How Do I Take Care of My Suave Karaoke Voice?
Illustration by Mike Gorman
Karaoke can be a dangerous endeavor. What can you sing that won't make friends shun you? How can you go balls-out during your next performance? Each week in "Ask a Karaoke Host," RFT Music writer and professional karaoke host Allison Babka answers your burning questions about maximizing your melodious mutterings and minimizing your friends' pain. Ask her stuff by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or hashtagging #rftkaraoke on Twitter.
Sometimes my throat hurts the day after karaoke. Should I be warming up before my karaoke night begins? How do I take care of my voice? -- Sing Loud, Sing Proud
I think there's a huge benefit to warming up before an energetic karaoke performance. I've noticed that my own voice improves dramatically when I deliberately hum and sing for 20 minutes before the show, compared to when I simply wing it. I usually don't experience lingering throat pain, either. Just like with exercise, stretching those vocal muscles helps immensely.
But don't take my word for it. Instead, listen to Andy Shadburne, one of St. Louis' best high-energy frontmen. Whether he's preparing to lead Via Dove through some vigorous rock-and-roll or impersonating Mick Jagger with the Rolling Stones tribute group Street Fighting Band, Shadburne swears by building voice stamina through daily singing and warmups. He's also got some advice for your big karaoke night:
1. Stay hydrated: Shadburne drinks plenty of water throughout the day and has some hot tea before showtime to relax the vocal chords (He recommends Throat Coat, which "tastes like licorice and works really well."). Keep the water flowing when you get to the karaoke bar, as well.
2. Don't oversing: Reaching for the high notes or screaming lyrics will cause you pain. "I don't recommend anyone go out and try to sing like Brian Johnson from AC/DC if you don't naturally sing like that or haven't practiced for it," Shadburne says. "Two songs and you'll be hoarse the next day and probably the day after!"
3. Limit alcohol and soda: Shadburne has one or two drinks on the stage and follows those up with more water. "I think it's a good idea to limit alcohol and soda consumption when singing," Shadburne says. "It can dehydrate you, encourage mucus to form and cause numbness, which may keep you from realizing when you're singing with too much force."
4. Warm down: On your way home, sing some gentle low-note tunes to help your vocal chords switch from "performance" mode to "normal" mode. "I also take two or three 200mg tablets of ibuprofen to help with the swelling from singing that hard for that long," Shadburne says. Shadburne also recommends having another cup of hot tea before bed.