singers in rock bands and Diva type singers singing big powerful numbers are most at risk. If consistently you are losing your voice during the gig and waking up with a rough hoarse voice, you are doing damage to your voice.


Any pro athlete ALWAYS WARMS UP. So vocalist need to do the same. The more powerful the vocal performance, the more care and time needs to be taken with the warm up. Especially if the first song of the performance is big and powerful. As an hotel singer I always start out with romantic music, and for the first half hour my vocals are very gentle. By the time I get to the dance set I’m nicely warmed up. If you don’t have this luxury, a disciplined warm up routine is essential. Any vocal coach will help you with a vocal exercises for a warm up routine. If you are losing your voice consistently, money spent on a vocal coach is money YOU CANNOT AFFORD NOT TO SPEND.

HYDRATION, HYDRATION,HYDRATION. Neil Hulme Shaw discussed this subject last week in his guest post HEALTH FOR A GIGGING MUSICIAN. As part of your preparation for your performance, make sure you are drinking plenty water several hours before your performance. A well hydrated vocal chord vibrates so much more efficiently. Speech and language pathologist Shelagh Davies has done some wonderful videos on the subject for Voice Council magazine. (This is an online magazine by T.C. Helicon… the company that does the vocal processors. There are some great posts there for vocalists. www.voicecouncil.com )

If it is so important for a singer to have  well hydrated vocal chords, it is obvious that SMOKING IS THE KISS OF DEATH for a vocalist. It has been heaven performing in SMOKE FREE environments. since January 2nd 2011 when the no smoking law in public places came into effect in Spain.The U.K. and most of Europe are also smoke free in public places. Surprisingly Austria where I work in the summer months still has smoking in public places. Once again Shelagh Davies has a great video on the subject.

What we drink at the gig is critically important in VOCAL CARE. I drink only room temperature water. When you go to the bar and ask for a water, the barman will usually give you a bottle of ice cold water out of the fridge. If you have taken the time to warm your voice up, and then take a sip of ice cold water, your vocal chords contract undoing all the effort you have put into your warm up exercises. Arrange with your barman to keep you well stocked with water that hasn’t been in the fridge. Caffeine and alcohol dehydrate you, so also counter productive. Sugary drinks and milk products create a mucous on the vocal chords, so avoid these too on the gig.



I religiously have my Spanish siesta as part of my preparation for the evening gig. If I don’t and I feel tired on the gig, I invariably sing flat. Pace your schedule. Rehearsals and or recording sessions in the day, and gigs at night will very quickly add up to vocal fatigue. Daily rehearsal is essential. But shorter disciplined sessions are usually more beneficial.



Any professional vocalist who has been a pro for more than a year has definitely been faced with the issue of whether to work or not with a cold. NO PLAY, NO PAY can be a very dangerous dilemma for a self employed vocalist. In the last 8 years in Spain I have phoned in sick only once. Or more accurately my wife phoned for me as the fever was so intense, I couldn’t get up off the couch. Many times I have dragged myself to work when I should have stayed in bed. Neil deals with this in detail in last weeks post. If you are a vocal specialist who does big powerful vocals the decision to stay at home needs to be made on the conservative side, as the risk of vocal damage is very high. I can get away with a lot more as a multi instrumentalist in hotels. My instrumental repertoire is vast, and I have quite a few dancy sax tunes. In hotels a lot of the dancing is ballroom, so a lot is instrumental anyway. It is far easier to play sax with a cold than to sing. My voice has to be really sore to stop me playing sax. When I sing with a cold I tend to limit myself to Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves type low register songs. And as Neil emphasised last week on the subject of singing with a cold…….HYDRATE,HYDRATE,HYDRATE.

Take good care of your voice, and it will take good care of you for a long time.

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1 comment

  1. Neil Shaw-Hulme

    A great post thanks,all fantastic advice. I would also like to add the importance of the cool down. I sing very quiet low mid range eeeeeees to reverse the warm up procedure whilst packing away or in the car on the way home. Thanks again for a brilliant site with top posts.

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