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How to know when to stop singing and take a break? Or when do you sing too much?

Every Friday I get together with my friends and we jam out and usually play and sing Led Zeppelin, the Who, and other random heavy metal songs for about an hour to an hour and a half without taking a break. Due to my exercising the voice every day with KTVA I can sing all these songs and do a great job, but more often than not when I am done with that hour or so of singing I feel like my voice is overly husky. I take great care to manage my breath and not to oversing but it feels like there is a point every Friday night where I start to feel my throat getting dry and I start "squeezing" a bit. We always eat pizza beforehand so that could be drying out my throat, but I also drink water throughout the day. However, I don't really hydrate while we are jamming since I always seem to forget a bottle of water. I know Ken can sing for hours on end and on a good day I can too but when do you know when to stop and take a break?


  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,346
    edited November 2015
    I would say that you need to stop at that point where you think you are beginning to get that dry feeling and starting to squeeze. If you take a short break and drink some water, your voice should recover somewhat, but I think there may be underlying reasons why you are getting to that point in the first place.

    This is just a guess from the information you provided, but I'm thinking that maybe you guys just start having a little too much fun and you maybe start to force your voice, rather than holding on to the open throat and cutting back the air.

    If the guys start increasing the volume of their amplifiers as the fun increases, and you start singing harder, because the monitors aren't keeping up, you will start to wear your voice out. The dryness and the squeezing are indications of singing harder.

    When you are really singing in your stride, you will be floating on a cushion of air, and not really pushing that much, except on the top of your range, and then you will be supporting so much and cutting back the air so much, that it won't really create any strain, only a little extra compression. Key to this is your ability to easily hear yourself perfectly in the monitors at all times. If the band is making too much volume, and the monitors aren't up to the task, you can't possibly keep up because you can't increase your volume physically as they continue to add more gain to their amplifiers. If you try to keep up in that situation, your cords will wear, they will swell, and you will put your voice at risk to try to keep singing on swollen cords. Swollen cords sound husky. You lose some of your top end.

    You guys may need to have a discussion about balancing out the sound according to the capabilities of your monitors, or maybe you need some in-ear monitors that allow you to hear yourself, even if your jam buddies are drowning you out in the room. At least you would be able to sing at a comfortable, safe level and hear yourself without physically trying to overcome 130 decibels.

    The material you guys are playing is very demanding vocally, so you don't want to have to work any harder than you have to in order to hear yourself.

    I can do four or five hour gigs, and only need a break because I am drinking a lot of water and it needs somewhere to go. I can't just keep filling up without a break every couple of hours. After a minute or two break, I'm ready to go again. My voice just keeps warming up better and better, as long as I'm cutting back the air, supporting correctly, and hearing myself perfectly over the sound of the band through the monitors. We have great monitors and know how to play to the level that has the lead vocals dominant at all times, regardless of the song and style.

    If I can't hear myself singing, or if I'm trying to sing without proper breath control, my voice will suffer. Do remember to bring a water bottle or two. I actually have a backpack loaded with water that goes with me into my gigs, and a water-bottle holster on one of my floor toms.

    It's not uncommon for me to slam a few slices of pizza before I head out to the gig, and do my warmups in the car on the way!

    All the Best!

  • matt53matt53 Pro Posts: 189
    edited November 2015
    Thanks for the advice Bob. I should also add that I sing while playing my electric drumkit and when I do jam with this group I don't use a mic. These two factors probably also explain the oversinging. When I did bring a mic I bought for this purpose my friends reacted along the lines of "why do you need to mic yourself if you sing loud enough already?" However, when jamming with my other group I do use a mic and never have a problem of oversinging. I am also not playing drums in that group so I can focus more on breath control and open throat.
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,346
    edited November 2015
    Hey, @matt53.

    I'm also a drummer, and I have a hybrid acoustic/electric kit that I play when I sing.

    I rather expect that you singing without a mic to songs that are heavy metal leaves you at the mercy of the sound level of your jam buddies. Even singing over the sound of a drum kit (unless you've got it turned down really low) could cause you to blow out your cords.

    One habit that some drummers have is to internally, quietly grunt along to the accents of the phrases of the music as the song progresses.

    I took private drum lessons when I was in high school, and one of the guys I studied under was the top guy in my area. He had this habit of breathing in and out very slowly to the phrases he was playing (on a practice-pad drumkit). He would be totally concentrating on the music, and doing this loud breathing to long phrases in these tunes and exercises. At all of the accents in the song, and as he played drum fills and syncopated hits, he would kind of do this gutteral "grunting sound" to the rhythm of what he was playing. He was concentrating on playing four different rhythms, ride cymbal right hand, snare left, Kick on the right foot, and hi-hat on the left foot. This was complicated stuff and it took a lot of concentration, as the exercises were to teach left hand independence.

    So I picked up this bad habit from this great drummer. For years, I would be hoarse after a gig, even if I didn't sing, because I was grinding my vocal cords together for four hours a night, kind of going ngh, ngh-ngh, ngh! under my breath to all of these rock songs we would play.

    It took me a long time to realize that I was doing that, and I just had to reprogram my brain to release that habit. When I quit doing that, I no longer got hoarse from NOT singing.

    Then when I began learning to sing, I had to train myself to implement Ken's support and cutting back of the breath. That stopped me from oversinging.

    Just thought I'd mention the under-the-breath cord grinding, in case any of the other drummers out there have been plagued by this bad habit. It was kind of like "clearing your throat" to the rhythm of every song you played, for hours on end. That's a terrible thing to do to your cords. It's a wonder my voice has survived, but it did.

    So I'm now playing drums and doing lots of lead and background vocals, and my voice has never been happier.

  • matt53matt53 Pro Posts: 189
    That's awesome Bob. I've actually heard isolated Led Zeppelin drum tracks and scratch tracks where you can hear Bonham grunting to the beat. Kinda cool actually but not a habit I want to pick up in the future. I've decided that in the future I will jam with a mic so that I can save my voice and also sing some lower range songs so that we're not just consigned to loud high-range hard rock lol
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