It’s essential for any musician to keep their instruments in good condition. But it’s even more important if you’re a singer, because your instrument is your body itself. There are many more variables, and health is tied in too.
Food and drink consumption is an enormous factor. What you put into your body on the day of a performance is key in terms of how you feel, how your body responds, the effect on your throat, airways, and so on.
So before jumping into your next karaoke session, gig, or a vocal practice, read the tips below!
Here are some of the food and drink items that most help or hinder your singing voice:
Do: Warm Water (with lemon/honey/ginger)
The phrase to “warm up” doesn’t come from nowhere. Your throat muscles, vocal cords (and your singing as a result) are always going to be improved by warmth. Exactly the same as in sport - muscle function can be decreased, ultimately leaving you prone to injury, if you’re cold.
Warm water is a key part of your warm up. And the suggested added elements help to keep you clear, your throat smooth and lubricated, and free of excess mucus (exactly why they’re also suggested remedies for cold/flu).
The phrase to “warm up” doesn’t come from nowhere.
You may often hear “Dairy closes up the throat”. It certainly can create that sensation, as eating dairy can generate excess mucus, leading to a sensation of tightness and fullness that certainly doesn’t help with singing.
It can also create acid reflux, which is very uncomfortable even without singing being in the equation, and is also said to irritate your vocal cords.
Do: Cucumber & Watermelon
These two foods are so often top of the list of foods singers should eat, and for good reason. Their extremely high water content means hydration and lubrication, while both foods are also very inoffensive -- they’re not going to irritate your throat and vocal cords in any way.
Some people advise eating these (and all) foods at room temperature. This doesn’t need to be taken absolutely literally, but the point (as made above re: warm water) does stand - ice cold food and drink is not a good idea. The throat needs to be warmed up!
This may seem like quite an unlikely ‘don’t’ - bananas are a fruit, healthy, give a little sugar and energy kick, full of good stuff, claimed to reduce anxiety, and most importantly - portable! It’s for these reasons that they’re a standard, staple choice of performers of all kinds. Fine for most, but not for vocalists.
Like dairy, bananas increase production of mucus and phlegm, and their thick, mushy texture is not ideal for being - and feeling - clear in the throat and vocal cords.
Do: Herbal Tea (warm)
Herbal tea is a really great one - but keep in mind the need to drink it warm, not boiling hot, so as not to burn your throat/vocal cords.
Herbal teas such as chamomile, peppermint, and so on, can be energizing, relaxing and warming. You want to be singing feeling soothed, clear, calm and well, and herbal tea is known for these things.
Make sure it’s not a caffeinated tea (see below).
Don’t: Coffee / Tea (caffeinated)
Caffeine causes dehydration, anxiety, muscle constriction, and the increased need to urinate! It should be clear from that list why it might not be a good idea before a vocal performance.
Many people naturally turn to caffeine for energy, but it’s important to find this energy in other places (i.e. Those above) so as not to have to suffer the negative effects that come with the energy that caffeine admittedly does provide.
It should be clear from that list why it might not be a good idea before a vocal performance.
Alcohol is another substance that performers often turn to, and it’s easy to see why. It can make you feel relaxed, liberated, and confident -- or at least a version of these things.
However, like caffeine, alcohol causes dehydration, anxiety, and the increased need to urinate. Add to this a decreased focus and self-awareness, and you create a questionable cocktail for a singer. Save it for after the show!