How Much Singing is Too Much?
I often get asked how much singing is good for the voice and how much is too much (yes there can be too much of a good thing!).
Unfortunately (as is the case with so many singing questions), it is very hard to answer and it really depends on the individual, what style they are performing and what stage they are at.
Singers who are just starting to learn the ropes in terms of technique (especially support and blending the registers) will not have the vocal stamina of a singer who has had years of training and is performing gigs each and every weekend.
I suggest that beginners start with 30 - 45 minutes of singing a day maximum, to enable the muscles to adjust to this new form of "exercise."
If you have excellent technique and are regularly singing, you may find that your voice feels "fitter" and able to sing for longer periods of time without tiring. Your muscles will have adapted to the good habits you've been practising and will ensure that you're singing safely and efficiently for longer.
If you're really clever you may be able to sing and do crazy amazing acrobatics at the same time, P!nk style!
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Some styles are definitely more likely to fatigue the voice than others. Any singing with vocal effects such as distortion or glottal attacks (such as rock music) can take its toll on the voice more quickly than say gentle folk singing or light opera.
It doesn't mean that the cords are being used incorrectly, it simply means that it takes more energy, more support and more precision to keep the sound clear and strong (it's definitely a work out).
Musical theatre singers for example are required to perform eight shows a week (!) and often have to use their voice in other ways on stage - speaking, yelling etc which means that the voice can fatigue relatively quickly.
It is important that their technique supports this level of vocal work and that they become very aware of their vocal health, energy levels and risks involved.
HOW TO DEAL WITH VOCAL FATIGUE
Vocal fatigue is not something to be hide-under-your-bed-clutching-your-teddy scared of (it happens to the best of us) but it is something to be aware of.
Listen to what your voice is telling you. If it's weaker than usual, cracking, straining or your throat is swollen or scratchy - take a break and a good one at that. The vocal cords need a full 48 hours to recover from vocal fatigue.
Really the important take away is that you should spend time getting in touch with your instrument and eventually be able to pick up on your individual signs of fatigue early.
Does your head voice seem to cut out after you've been singing for too long?
Do you tend to push and constrict on your high chest mix notes in order to get them out clear and strong?
Does your vocal break become more apparent?
Does your throat feel swollen and tender?
Whatever your signals are, take note and make sure that you take action. Singing on fatigued cords can cause damage and that is the last thing you want to have to worry about!
It is definitely tricky cancelling a gig or asking the understudy to take your place, but sometimes you have to put you and your vocal health first.