What To Do With "Bad Vocal Days"

Everybody has Bad Vocal Days...

by Brett Manning and Morgan Cryar

Bad Vocal Days - Everybody has them.

You get up, open your mouth to talk and... Sludge! Your voice is rough, distorted, and when you try to clear it away, you feel discomfort right behind your adam's apple, in the vocal cord region.

Your sound is hobbled and your range is limited and it scares you. It hooks into your deepest fears--the ones concerning your voice and talent. If you're like me (Morgan), you may be guilty of thinking that if there's a bad vocal day; it proves you were not all that good after all.

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This, of course, is completely false. When you have a bad vocal day, it only means that the instrument you carry with you in your body is in need of some maintenance.

Every guitar goes out of adjustment and needs a "setup" from time to time. Every piano gets out of tune from time to time. Every saxophone needs to have its reed switched out, after a certain interval of intense playing.

But those instruments are outside the body and so our egos don't freak out when they need work. We just haul them in to the shop and get them worked on. Not so with the singer's instrument. That's why we have to learn some self-maintenance.

I'm going to assume that your bad days are less in number than your good days. If this is not the case, you may indeed need a trip to the vocal "shop." Brett handles a lot of cases where there are chronic problems. Some, however, he has to refer to an "Ear, Nose, and Throat" doctor here in Nashville.

But let's say you just have bad days SOMETIMES. You're not sure why. Maybe occasional allergies, maybe a "cold" tries to attack sometimes, maybe too long in a smoky bar last night, maybe a lack of sleep lately (which will kill both you AND your voice).

By definition these days are NOT like normal. Brett's approach has proven invaluable to me when troubles arise. He has taught me to "smooth" out abnormalities by creating routines... checklists.

I used to fly a plane and EVERY pilot uses the checklist system. When lives are on the line, you can't forget a single detail. Checklists work to keep things as NORMAL as possible, even with the human voice.


Bad vocal days

Hey guys, Brett here. Like Morgan said, I use a checklist that has a built-in memory aid when I need to get to find what might be wrong on a "bad vocal day."

For extra help on those Bad Vocal Days - Remember this acrostic: NEATS

That stands for

Nutritional (what did I eat?)
Emotional (What am I feeling?)
Awareness (What am I thinking right now?)
Technical (What vocal technique issues are there?)
Spiritual (How have I violated my conscience?)

Notice that all the questions are a little negative sounding. That's because this checklist is for BAD days. You're just trying to get to the bottom of what's causing it.

Nutritional checklist for Bad Vocal Days:

1. Did I eat something irritating? (Remember, pepperoni, late nights, and reflux go together like old friends.)
2. Have I been eating poorly for several days now? (garbage in, garbage out)
3. Have I taken my supplements? (I sometimes forget, so you probably do too.)
4. Have I forgotten my Calli tea? (This, I hardly ever forget.)
5. Am I hungry? (Singing uses energy. You need to have fuel.)

Emotional checklist for Bad Vocal Days:

1. Sad?
2. Mad?
3. Lonely?
4. Angry?
5. Hurt?
6. Detached?
7. Discouraged?
8. Frustrated?
9. Victim?
10. Overwhelmed?

That is my list, but you will be able to make your own fairly easily.

Awareness checklist for Bad Vocal Days:

1. What issue is "pecking" at my thoughts? (Itchy thoughts can make an itchy throat.)
2. Is there a distraction that I should deal with first? (take care of business)
3. Is there some unfinished mental task? (Get it down on paper if necessary, so it will leave you alone long enough to sing.)

Technical checklist for Bad Vocal Days:

1. Morning warm-up routine (lip rolls, edge, hum)
2. Deal with rough spots in range
3. Replace lyrics with appropriate exercise sounds if need be ( my program walks you through this, as you may know.)

Spiritual checklist:

1. What weighs on my conscience?
2. Face it
3. Confess it to God
4. Ask for forgiveness
5. Forgive any and all grudges against others

The last checklist sounds so easy doesn't it? If you have any issues to deal with in this department, they will affect more than just your voice. They'll dampen all you do until they are dealt with. If you have questions about any of that, we can recommend some reading. Just email us.

I hope you know that sometimes the bad days are just bad. But very often, I can get to the bottom of it and turn a day around by using this little process.

Remember, NEATS.

We are happy to serve you.

Keep singing,
Brett Manning

About The Author

Morgan Cryar - SongwriterMorgan Cryar - Songwriter

Morgan Cryar is a contemporary Christian music vocalist, songwriter, and producer from Louisiana. His fourth album, Kingdom Upside Down reached 27 of the Billboard Christian charts. This album included the single Father, which hit number 1.

Read more about Morgan here. 

About The Author 

Brett Manning - Vocal CoachBrett Manning - Vocal Coach

Brett Manning is one of the most sought after vocal coaches in the industry. He has worked with many top artists such as Hayley Williams, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Miley Cyrus and many more. 

You can learn more about Brett here. 


What a wonderful article!

I have always been interested in how to maintain "peak performance".

You see it all the time… a young, talented sports star… storming into the big time… ready to take over the world. But what stops him?


To be consistent at your craft is an underrated but extremely valuable ability.

Time and time again, the more consistent performer will triumph over the more stylish, talented one.

So how does this relate to singing? Here's a pretty good example…

Let's just say that on one particular day, your voice is on fire. You are hitting your high notes easily… your tone flows effortlessly… your licks and trills are magic… you feel pure joy as you sing one song after the next, NAILING it every time.

This is you at your "peak level". But then, the next day, you struggle. You can't even make it through half a song without feeling strained, and you are SCARED of every high note that comes along.

What's the difference between these two days?

It can't be a talent issue, because on the first day you proved to yourself you are an excellent singer. So what is it?

…It's a "block".

That's right… something is blocking you from singing like you know you can. But what is it and how can you remove this "block"?

The answer lies in the checklists that are listed in the article above!

Trust me, those checklists are pure gold. I would suggest that you do as I do and print out the checklists. I have mine hanging on the wall next to my computer, so when I'm having a bad day, I can go through them one by one… and discover what's "blocking" me from singing at "peak level".

You can view a printer friendly version of the checklist by clicking here.

Print out a copy and use it every time you are struggling with your voice. Feel free to print out a copy for your love ones also.

And be sure to have a great day :)

Geoffrey Williams
Editor of singbetter.net

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