by Cari Cole
The Three Day Rule is a magic formula of performance prep tips I’ve used with my private clients over the past 3 decades of coaching professionals in New York City. It’s a list of tips for exactly what you need to do and stay away from for three days before a show to make sure you’re doing everything you can to have a solid vocal performance. You may want to do longer than 3 days but at least 3 days as a minimum preparation. Once you follow the 3 Day Rule, you’ll never look back! Works like a charm. Hope it helps you have more control over your instrument!
1. 8 to 10 glasses of water a day
No kidding. Water moisturizes the vocal folds and acts like a lubricant. It makes your voice flexible and resilient and you’ll hit higher notes with more ease and clarity.
2. Add foods with a high water content
Foods with high water content help hydration and are an energy source. Watermelon and melon, in general, is particularly hydrating to the muscles of the throat. Put pieces of melon in your water (love this!)
3. Eat lightly the day before and the day of your performance**see below
No heavy foods like red meat or rich sauces. Eating light will improve your energy. Chicken, turkey, fish and tofu/beans are the best sources of protein that are easy to digest. Fresh ORGANIC juices (no orange juice – causes acid reflux). Juices are great sources of energy: carrot, celery, beet, kale, parsley, apple with a smidge of ginger is my favorite fresh juice – chock full of vitamins and protein – yes kale is a little-known source of protein. Take your vitamins too!! (Organic please!)
4. Gargle with warm saltwater
For 30 seconds before every rehearsal, singing lesson, performance and recording gargle with warm salt water. Even better, make a cup of Throat Coat tea and pour a bit into another cup, add some salt and gargle with that! The salt moisturizes like no tomorrow and the Throat Coat diminishes any inflammation and gives an extra coating of moisture to the vocal cords
5. If you have nasal congestion
Use a salt-water spray for your nose morning and night for three days prior or try D-Hist natural antihistamine and avoid side effects and ingesting unwanted chemicals and toxins.
If you have extra mucous the day of the performance, gargle with Alkalol. Will get rid of mucus for up to 3 hours (you can find Alkalol at most drugstores or online)
6. Organic Throat Coat tea daily
You will find Throat Coat tea at most health food stores or on Amazon.com. This tea moisturizes your throat. I also use Vocal Eze throat spray (some similar ingredients) the day before and day of the performance. (Find it at a Guitar Center or on Amazon.)
7. No dairy
That means no milk, no cheese, and no yogurt! Dairy causes phlegm and interferes with singing.
8. No caffeine
That means no coffee, black or green tea, no Coca-Cola, no chocolate or hot chocolate. Caffeine in any form is dehydrating.
9. Stay away from foods that cause acid reflux like sodas
Sodas, alcohol, cooked tomatoes like marinara sauce, citrus fruits or juice, caffeine, chocolate and peppermint tea or gum all cause acid reflux that burns the mucous membrane of the vocal cords. The result is irritated and inflamed vocal cords, which translates into raspiness/hoarseness and a compromised vocal range. If you have these issues, schedule a Cole Power Hour and I can troubleshoot your issues (and often solve the problem in one hour and set you up with a plan for your return to health.) If you’ve been losing your voice for more than 3 months and have lost a good portion of your range, go see an ENT who specializes in singers voices. In NYC, consult the fabulous ENT Dr. Scott Kessler 212-496-9300 for diagnosis and treatment and visit http://www.texasvoicecenter.com/advice.html for more info. In Nashville go see the Vanderbilt Voice Center for treatment.
10. Avoid spicy foods
For some people, spicy foods can also cause acid reflux, which burns the vocal cords and leaves them dry and chaffed. This will cause problems with high notes and shifting registers will be bumpy. Your voice may cut out when you go to hit a note (quite disconcerting!) Reflux over time can also cause a vocal nodule so you want to eliminate anything that can contribute to one. However, I have found that light to moderate spicy foods like jalapeno or cayenne pepper is fine. You just don’t want to eat super spicy!
11. Avoid eating late
Eating late also causes acid reflux regardless of what food you eat. Leave 3 hours after eating before bedtime. If you eat late, do not lie flat. Prop yourself up with one or two pillows. Position the pillow under your shoulders so your neck is not strained. This will help keep the stomach acids from washing up onto your vocal cords. Keep your vocal cords clean and mean!
12. Absolutely NO antihistamines
Prescription antihistamines are severely drying to your voice which causes other problems as a singer (you never want sing over dry cords.) If you suffer from allergies – get tested by an allergist and get on a treatment program that does not include antihistamines. There are many alternatives (like D-Hist) including herbal tinctures and Chinese medicine as well as dietary changes. Many people who suffer from allergies are allergic to wheat and dairy and once they have eliminated both of those food groups their allergies cease (almost immediately.)
13. Avoid alcohol
Alcohol is dehydrating. One beer or one glass of wine during this time won’t kill you but it won’t help you! However, absolutely NO hard liquor. Hard liquor (rum, tequila, vodka, gin, whiskey) is extremely drying. It is best to completely stay away from alcohol of any kind 2-3 days prior to performing.
14. No smoking
If you are a singer you shouldn’t be smoking period. It makes singing so much harder than it should be and can cause polyps, hemorrhages, and other vocal problems. When you smoke, your vocal cords are in a constant state of dryness and irritation which causes friction which can cause nodules or polyps (and vocal hemorrhages.) Stay away from second-hand smoke three days before a performance as well. If you are a pot smoker, using a vaporizer is less damaging to your vocal cords and health than smoking a joint.
15. Eight to ten hours of sleep every night
For those of you who have trouble sleeping try herbal teas (chamomile rocks!) Another remedy that works with some people is to take 500 milligrams of calcium an hour before bed to get a more restful sleep — works wonders. Check out www.travelwellness.com for her natural sleep aides for performers too!
16. For hoarse voices
There are a lot of syrups and gargles to use if you’re voice is hoarse before a performance. And if you have recurring hoarseness, you’ll want to see a voice doctor and vocal coach to get to the root of the problem. However, this little known trick has helped many singers at my studio so I’ll share it with you. It’s a homeopathic remedy called “Roxalia” made by Boiron, also called “Sore Throat Hoarseness.” This remedy helps to reduce swelling at the vocal folds. Take for three days prior and the day of singing. Also try Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, a Sore Throat Syrup sold on Amazon. Many singers sware this makes their throat less raw and hoarse. It won’t fix the problem like Roxalia, but is a soothing alternative.
17. Steam 5-10 minutes a day
Steam with 4-5 drops of essential oils of lavender and eucalyptus (use pure and organic essential oils) in a pot of water. Put a towel over your head and breath in the steam. It will help to loosen mucous and hydrate your cords at the same time. Or you can steam with plain water or by breathing in shower steam (take a long hot shower.) Sometimes I make a cup of Throat coat tea and inhale the steam from that.
Share what tricks you use before your performance below…
Happy Healthy Performance!!