VoiceCouncil will no longer be updated. Articles will still be available for some time.

Singer Foods – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Bananas wearing a sombrero

Your diet is a part of an optimal performance -says Jeannie Deva

Sometimes it’s liberating to break some rules and be impulsive, but right before a performance or long singing rehearsal is probably not a good time to be wild.

Experience has taught me that to sing freely, easily and perform at the top of my game, I have to maintain a certain diet and avoid some foods, especially right before a performance. What we eat and drink has a direct influence on our musical sound

Unlike instrumentalists, we singers have the curse and the blessing of our body being our instrument.

And so, what we eat and drink has a more direct influence on our musical sound.

The Four Watchwords

The sounds of your voice are made by internal muscles some of which are coated with mucous membranes. Muscles and mucous membranes have certain nutritional needs and are hampered by certain foods.

You can assess the benefits or adverse effects of any food by evaluating it against the four singer dietary maxims: dehydration, phlegm production, muscle constriction and energy loss.

No Coffee or Cigarettes!1. Dehydration – To work well, the voice needs adequate hydration. This is achieved from eating and drinking things like water, juicy fruit and lots of vegetables – which also supply the body with important minerals and other nutrition which promotes health. Caffeine, (coffee, black tea, chocolate, cola soft drinks), alcohol, smoking and certain medications dehydrate the body and thus your voice. If you like coffee, keep it to a cup a day and don’t drink it closer than several hours prior to singing. You can have an occasional celebratory alcoholic beverage but wait until after your performance or recording session.

No Spicy Foods!2. Phlegm Production – Ever have to stop singing to clear your throat? Excessive phlegm caused by irritation of the mucous membrane can make even the easiest note difficult or impossible to sing. Foods known to induce phlegm include: dairy (cheese, milk, ice cream…) spicy foods, citrus and bananas.

No Iced Drinks!3. Muscle Constriction – Stimulants such as caffeine can cause muscles to tighten as well as lose hydration. Iced drinks also have a similar constricting effect. Think about it: would an athlete put ice packs on his muscles just before a routine or competition? Heat causes muscles to relax and swell. Neither extreme is desirable. Your vocal muscles need to be limber, not tense or swollen. Room temperature or cool (not iced) water remains our best beverage.

No Sweets!4. Energy Loss – Eating sweets gives an energy surge followed by a slump. Trying to boost your physical energy with sugar laden foods may lead to chronic fatigue. Instead, eat unprocessed fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins; you’ll build an energy reserve and stay well hydrated at the same time. Add in some exercise and you’ll have the stamina you’ll need for demanding singing engagements.

Personal Differences

Everyone is different. Use these four watchwords to see for yourself how your body reacts to different types of food and beverage. Then modify your diet to achieve maximum hydration, minimum mucous, limber muscles and a consistent energy level. Good luck.

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Christal Jane Thumbnail Christal Jane – “Beautiful Creation” by Young Dee (Cover)

Wow, Christal! You put together a very cool video performance. You really took some time to create this – the way you opened your performance, placed certain lyric phrases on the screen here and there – you gave this some thought and made it an artistic presentation. Nice ukulele playing. It’s so great that you can play without looking at your fingering! You were able to perform the song undistracted and put attitude and personality into what you were saying lyrically. Your voice is lovely and the song choice really suited you. Well done!

Nick McGuiggan Thumbnail Nick McGuiggan – “Forever” by Chris Brown (Cover)

Hi Nick. Thanks for your acoustic version of this Chris Brown song. It worked to do it stripped down like you did, which was very cool. I also liked how you kept your guitar strum in a repetitive rhythmic beat. Good job. You sang the song well. I don’t know if you want to make singing a career, but if you do, the next step I suggest would be for you to find a song you feel really emotionally connected with and practice singing it with emotional conviction. Learning from others is part of growth. Listen to a number of other singers. First, intentionally copy what they’re doing. But then don’t be afraid to cut loose and put together your own sound in your own way. Also, finding songs that allow you to put more meaning and passion into them can help. I think you can handle that vocally and would love to hear you sing something more emotionally demanding.

Andrea Rose Thumbnail Andrea Rose – “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” by Iron and Wine (Cover)

Andrea – this is a good song selection for you. I love the vocal range of the song and your voice sailed through it. Your guitar accompaniment was totally adequate as it permitted your voice to be the focal point. I like that you didn’t have to look at your fingers as you played. I wasn’t able to understand the words. Your voice and melody of this song are both beautiful. But the point of a song is to communicate the lyrics. So the next step of advancement I would suggest for you is to study the lyrics, create your own story inside them and decide that you want to communicate them (and the feeling you have inside the story) TO your listener. Doing so will make your whole presentation come totally alive.

Jeannie Deva Pic cr. Bob McClenahan www.Bobmcclenahan.com

Jeannie Deva is a celebrity voice and performance coach, recording studio vocal producer and originator of the world renowned Deva Method®, Complete Voice Technique for Stage and Studio™ now celebrating 37 years of helping singers achieve excellence. Endorsed by producers and engineers of Aerosmith, Bette Midler and many others, Jeannie teaches in her Los Angeles studios as well as… READ MORE.

  • What a great article. Thank you for the tips on phlem producing foods.

  • What a great article. Thanks for the tips on phlem producing foods.