Vocal Lesson 1 - Nervous Throat

By: Josh Spall - Posted: 2008-12-11

If you’re looking for Solfege, I’m about to thoroughly disappoint you. Anyone trying to find music theory as it relates to harmonies and melodies is probably in the wrong place. What I have to offer are the tips, tricks, and techniques that have gotten me through 11 years as vocalist/front man for various bands around Indiana. If you wanna know how to assemble a killer set list, welcome. I’m gonna tell you how to prepare your throat for a smoky bar, and what to do when you suddenly forget all of your lyrics. Hopefully these columns will open up conversations that we’ll all learn from. I know my preferences for microphones, but what are yours? Hold those thoughts – we’ll discuss it after my soon to be completed column on mics. I really hope these columns can become an interactive experience for our whole community. Please feel free to PM me with ideas for future topics of discussion.

Enough with the introductions, it’s time for our very first lesson. This will be a short one, as I spent a third of my column on intros.

Let’s talk about a problem I’ve often suffered from. I call it the Nervous Throat. I rarely get nervous or antsy before a show – that’s usually when I’m at my calmest. It seems my throat feels differently. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve awakened on the morning of a big show to find that I can barely speak, much less sing. That is the Nervous Throat. It’s as though all of the butterflies I should be feeling have decided to congregate in my larynx. While this dilemma can, justifiably, send waves of fear crashing over even the most seasoned of vocalists, it is a surprisingly easy fix.

Start with green tea. Lipton sells green tea bags, and when a show is coming it’s always a good idea to have a supply on hand. It comes in a variety of flavors, any one will do, but I prefer honey-lemon. Why honey-lemon? Because you’ll be adding those things to the tea anyway. Once you’ve allowed the tea to steep, add as much lemon juice as you can stand. Finish it off with a couple of tablespoons of honey and mix it up. Let it cool and drink it when it’s about room temperature. There is one thing I’ve never understood – people think that boiling hot liquids will help their throats. Your throat hurts, how is scalding it supposed to help? Cold liquids are just as bad, they’ll do nothing but shock and paralyze your vocal cords. Avoid both extremes. Combine this tea with some Ricola (again I prefer the honey-lemon) and your throat should heal in just a couple of hours.

There are many theories about why the honey-lemon combination works. One popular belief is that the acidic lemon juice cauterizes the wound while the honey smoothes it over. I don’t know if any of that is true, but I know it works.

Another tip I’ve received (I think from Tim at the JamCrib) was to eat a handful of potato chips if you’ve got a lot of phlegm built up. Supposedly the chip breaks up the phlegm while the greasiness lubricates the throat. I’ve only tried it once, but it did seem to work for me.

So now you’re ready for your show. Drink lots of water on stage, and stick to the rule about lukewarm or room temperature liquids and your voice should hold out for the duration.

Enjoy the music, and as always, eat, rock, sleep, repeat.

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