Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Monday, November 26, 2012

How To Sing Tired... When To Cancel Vocal Performance

The holidays are now officially upon us with all their wonderful and stressful sides. Tis the season to be jolly... and quite often... tired. And if you are a singer, it's also the season of lots of... singing. The problem comes when you're both tired AND singing! This combination can at best cause vocal control, pitch and range limitations and at worst, vocal strain and the onset  of damage.

When you are physically tired, drained, exhausted, sleep deprived or 'under the weather' for whatever physical or psychological reason, your body does not want to support your voice. It just doesn't want to work that hard. This is because it takes more glucose and oxygen to work the bigger muscles of your core - your gluts, low abdominal wall, back, thighs - than to work the smaller muscles of the shoulders, throat, larynx, vocal cords, tongue and jaw. Delegating the effort necessary for good singing to these smaller muscles is detrimental to them, causing tension to set in at all the wrong places.

What to do when singing tired (live stage or studio):
  • Be extra sure you are well hydrated. Steaming your throat in a hot shower is a great idea. Water at your performance is, too... maybe with a little pineapple juice or other helpful flavor added to keep throat tissues lubricated.
  • Up your immediate energy level: Get simple, easily digested nutrition in... maybe add a good vitamin.mineral supplement.  
  • Do not use alcohol or other mood altering drugs to help you get through. They can mask pushing, straining and dehydration of the vocal cords.
  • Take extra care to do your vocal warmups.It is vital to know how to 'pull' instead of 'push' your voice as you sound it.  In fact, consider trying to connect with your vocal coach to warmup by phone or Skype before your performance.
  • NON-NEGOTIABLE: You must make yourself support your voice from your low core... even if you don't feel like it! Your body won't like it, but your voice sure will.
  • While singing, you must keep yourself tall and flexible... avoid like the plague the typical slumped posture of tiredness that will sabotage your breath control. 
  • The use of correct vocal technique for breathing, keeping an open throat and communicating authentically becomes all the more necessary when you're tired.
What you should experience:
  • You should finish singing and notice your vocal cords don't feel strained at all. In fact, you should be able to sing even better at the end of your performance.
  • You should feel even more physical (instead of vocal) exhaustion... and probably be hungry! 
Or... Don't!
  • If you really can't gather the low placed, big muscle energy to float your voice on top or the tall, energetic posture necessary to open your ribcage and control your breath, then by all means, don't sing. If you do, you risk short or long term vocal problems. 
  • You will end up pushing too much breath through your cords to get them to work, you will experience less vocal ability and problems with notes and passages you can usually easily accomplish.
  • You may start the 'guarded stance' habit. This is a fear induced inward crunch that tries too hard and can become a spiral downward to terrible vocal technique and real vocal dysfunction.
I've done this wrong. I've sung when too exhausted and have set my voice back as much as three weeks. I don't take chances anymore. From experience my advice is:
  • Be capable of supporting your voice and applying good vocal technique...
  • or cancel your performance and live to sing another day!

Labels: , , , , , ,


  • At November 27, 2012 at 9:06 AM , Anonymous Diane Hurst said...

    Good advice! Sometimes the body just doesn't cooperate with what we will so hard to do. Just yesterday I was amazed (and grateful) to be able to sing high-range notes again, after recovering from a mild cold that knocked my vocals out for a couple of weeks.

  • At November 30, 2012 at 6:41 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    SO happy to hear you are singing your high notes again, Diane! Believe me, I know how much that means:) Good to hear from you.

  • At April 6, 2013 at 11:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Criky this answers so many questions, I have mistaken this situation for "low mojo", some spirtiual mythical mysterious lack of ability to sing and play ( Im a guitarist as well ). When its just plain old tiredness....usually I force myself through, picking sad songs thinking its a mood thing ( Im a country singer ). This has been a disaster. You feel like you have lost it altogether
    I do this for a living and when I tell my grown up kids singing & performing is tireing they laugh saying " you want to try what we do". Thanks for the insight. I will act on this advice and rest in future

  • At April 7, 2013 at 10:34 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Anonymous... glad to be able to shed some light:) Take care!

  • At December 5, 2013 at 8:29 AM , Anonymous Adam M said...

    These tips are very useful. Singers are sometimes kept to such a tough schedule that singing tired has just become part of it all.
    Adam M


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]