When Y&T frontman, Dave Meniketti, expressed that he’d like to do a guest blog on tips for singers, I agreed that this would be a great place to spotlight such valuable information. So for today’s blog, I hand the reins to the venerable Dave Meniketti . . .
Guest Blog: Dave Meniketti of Y&T
Dave’s Top 9 Tips for Singers
I have been a professional singer for over 40 years now, and have learned a lot along the way. Here are some of my most useful tips for singers:
1) Sleep. Yes, it sounds almost too simple, but if you can get close to eight hours of sleep before a performance you will be a much happier singer. This just seems to work amazingly well; I have noticed that it’s much easier to sing and my voice feels more relaxed, in general, when I get adequate sleep. I can’t emphasize this point enough. I even heard Luciano Pavarotti say this to Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show decades ago, after I had been doing the same for years. Confirmed for me that I was doing the right thing.
2) Shut your trap. Don’t talk too much before a performance, and limit talking out loud over noisy environments. I learned to scrub pre-show interviews and social gatherings before a performance to make sure I didn’t get tempted to overuse my voice. This includes talking over the road noise of a vehicle, like a tour bus or a van, and trying to be heard in a noisy club or bar. Best to talk lightly, or if you are aware of how to speak correctly without strain, limit the amount of sustained conversations you have.
3) Rein in the loud singing. I learned this from a vocal therapist when I was going through an issue with a polyp on my vocal cord that vanished within four months. She watched me as I showed her my approach to singing, which I was proud to be displaying how I was doing it correctly for decades. Then she let me have it! Yes, I was singing correctly as far as singing from the diaphragm and not from the throat, etc., but she thought I was singing way too loudly. Now, I had learned all by myself how to sing much more quietly and had already been doing so for over a decade before I saw this vocal therapist, but she thought I was still putting out too much volume, which was hammering my vocal cords a bit more than necessary. I learned over the next few months that I could easily get my tone, and I even had more control than usual by just reducing the output. Worked a charm, and though I occasionally get excited and sing a little louder than I should at times during a performance, I reign it back in most times and it definitely helps in conserving my voice and making me a better singer overall. If your voice hurts after a performance, it may be a sign that you’re straining too much or singing too loudly. Some of my fellow rock singer friends have learned this along the way as their careers have continued. Makes it much easier to play 100 shows a year and be certain your voice is there for every performance, which is paramount for me.
4) Loosen up. Though I had spent almost two decades in the midst of my career not warming up before a show, I now find that it’s best to go back to the basics that I’d started doing at the beginning of my career. Warm up your voice for at least 5 to 15 minutes of light vocal exercises before you go out on stage. You will probably already have a battery of exercises you’ve learned from a fellow singer or on YouTube from other vocal coaches. Use them, but don’t sing too hard when warming up. Take it easy on your voice for the first few minutes. As you start to get going you can extend the range and output a bit, but easy going early on is best.
5) Steam. Now this suggestion is something I researched and got into after I’d had a polyp on my vocal cord and was concerned about it getting worse as I was heading into a two-month tour across Europe and the UK. I did my warm up exercises along with breathing in steam from a warm air humidifier, or even just a cup or bowl of boiling hot water. Inhaling the steam after each warm up scale just seemed to help get through that rough time in my career. It also can get you through those moments when your voice is tired or hurting. I did this religiously before each show, and made sure I wasn’t singing too loud (see tip #3)—and lo and behold, the polyp went away on its own by the end of a 30-show two-month tour singing 2+ hours each night. Amazing how taking care of your voice can help it heal itself!
I have also been having issues at certain times of the year, with mucus forming on my vocal cords. This has caused my voice to crack at odd times while singing; clearing my throat became an issue. Steam is the best way to help in all of these cases mentioned. Lately, I have been using these personal steamers, which I purchased on Amazon: MyPurMist and Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler. I use it before each show, as it’s useful in moisturizing the airway and in removing debris (mucus, medications, etc.) from the surface of the vocal cords.
6) Cut the grease. At least for my body, if I eat greasy and fatty foods before a long performance, it can cause my body to have issues with acid reflux, heartburn, burping, etc. Basically, you are using a bit of your stomach region to get the air you need for singing correctly, and if it’s bloated and full of gas, it can all but choke off your air if you are the type of person that has susceptibility to this kind of thing. If you have these types of occasional issues, my advice is to keep your pre-performance meals on the bland and light side, especially with gassy or greasy types of food.
7) Booze anyone? Now this is one that has many opinions, and I’ll leave it to any individual singer to figure out for themselves. The common thought was a rock singer would slug down some Jack Daniels and go out with a rough sounding rocking voice, and scream through a performance, and that’s how ya did it. But I take this so seriously that I don’t want to mess with it. I will very occasionally have a few sips of wine hours before a performance, but 99.5% of the time I leave it for after the show. A vocal therapist I had a few sessions with years ago swore off alcohol all together and claims it does things to the cords that you don’t want to sing through and that can damage them. So, in general, my advice is don’t drink until after your performance, especially if you don’t know when to stop. It’s not fair to your fans, your band, or yourself. It’s your job—respect it!
8) NSAIDS. I have it on authority from a vocal therapist, 2 ENT doctors that deal with a lot of singers, and any Google search of the same—taking Aspirin, and NSAIDS, like Ibuprofen (Advil, etc.), can be dangerous for a singer. It can, in some cases, cause vocal hemorrhaging. Tylenol is recommended if you need something for pain while singing.
9) Mucus Madness. As I mentioned in the steam point above, mucus can be a real problem for a singer. The best things you can do to reduce the thick mucus that can cling to your vocal cords are to keep hydrated (drink plenty of water), use steam as noted above; in cases when you’re having a chronic problem (cold or allergies) use Mucinex to thin the mucus. Mucinex can be a singer’s best friend, especially when you have coughing and mucus issues beyond the norm. Speaking of coughing: try to minimize that whenever physically possible, and try not to clear your throat, but swallow instead. I realize many times this is nearly impossible, but just be aware of it and do your best to keep these things in control. Also, if you’re throat hurts, don’t whisper. Whispering can actually cause more trauma to your larynx than natural speech.
That’s a lot of information to absorb, and sounds difficult, but if you start to incorporate these things slowly into your daily routine, it all becomes second nature after a while.
The human voice is a beautiful thing, and a rare gift if you are truly talented with it. Think about the above tips, and research more online, but most of all: have some fun out there.