The Three Day Rule: Performance Prep For Singers


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 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 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 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!!



  • Christina

    Oh, it’s a very good article! I will definitely use your advice.Thank you so much!

  • Excellent advice, thank you so much! I need this right now!

  • Ian

    I like to sing the song Demons by Guster because it requires you to alternate quickly between high and low notes. I don’t know if that actually helps in the long run, but it does help me when I’m singing.

  • This ROCKS! Thank you, Cari!

  • Lynne Summers

    This is so oops ON TIME for me because I have a show this Saturday & I was looking for tips!

  • Carolyn

    Don’t do anything!

  • shalom

    This is so nice but its going to be pretty hard……i luv super spicy stuff and chocolate,coffee and milk

    • Aika Miwa

      I Feel you

  • RespectnJustice4all

    great thanks…

  • Ozara Odé

    Excellent info! Thanks so much. Although I have good range, as a contralto Im concerned with becoming a barratone. lol
    I would like info on your vocal coaching.

  • nazemulla

    I love singing Classic Ottoman songs i just love them , style of voice is orintal and singer must have special attention on notes he or she sings because as everyone knows oriental songs requires long ang varying notes which are not easy to perform even an ordinary song to compare with western or ala franka style performances .

  • dirt350

    Just kill me now!!! I can’t live without chocolate!! lol I do notice a difference when I do not partake in cheese, milk, alcohol or chocolate.. Info here is pretty solid.

    • Ya, we agree! Chocolate in doses when not singing ;).

  • Darlene Parson

    Thanks so much for the tips! I have a 3 hour rehearsal Sunday (tomorrow 🙂 and I am just getting started with this band so this is new territory for me. I looked for tips on line and came across this one. I am grateful for the help!!! I will do this in the future. I have always used Throat Coat, lemon and honey but none of the other so this will help a great deal! Love Cari’s singing tips as well! Be blessed!

    • Hi Darlene! So glad this is helping! Yay for Throat Coat. We love Traditional Medicinals — great tea company!

  • scredly

    Good article. Just a point about salt in #4. Salt does not moisturise. It actually draws out moisture. This is why salting eggplant or tomatoes causes them give up their liquid. In your throat, salt water works in two ways: it draws moisture out of any bacteria that have set up shop there, and it draws moisture out of your own swollen tissues, relieving inflammation. Not only does salt water flush out post-nasal drip and other bacterial material, but it also helps prevent bacteria from growing.

  • Monbebe

    I just talk for 20 min straight and my voice starts falling out on me.

  • Heidi A. Olinger

    Cari,, thank you. I am a speaker who was looking for voice health and care and that’s how I found your website. Though I am not a singer, I’m using your guidance to care for my voice as a professional speaker! A million thanks.

  • Faith Perez

    OMG no milk???? I have a SUPER important audition in 3 days and idk if I can do that. Can I do just the day before??? Milk wise.

    • Eli Maagic Amezquita

      3 Days before. How’d the audition go? I had a similar experience once.

      • Faith Perez

        Honestly I’m trying to remember what the audition was… I think it was beauty and the beast, got in as lead dancer and silly girl, but at least I got in!!!!!!

  • Selah Dubois

    I am not a singer..i am a poet..i do spitfire spokenword and my throat is little irritated…this was good info..poets could use this…

  • M.B.

    Thank you for sharing such amazing tips & healthy too!

  • Karen Reid

    She mentions gargling with warm salt water–I can vouch for that, as I discovered accidentally that drinking a cup of hot bouillon before singing clears my voice like nothing else.

  • Marquis Anthony

    Great article!
    I just read that hot tea can be bad for acid reflux so can I drink my throat coat at room temperature?

    • Laura Sythes Kuhn

      It’s black or green tea that is bad for reflux; temperature is not relevant. Throat coat does not contain actual tea leaves, as black and green tea does.

  • Pearlyn Tan

    My vocal is not stable and sometime can get horse what can I do . My voice is not very powerful but I would like to sing Taeyeon U R which go a lot of high and Low notes and it also need you to stable you voice a lot . What can I do ?

  • Shela Okei Tanda

    Long it but the are certain things I don’t understand

  • Hannah Stauber

    This article was incredibly helpful!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!

    • Thanks Hannah! So happy to help.

  • Mickey Rosenkrantz

    Great stuff. I’m editing the first line of my Grammy speech to “first I’d like to thank Cari Cole…”

    I’m not kidding: for months I’ve been washing down antihistamines with coffee and a smoke, then wondering where the heck my range went.

    • Thanks Mickey! So glad to be of help ;).

  • The girl dipper 1101

    Ya this help I’m in a group were we got to sing good

  • Caroline Brady

    Hi Cari, thanks for the information. I am having trouble with mucous – a bit like a frog permanently in my throat. I also get a sudden sharp pain that can stop me from singing in my throat too. I use my diaphragm and do not sing from my throat. From what I have been reading today I think it is all connected to allergies and my medication. However, I cannot stop taking anti-histamines. I am allergic to wheat (which I know I should avoid) and will avoid for the next few months whilst in pollen and harvest. But I am also allergic to anything with fur, basically all pollen’s along with perfumes and sprays etc. and my allergies have to be controlled with asthma meds, anti-histamines and montokulast. From now until Sept I often need 2+ 24hr tabs to make it through the day. I have a mask for when it gets really bad and an air purifier to help me. I don’t sing professionally as I never had the courage but am about to embark on taking my grade 5, just to prove to myself I can. The songs will include Panis Angelicus and I Could Have Danced All night. Is there anything else I can do to help with this problem I have (it is not polyps as I was checked). I am going to try more water as I only drink tea – would camomile be ok as an everyday drink? Along with the steam and salt water gargles. Any help is greatly received. Thank you.

  • Vishal Soni

    hello mam….i am having some kinda throat issue since a month…earlier there was pain inside throat near adams apple…but after medication it is occassional but there is consistent pain in my jaws during movements..joint to the jaws and and at junction of throat and chin(under jaws)…i dont think tablets gonna solve this issue as i had a lots of them…please give me suggestion ……thanks