December Survival Guide for Singers

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year….” You just sang that in your head, didn’t you?!? Congratulations! It’s December! The magical, marvelous season of wonder is upon us. We wonder what we were thinking when scheduled our month with back to back to back rehearsals and performances that fill our lives and calendars. Of the many challenges facing singers, staying healthy is probably the most important of all. Many of the tips you are about to read, are things you already know. However, a few reminders may keep you in good voice for all your endeavors.

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I think I may have posted about this before! 😊
    • Drink more water! Breathe steam! Depending on humidity levels where you live, you may need to outfit your home with humidifiers. If you are in a drier climate, you should probably be running yours at about a 50% level.
    • Keep an assortment of your favorite herbal teas at hand if you find water monotonous. If you prefer a sweet treat, consider adding honey. It can soothe a tender throat and has natural antibiotic properties.
    • If you are sensitive to dairy products, save the egg nog for after your gigs. In some individuals, some dairy products may cause mucus to thicken. Thick mucus impedes the free oscillation of the vocal folds making it necessary to exert greater breath pressure to create sound and/or more breath pressure to blow the thicker mucus off the vocal folds.
  2. REST! Rest your voice, rest your body, rest your mind. Remember that even if you are NOT actively phonating, your larynx may be moving as though actually singing just listening to your music. Remember, speaking and singing use the same muscles and coordination. REST = QUIET!
  3. Eat well! As time is a precious commodity, grabbing a quick bite can be tempting! Acid reflux is a common affliction for singers. A healthy diet will reduce the possibility or symptoms. Spicy foods, while delicious, can irritate the pharynx and cause additional sensitivity or swelling. Enjoy with care!
  4. Practice Smart! Not every rehearsal requires 100% of your effort 100% of the time. Sing smart & save your best for performance. Some may take issue with this and say you should always give it your all. If you have the luxury of abundant rest, by all means, sing with all the joy and passion you have within you! But, if your calendar has few to no days of rest, budget your resources wisely.
  5. Cool down vocally after a concert or rehearsal. During especially busy weeks, warm salt water gargles can aid recovery by whisking away extra swelling and soothing tender pharynx tissues. I realize the salt water never actually contacts the vocal folds, but swelling can be reduced in near tissues and the extra water in the vocal tissues will be pulled out indirectly.
  6. Have a well packed gig bag!

GIG BAG should include: 2 full water bottles tea, snacks, fuzzy socks, scarf, throat drops (NO MENTHOL, EVER! More on that later…), tissue, hand sanitizer, saline spray, lip balm, acetaminophen (not ibuprofen or other NSAIDS they can contribute to vocal fold bruising – more on this later too!), pencil, post-it notes, thank you notes, business cards, pitch pipe, and if soloing – an extra copy of your music. Be prepared to share! 😊

I don’t know what December is without every weekend jam packed with music. With care and preparation, I hope to never face that sadness. Sing with joy and sing well!        –

Contributed by Author Melissa Shallberg



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Melissa Shallberg

Melissa Shallberg holds a Master of Music Education and Therapy from University of Kansas. She serves as a member of the staff of the Institute for Healthy Singing with the William Baker Choral Foundation conducting workshops and seminars on the science behind the voice. She also currently serves as Vocal Coach for Una Vocis Choral Ensemble in Mason City, Iowa and maintains a private voice studio specializing in the teen girl's changing voice.

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