The hoarse voice

Do you ask yourself why you keep losing your voice? Why do you get a hoarse voice after singing for an hour, a night, or maybe two nights in a club?

The vocal cords can only handle so much pressure. When they are misused, we can hear evidence by the imperfections in the sound quality such as hoarseness and gaps in certain areas of the voice.

Many working musicians who are singing every night in loud bars and nightclubs experience the challenge of maintaining control and stamina of their voice without losing their voice completely.

It’s a fine line between a sultry, edgy, husky-like singing voice and no voice at all.

Bottom line….self awareness and self control is key to maintaining the task of singing day after day, night after night in difficult environments.

Professional singers learn very quickly to get lots of rest and drink plenty of water…two key ingredients to maintaining tip top vocal cord function.

Professional singers also know when to stop singing….when to stop blowing so much air through their cords. They have good instincts. They pay attention to the signs. Otherwise, they risk having no voice at all.




The show must go on!

I woke up yesterday with a cold and hoarseness in my voice. I had three hours of performance to do later in the day, so I knew it was going to be a tough one with a lot of careful attention and energy to complete the job!

First, I had a hot shower and my usual … pot of coffee. I didn’t utter a word until 2:00 pm. I did a few exercises of lip trills and light sirens. I took a moment to gauge where I thought I was with my voice, compared to my “healthy voice”. I was somewhere around a 6 or 7. My goal was to be 8 or 9 before leaving for my gig. I had two hours.

I continued to warm up my head voice lightly. I paid acute attention to my body and energy to make sure I wasn’t putting any undue stress on my vocal cords. I did some sit ups and took a walk around the block. I continued to sip water all day.

This has happened many times before and I have learned over the years how to pace the day and night. It’s a delicate balance. I don’t talk. I only sing ….. when it’s absolutely necessary. In this case, it was necessary or else I would be letting down many many people who simply wanted to enjoy their Christmas party!

I made sure I could hear my voice well in the monitor. I would be singing at about half volume, so this was doubly important for this gig. I chose my repertoire very carefully…no “big” songs during this show. Instead, I focused on my “presentation” with by body and with my facial expressions.

When the night was finally over I was totally spent. I had maxed out my vocal cords for this gig, and I was mentally and physically exhausted from the energy it took to maintain a careful journey to get me through to the end of the night…..but it worked! As I headed out the door with my car jammed pack with my gear, my employer waved goodbye and said “see you next year!”

Oh no! It’s cold and flu season…what’s a singer to do?

Hi everyone,

As a singer, we should always be aware of what is happening with our body and voice. Singing with a cold or cough, is definitely not ideal, but it also doesn’t mean you have to put your head in the sand. Good technique and paying attention to your body will go a long way.

Obviously, there are things everyone should do to minimize their risk of catching a virus.

  1. Get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids (water, that is!)
  2. Wash your hands regularly, and do not touch your face (nose, eyes, mouth)
  3. Get plenty of exercise and eat nutritious foods.
  4. Stay away from excessive alcohol and no smoking.
  5. Get the flu shot.

I’ve been singing through cold symptoms for years. It’s not ideal, but when you are being paid to sing…..well, you sing!

I’ve learned a lot over the years. I frequently had trouble with hoarseness with colds in my early years when I was playing music in the bar circuit with a band. Stages were generally small and I was usually put in the back beside the drummer. Everything was loud…the entire room was loud…and I had a cymbal crashing in my ear. Needlesstosay, these were the absolute worst singing conditions possible, especially when I had a cold. Sometimes at the end of the night, I had no voice left, and yet I needed to be ready to sing again on the next night.

I soon learned to pace myself to get through the bookings. Here is what I did…

  1. Made sure my voice was clear and loud enough in the monitor mix so I did not have to over sing to be heard above the other noise.
  2. Saved my “belting” songs for the end of the night….or, depending on how “sick” I was, I didn’t sing them at all.
  3. Took extreme special care at my first and second bridge (passagio) to make sure I stayed connected.
  4. Sipped water between each song.
  5. Sucked menthyl lozenges. I generally preferred Fisherman’s Friend.
  6. During breaks I would go to the band room so I didn’t have to talk to anyone in the loud environment.
  7. For symptom control I would take an antihistamine and use a nasal decongestant spray to keep my nasal passage clear. I would discontinue the spray immediately after the cold because these sprays can become habitual causing rebound congestion. Sometimes I would take an decongestant pill, but I find these can be too drying at times.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. With care you can sing when y0u have a cold. Singers with good technique who sing every day are most likely to have minimal problems when they catch a cold. On the other hand, if you struggle with your bridges, tone and high notes all the time, then I recommend you get some vocal lessons from a great teacher in your area.

Singing should feel as easy as talking. If it is “work” for you to sing, then you have probably developed some poor singing habits. Have a professional watch you sing a song, and go from there. All the best…..Susie Q

Singers Beware!

Oh, isn’t it great! You’ve formed a band and you have a regular paying gig now at the local club every week! Life is good, but you’ve noticed that after three nights in a row of singing there is absolutely nothing left. You start out fine with lots of belt and volume, but by the end of Saturday night you are ready for a long vocal break……

If this is happening to you, then you need to read on. Vocal exhaustion and abuse is not unusual when you sing in a loud room, but it’s deadly. It can kill your career as a singer. No band will want a singer who can’t perform for days or weeks in a row. Consider this…

First, are you warming up? Do you have all resonators buzzing with anticipation? Hope so. Secondly, how’s your vocal monitor? Can you hear youself over the drums and guitar when you talk. That’s a good test……can you “speak” and hear your words while the drums and guitars are blaring. If you don’t have a good monitor then that’s the first sign you’re in trouble.

Second, just because everything is loud around you doesn’t mean you should be loud. You have amplication to do that. You may need to make it appear that you are singing loud to our audience (body language, facial expressions), but the bottom line is, if you are over-blowing your vocal cords then you are causing abuse which may lead to hoarseness and loss of the voice. You should be singing a “moderate” volume with good articulation and presence.

Thirdly, are you in the mix? Are you asking what is the mix? Well, the mix is when your chest voice and your head voice work very well together creating a balance that makes it very easy to sing any style of music you want.

Got questions? Drop me a line….