The lead singer for my new band is really good, but in our first 2 gigs toward the end of the night his voice has crapped out. He, like myself, is a smoker and I suspect that is a contributing factor. I think he tried the “honey and tea” route and that might have helped a little. Last week before our Halloween gig he took it easy at practice. Is that a smart strategy or should a singer work their vocal cords like a muscle?
- Warm up properly, starting out slowly, just like you would other muscles.
- Suck on lemons.
- Do NOT drink soda!
- No screaming or shouting between sets…damage can be done!
And yeah…smoking is death to your voice. Not that I need to tell you that.
What kind of stuff do you guys do?
As the singer for my band, but completely untrained, here’s what I do:
I don’t push my voice at practice if it is a day or two before the gig.
I warm up before singing - simple scales and things to get the high notes a little easier to reach.
I drink something warm/hot the morning of and while warming up - tea, coffee - to my mind, it is the warmth that matters…
I avoid straining my voice or even talking much the day of the gig, but I don’t really adhere to this one all that much - it’s not like I’m Celine freakin’ Dion or something…
I make sure I know my range and don’t try to sing outside of that. I can’t sing AC/DC songs - my voice can’t go there - and trying to sing them trashes my voice. (what’s the baseball adage? “Play the game within yourself - if you are a junkballer, don’t try to throw heat, and vice-versa”)
Don’t “floor it” in rehearsal. There’s a difference between exercising your voice, building vocal “muscle,” and doing some of the growls and screeches and yells that some songs demand. After a while a singer recognizes the “reserve” he has–the notes he can hit when he needs to, though it may take something out of him–so that he only hits them during a gig. When I used to sing, I made sure in rehearsal that I could hit all the notes I needed to in challenging songs, but having done so, I’d often “skip” those parts, especially immediately before a gig or if my voice wasn’t at its strongest.
Also, order the set list appropriately. John Lennon used to have them close with “Twist and Shout,” because by the time he was done singing it, he was spent. Some songs are designed to shred your voice–it’s rock and roll, after all.
That being said, play songs in the right key for your singer. A guy with a strong, high baritone might have trouble singing a part that originated with a skillful tenor. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with his voice–hell, he might have a better range than the tenor–but it does mean that maybe the song should be in G or A, not B flat. We would do that especially on “B list” songs. No sense killing yourself on something that neither the crowd nor the band is going to react very strongly to.
Take Voice, Vocal, Singing Lessons.
Do not sing from your throat, learn how to use your diaphram.
It will help.
- Quit smoking.
- Lemons contain acid which will be harsh on the vocal cords. Ditto for coffee and tea. They help for the moment because they tighten up the cords, but they’re bad in the long run.
- Drink water. Hydrate for a couple of days before the gig, and guzzle during.
- Big breaths. Intaglio is right, learn to use the air to power the notes rather than squeezing/straining your throat. Get lessons, you aren’t gonna get it yourself.
- Avoid talking during breaks. Many is the time I’ve lost my voice trying to make pleasant, shouted, conversation over the at-least-as-loud-as-the-band break music.
Gosh, I love to give advice.
I seem to remember something about gargling salt water.
Or maybe that was something not to do.
Crap. Tell him to flip a coin.
If his voice starts to go, tell him not to whisper. He’ll just dry out his vocal chords more.
The above is all good advice.
But also: you are using monitors, right? The reason I ask is that sometimes I have seen bands that are just starting up–maybe not having much in the way of finances–try to forego monitors and just depend on the mains for hearing the vocals. This is always a problem and places serious stress on the singer. Also make sure the monitors are up to the task of competing with the stage volume; if you have a Marshall stack and one of those big ol Stonehenge-looking Ampeg bass rigs, a cheapo 8-inch Crate monitor might not cut it.
Sorry if I’m just stating the obvious
I’ll back up intaglio up there.
Take voice lessons. The pros know what to do and how to keep your voice in tune and in check. They know how to avoid cord nodes and such other hazards.
Most singers in rock and roll bands (or any popular music) don’t have any real training and work themselves into trouble because of it.
There is no reason at all for a singer with a healthy voice to have it go out on him after a 2 or 3 hour gig if he knows what he’s doing. It’s all a matter of learning from the right people.
Ditto what everyone else has said. Especially the diaphragm stuff. Being consciencious of what muscles you’re using to sing is really key. Also, saving ‘tough’ songs for the end is good. I’m in a band right now and we do a Foo Fighters song where I’ve got to be scream/singing a high Bb. We do that at the end. Also, during practice I often just don’t sing that part.
We are using monitors. He is inexperienced and was surprized at how different we sound outside. Watching the tape I don’t think he went overboard.
I also think he may be getting lessons, as many have mentioned. The diaphram stuff sounds dead on to me.
NoCoolUserName, funny you mention the water thing. He did slam about 20 bottles of water during the Halloween gig. You should have seen that boy run to the bathroom between sets.
Bruce_Daddy, even with monitors it can be very difficult for a singer, especially one who’s inexperienced, to hear him/herself at a gig. Without even realizing, you end up yelling or oversinging. Even doing this a little bit will wreck your voice after a couple of sets.
Experiment with different levels until he suddenly says, “Oh, I can hear myself now!” It’s amazing when you finally get it right what a difference it can make. Also, avoid having the other instruments turn up their own levels to hear better. It escalates until everyone is so loud the singer doesn’t stand a chance.
Another monitor recommendation: get in-ear monitors. That way a) you really can hear yourself and b) you can turn the vocals up a lot more without feedback, and not have to scream the whole gig.
Unless you want to.