How To Clear Your Throat Before Singing
Some singer's rely on their raspy voice for a signature sound. Musician Tom Waits has a voice once described as sounding like it had been "soaked in a vat of bourbon... left hanging in the smokehouse... [then] run over with a car." Unfortunately, having a blocked throat can drastically affect people's singing voices. They might lose intonation, be unable to reach certain notes and can even be short of breath. These are not problems associated only with singing. Lecturer's, actors and many public speakers need their voice to be heard. This is why oneHOWTO tells you how to clear your throat before singing. It will help you hit and sustain the right notes or, simply, be heard when you need people to listen.
As with most conditions which affect the throat, prevention is better than cure. The type of blockage might be from a number of causes. The mildest is a sore or tickly throat. This is often caused by the common cold or even overuse. If you been out dancing in a club the night before, but tried to have some conversations with your pals, you're likely to notice some scratchiness.
Throat issues which affect singing can be anything from a mild cold to tonsillitis or mononucleosis (also known as glandular fever or simply mono). If there is excess mucus in the throat, this will affect singing and public speaking. This is why you often hear people trying to clear their throat. It is usually mucus which is causing obstruction. However, it could be due to tissue damage, problems with the vocal cords or inflammation of the nodes.
If you are a singer or have to perform prolonged loud speech, using your voice while there is a problem with it can be dangerous. You could develop polyps or nodules on your vocal cords or vocal folds. While these are generally benign, left untreated they can cause serious medical risks. Even if not life threatening, repeated singing on a sore throat can cause irreparable damage to your vocal quality.
With vocal and throat problems, it's often what you do not do which can provide the benefit. Doing so can stop other problems developing with your voice. Let's look at some of the ways you can help clear your throat before singing.
Clear your throat
This sounds like an obvious one, but there are some considerations to make. Clearing your throat is something you're likely to do naturally if you feel a tickle or obstruction. However, doing it incorrectly can be troublesome. If you try to hack up some mucus or obstruction, you could damage your throat.
As tempting as it may be, try not to cough to clear your throat. This can cause further irritation and make you worse off. To clear the air passage without contracting it inhale deeply and fast about ten times. After this, swallow. The breathing should help loosen mucus and swallowing will help clear it down the throat. While this may not be very pleasant, it will be reabsorbed by the body or passed. It is unlikely to do you any further harm, even if there is bacteria in it.
Lemon and honey
This is one of our favorite methods to prepare your throat for singing as it's also one of the most delicious. While eating too many sugars is not a good idea for overall health, a little natural honey is great for the throat. Honey has natural antibiotic and antioxidant properties, although the extent of effectiveness is up for debate. Still, many will find it soothing. It is not a coincidence many strep throat lozenges come in honey and lemon flavors.
The lemon also contributes to soothing a sore or blocked throat. The lemon will help increase saliva which can help with dryness and it also has antibacterial properties. It might also help to break down mucus, so it's pretty great for helping in this regard.
Making a honey and lemon infusion is ideal for sore throats. However, make sure to drink it warm rather than hot. Warm liquid can help break down the mucus and soothe a throat. Hot water can agitate an already sensitive area and cause further damage. Add two spoonfuls of lemon juice to one and a half spoonfuls of honey and top up with a little water. Drink slowly and carefully. Even if you don't have a sore throat, this is a great way to prepare before a show for singing.
Avoid milk and dairy
This is another method of prevention if you have a singing or speaking engagement you need to prepare for. Unfortunately, as delicious as they can be, consuming milk, cheese or yogurt can increase mucus production and increase the rate of phlegm. It is not well understood why this happens, but it's true that many people feel more phlegm after eating dairy. If you have lactose intolerance, then this is particularly the case. It can increase bacteria, give you a sore throat and make you all round sick.
Reduce dairy intake before important performances, concerts or readings. Do this in tandem with other preventative methods described here. Chocolate often contains dairy, but even if it doesn't it is recommended you avoid it if wanting to sing well.
Stay in practice
One of the worst things you can do before singing is not sing. We are not talking about singing while you have a sore throat. What we mean is, if you have been out of practice singing, then you may do more damage if you go full tilt. Your vocal cords are like any other muscle and need to be warmed up first.
If you have a big performance scheduled, try going to an open mic where you only have to sing one or two songs. This will help get you ready for a bigger show. Do vocal warm ups before any performance, even smaller ones. They will get you limber and reduce the potential for damage.
Vocal warm ups can also be helpful in detecting voice problems down the line. If you find that you have to do more or longer vocal warms ups before singing, it is likely some damage has occurred to your vocal cords. If the problem persists, seek an ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) opinion.
Using tongue twisters, prolonged sighing or gliding between pitches can really help your voice to limber up. Perhaps the most famous vocal warm up is the classic do-ray-me-fa-so-la-ti-do, immortalized in the movie The Sound of Music.
Not smoking is a piece of advice given for many similar articles on oneHOWTO. While you need to eat or exercise (even if you can overdo either), there are few circumstances when you have to smoke. It is particularly problematic if you are preparing to sing. As you inhale through the mouth, you end up passing smoke through the throat. This can aggravate existing throat issues and cause its own. Perhaps the worst of these is the link between smoking an throat cancer.
Tobacco smoking is highly addictive and while many enjoy it recreationally, it is hard to promote as beneficial. If you start to find that your singing is becoming hindered and you have exhausted all other possibilities, it is likely that smoking is the cause. You may have to choose between continuing to smoke or to sing at your optimum ability.
While it is common to see bottles of beer or harder liquor at the side of stages, particularly in popular music performances, it may not be the best for the throat. This is especially the case with spirits. The burning sensation many people feel when drinking something like whisky or tequila often is just that. It agitates the throat muscles and can make singing harder. However, the problem with this is also to do with the diuretic properties of alcohol. It can dry out your throat, making it scratchy and harder to hit the right notes.
However, there is some potential benefit of some alcohol consumption. It may only be a home remedy or a placebo, but drinking hot port with orange and cloves has been known to help soothe throats.
Getting the right humidty where you live is important. If it is too high, you can increase the threat of infection as certain bacteria grows more rapidly in humid conditions. If it is too low, it can mean the air is dry which in turn dries out your throat. Ideally the humidity should be somewhere between 35% - 45%. Invest in a humidifier if you find that the air seems dry and you are getting a scratchy throat. The next time you have to sing or perform live, you will see the reward from your investment.
This is important for overall health, but is particularly important for those with a singing or speaking career. Liquid will not only keep your body hydrated for optimal function, but it can help reduce mucus. It is the opposite of eating too much dairy which can clog up your throat with phlegm and mucus. Drink around eight 8 ounce glasses of water a day. This doesn't mean you need to drink 8 glasses of water. You can get water intake from other sources. These include fruit juice, soft drinks and tea or coffee.
However, some soft drinks (particularly cola) and coffee are diuretics and will dry you out. Just because you are drinking liquid, doesn't mean it is hydrating you.
If with these simple tricks you still feel than your throat is constantly obstructed, you should go to your doctor as you may be suffering from some other type of disease: allergies, polyps on the throat... The doctor will prescribe the ideal medication to solve your sore throat problems.
If you are suffering from excessive mucus in the throat due to a cold or a cough, we recommend reading our article; how to clear mucus from throat.
This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to How To Clear Your Throat Before Singing, we recommend you visit our Family health category.