Prepare Before You Sing

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I’ve been playing my guitar and singing for audiences since I was 14 years old.

That’s when I joined the worship team at church, to perform with a group of other teenagers during each Sunday morning’s “guitar mass.”

I started playing and singing professionally when I was a 19-year-old newlywed.

Until several years ago, my voice was naturally pretty limber, so singing came easy to me — I could even sing Michael Jackson and Bee Gees falsetto riffs that went into the stratosphere.

But, as I aged, it got harder and harder to get anywhere near those high notes, or to stay perfectly on pitch when I held normal notes for any length of time.

That’s when I started warming up my throat before I sang. In the car, on the way to a gig, I’d sing like a “police siren,” sliding up and down from the lowest note I could comfortably reach, to the highest note I could comfortably reach, and back.

I say, “comfortably reach,” because I quickly learned that I could force myself to sing a couple of notes higher than what felt comfortable, but that doing that would cause my throat to “pinch” down, and prevent me from singing anywhere near that high for several minutes.

As I’d drive down the road, making my siren sounds, and my throat “warmed up,” I’d gradually be able to sing several notes higher and a few notes lower.

Then, one morning, the church I was going to served some fresh fruit, along with the usual donuts and coffee.

I ate several fresh pineapple chunks, about 10 minutes before it was time to sing and play with the church’s worship team.

After that, I found myself clearing my throat several times, as I talked to other people.

That morning, I could sing higher than I normally could, and it was easier to stay perfectly on-pitch when I held notes for a long time.

It took me a couple of weeks of experimentation to confirm that the acidic juice from the pineapple chunks was “cleaning” my throat and improving my singing.

So, after that, I tried to eat some pineapple chunks every week, before church.

Since then, I’ve switched from eating cold pineapple chunks at church to drinking warm diluted pineapple juice at home, before I go anywhere to play and sing, for the following reasons:

  1. To reduce the amount of sugar that I’m consuming.
  2. To increase the amount of time for my throat to clear before I sing.
  3. Diluted pineapple juice cleans my throat quicker and more effectively than chunks of pineapple do, and diluted juice is less likely to cause me to burp when I’m trying to sing.

Libby's 100% Pineapple Juice.

I pour a few ounces of refrigerated, 100% pineapple juice into a glass, with an equal amount of tap water, and a couple of packets of Splenda zero-calorie sweetener. Then I microwave it for 30-40 seconds, to make it nice and warm, so that it will help relax my throat and prevent it from “pinching.”

Then, while I’m feeding my dogs, getting dressed, packing my equipment, and getting ready to go to wherever I’m going to minister, I drink little sips of warm, diluted juice. I even gargle with it a little bit.

Then, in my car, on the way to my gig, I do my siren-song warm-up exercise.

Those two little routines cause me to have to clear my throat several times, and make a huge difference to my singing voice — after I do them, I can sing higher and louder, hold notes longer, and stay on-pitch better.

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