The Skinny of Show Preparation
By Skinny Paul
I’ve been playing music on stage since I was 9 years old. I’ve tried it all when it comes to vocal show prep. Throat coats, vocal exercises, honey, cough syrups, and gum were always a way to get through shows when I was playing 3 or 4 nights a week. It took me “blowing my voice up” at 22 years old and never having it come back clear to learn from an E.N.T. Dr. on how to sing without hurting myself.
Water No Ice.. I don’t know how many bartenders have heard those words come out of my mouth then shake their heads in disbelief at me. Start drinking room temperature water several hours before the show and continue to drink it until your set is over. Stay away from anything with caffeine in it. Caffeine stirs up stomach acid and can cause a burning in your throat. Sad but true for a musician but alcoholic drinks will dry your throat and mouth out. Smoking should be avoided, but I’m weak!
Food? I rarely eat before a show. I usually have a light lunch and the water I’m drinking gives me a full feeling. My Dr. warned me about stomach acid #1 but also mentioned how a full stomach affects the diaphragm and can cause you to use more throat than gut when singing.
Warm it up! Jumping on stage and starting to sing without warming your voice up is like jumping in your car and taking off on a cold morning without giving it a chance to get its fluids warmed up. It’s going to run like shit. People have laughed at me for years for walking around backstage and doing the “motor boat”. It works! It relaxes your throat muscles and helps you to breathe correctly while singing. My all time favorite I heard backstage was doing an impression of a stadium announcer. Michael Buffer might be a bit too much, but imagine you’re announcing the name of your favorite stadium. “Welcome to …” I’ve never done vocal scales because let’s face it they are kind of embarrassing sounding at a bar or coffee house. If you must do your “do-ray-mi’s” go low to high and back down changing the key you’re in to loosen up the vocal cords.
Don’t forget to breathe! I know you’re thinking its involuntary right? In through the nose; out through the mouth concentrating on your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is where all of your power comes from. Breathing properly will also help you to relax.
RELAX!!! I tend to hang out alone for a few minutes before I go on stage. I focus on my breathing, drink some water, give my voice a chance to relax after warm up, and visualize what I’m about to go do.
I have been pretty much trouble free with my voice for the last 10 years (knock on wood) since I learned how to take care of it. Trust me a HUGE vocal squeaker is not only embarrassing on stage (check out “want to be the one (live)” on my website) but it also can do major damage and take you out for a while. When I blew my throat up I wasn’t able to play a show for 2 weeks, and lived my life like a mute.