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
Lead Singer & Lead Guitarist for Y&T. Follow Dave online.
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.
Dave Meniketti, Johnny Carson, Luciano Pavarotti, MyPurMist, Singer Tips, the Tonight Show, Tips for Singers, Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler, Y&T
Hi Dave. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to you since yesterday and today played at the Starwood, so many years ago. I’ve been a fan since. Now my Daughter, who 30 years younger than me, is one of your biggest fans. She has been to your shows every year since 09, when she took me to see you at the Malibu inn. You played a song that night with her guitar pick and signed it for her after the show. She is now in USAF as a linguistic officer. Stationed in Monterey. She has seen you at the Santa Cruz shows. She asked you to call me for my Birthday, and you did.! You have always been a great performer and a Great person. She is going to be transfered to Nebraska, this October. One of first things that she said was, She wouldn’t be able to see you play again. I’m telling this to you for two reasons. Mostly that your music, voice and guitar playing have past the test of time. You have and will always be my favorite guitarist, singer and performer. The second reason is that I gave her my 75′ Ibanez sunburst
Cool story, Scott! Please thank your daughter for her service. Thanks for stopping by to read Dave’s guest blog.
I would love to have you autograph it for her. She would treasure it. Thank you.
Difficult logistics for that given her move. Best chance would be to bring it to a show.
I would bring it. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t asking to much. Thank you for responding Jill.
Thank you Dave & Jill for all your great tips will start to do all of them. And tell Dave it was so cool to talk and meet him in the back lot at Peters room in Portland OR. And Monsters OF ROCK cruise 2014
fans Jeff & Lisa
Will do, Jeff & Lisa. Thanks for dropping by to read Dave’s guest blog.
I would like to say thank you for vocal all the tips I been playing & singing sense grade school and been a Fan sense 80’s the MTV days. My wife& I met you in Portland behind Peters Room just after Phil had past my heart go’s out to you and your band. My wife Lisa so impressed with the band she said we are going on the MRC 2014 and we did that was so cool. But just yesterday Lisa who books the band got the spot will be opening for Y&T on March 25 2016 at BOSSANOVA BALLROOM its like a dream come true for me. ask Dave to check us out to may be give some pointers
thank you Jeff
Thank you Jill. Beside every good man. There’s a good Woman
Cool tips i am going to try some of them out.I have a tendency to over sing and strain my voice when i can’t hear myself on stage
Thanks for stopping by to read, Dave. Have you ever tried in-ears? In-ear monitors would certainly help you with those issues, as you’d hear yourself loud and clear (plus, *you’re* in control of your monitor volume). When I had my band in the ’90s, an in-ear monitor system was the best investment I’d ever made for live performance. I don’t perform live anymore (too busy managing Y&T and writing books), so I donated mine to John. 😉
Although I am not a vocalist, I enjoyed the read. Like most Y&T fans, I have seen them numerous times and had the chance to meet and chat with Dave as well. I think his “approach-ability” and willingness to hang with his fans all lends to the continued success and support Y&T well always have. Much love and respect! Cheers!
Thanks, Tommy. He’s such a good guy and so wonderful to his fans, even when he’s exhausted from giving his all onstage for 2+ hours. This guest post is great insight into the effort that Dave puts into a stellar show for the fans each night. The man is *serious* about his craft!
These are terrific tips for both singers and speakers… thanks! (Posted them to my FaceBook page on Wedding Speech Help as so many forget to think about voice quality when preparing their speech.)
So true, Susan. Thanks! Dave’s tips can certainly apply to anyone speaking publicly, too…as well as fitness trainers who call out drills to hype their class. It’s all about saving your voice.
Dave has always been one of my favorite singers (and guitar players). With his powerful vocals, he has the unique ability to take the listener on a musical journey. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a couple of the Baltimore shows over the past few years. He couldn’t have been any nicer. I could tell that the fans truly meant a lot to him. No doubt, one of the classiest guys in rock and roll.
Thanks, Ken. Indeed the fans do.
Heard Dave & Y&T many years ago at a New Year’s Eve concert at the Cow Palace. Have seen them many times since then. Always left every Y&T performance wanting more. Great tunes and you can really feel that it’s truly from the heart when Dave is on stage. Saw Dave with the “Meniketti” band at a little bar in Aptos a number of years ago, what a GREAT show that was. Dave’s blues side and incredible voice really blew everyone away. Any thought of another blues album anytime in the future? Sorry if this isn’t the forum for my post. 🙂
Thanks for dropping by my site, Tony. I’d love for Dave to do another blues album (he already has about half the songs started), but I’m keeping Y&T much too busy right now. 😉
Great tips, Dave. You STILL sound great after belting out some fierce R’n’R for 40 years!
I sure wish you got the FULL recognition you deserve, not only for your vocals but your song-writing and guitar playing AWESOMENESS. Like Tony, I’d love to see a 2nd Meniketti Blues Album but you really are keeping the boys busy on the road, Jill (bless your little heart!)
Hey Jill, I’ve always wanted to ask this, although this probably isn’t the best place for it . . if not, just delete this part, OK? I could ask it at Y&T Rocks if that’s more appropriate. It used to bother me to no END that Y&T didn’t become one of the very biggest hard rock/metal bands of the 80’s. ‘Black Tiger’ was every BIT as solid as AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’ which seemed to be released around the same time…and should have enjoyed the same huge success. The songs and the production were there!! ‘MeanStreak’ was an equally strong, killer follow-up. So many bands “blew up” from ’82-’86 . . . many of them bands that had watched Y&T destroy concert halls for years and were inspired by them.
I’ve always blamed A&M records for not supporting and promoting the band well enough (not knowing what to do with them) but don’t really know this for sure. Can you shed some light? What is your opinion on why Y&T just never quite reached the HUGE exposure that they deserved? They were SO SO close!!!!
Thanks again, I’m enjoying your website 🙂
Darryl in San Leandro
Thanks, Darryl. I’d sure love him to do another blues-rock album, too. 🙂
As for your other question, that’s the million dollar question. Feel free to ask that on Dave’s Facebook page or on his Twitter page. 😉
Hey Jill and Dave, I’m not a Facebooker or twitterer, so just want to say I hope someday Dave does the solo band again, and possibly upload some video of the 50th birthday bash show or any other Meniketti band video on YouTube. I used to have the Dave meniketti archives website and I still by have most of the content saved if you did not save it since the forum went away. Great memories thanks.
I’d love that as well, Tom, but I keep Y&T much too busy these days. 🙂
Apparently there’s no end in sight of the popularity of y&t. Maybe Dave could bring it back for the 70th birthday bash. Oh well. Wish I was a personal friend of Dave so I could hear his fusion album.
You never know! 🙂
Jill you are killing it for the band ROCK ON……
Thank you. It’s a ton of work, but I’m happy to keep them happy. 🙂
Hi my wife Lisa is our manger for the band she would love to sit down and talk to you if it is cool? When we open for Y&T when you come to Portland on March 25 2016 at the Bossanova Ballroom.Just want say Dave & Y&T have been one of favorite bands sense the 80S
And this is truly a dream come true for me
I won’t have much time to “sit down” but I’ll be there! 😉
I under stand it is a lot of work with any thing to do with a band weather you are a player or manager it is hard work. Thank you for your time my wife dose not know I said any of this she would properly
want to ring my neck all of you have great ROCK-ON……