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Which Foods Will Improve Your Singing Performance?

Which Foods Will Improve Your Singing Performance?Let’s look at the scientific evidence of foods and beverages impacting your vocal performance -says Speech Language Pathologist Kristie Reece Knickerbocker

When I was younger, I was petrified that eating before a performance would screw it all up.

I can remember vividly, sitting at a Texas Music Educators Association competition as a kid near me consumed an entire slice of pepperoni pizza before disappearing into his audition room.

He leaned over and smiled, “It’s always good luck for me.”

I was aghast, and I hope my face did not reflect what was going on in my head. Food? I thought. Before singing? NEVER!

But, why did I believe so strongly that the voice gods would shun me if I ate a bite of anything? Should superstitions be revered? Is it really all in my head?

He obviously thought that the pizza was his golden ticket for the American Idol of Texas choir competitions.

The Power of A Placebo?


Some performers believe licorice before a gig helps improve vocal range – a placebo effect?

Some performers believe licorice before a gig helps improve vocal range. One singer would consume an entire bag of licorice prior to a performance. Is this a placebo?

After discussing, he stopped and the range remained the same. Hmm…. What about those singers that tell you eating Lays potato chips will lubricate their throats? Is this only in Nashville?

What you eat and drink will not touch your vocal folds; it only touches the tongue, soft palate, throat walls and esophagus.

If it is touching your vocal folds, you are aspirating!

A recent post on a professional voice teaching thread inquired about what teachers advised singers to drink to lubricate their cords.

Home remedies included vinegar, garlic, ginger, olive oil, sugar, and even aloe vera. None of these have scientific evidence that they are harmful to the voice, so if you think it helps, then by all means.

Nothing really lubricates the cords from the outside, but drinking hydrating beverages lubricates from the inside, so this is kind of true…kind of…Just make sure you don’t become a yummy snack for your speech therapist if you come in smelling like an Italian dish.


Bottom Line: Hydration, Hydration, Hydration. There is no scientific evidence that certain foods or beverages will improve or hinder your performance.

Water will always benefit the friction and heat created by your vocal folds by lubricating them on a cellular level. See also, my previous blog on beta-blockers and performance if your patient is considering anti-anxiety meds along with the olive-oil rub.

This is the fifth in a series of articles by Kristie Knickerbocker.
Previous article: Do Dairy Products Really Thicken Your Mucus?
Next article: Are Cold Beverages, Caffeine and Alcohol Bad for the Voice?

Kristie Knickerbocker

Kristie Knickerbocker, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and singing voice specialist in Fort Worth, Texas. She provides voice, swallowing and speech therapy in her own private practice, a tempo Voice Center, LLC. She also lectures on the singing voice to area choirs and students. She belongs to ASHA’s Special Interest Group 3-Voice and Voice Disorders. She keeps a blog on her website at www.atempovoicecenter.com

See also: Facebook | Twitter

This article is adapted from Kristie’s blog which first appeared on The American Speech Language Hearing Association site www.Asha.org

  • Alessandro Fantino

    OK, so try eating chocolate and sing… Then you tell me… :-/

  • Dave Toole

    Yes I understand that nothing you eat or drink physically touches the chords however, what about once the food or beverage is digested, broken down into the chemical components, and spread throughout the bloodstream. This will indeed reach the vocal chords yes? I’d like to see what food items naturally help to reduce inflammation, promote water retention at the cellular level, and maybe help to thin mucous or soothe mucous membranes.

  • johnonthespot

    I eat chocolate all the time and sing. I sometimes have a chocolate bar onstage with me. Does wonders for energy level. Never experienced any mucous from it.

  • johnonthespot

    Nothing you eat or drink will reduce mucous but avoiding certain foods/drinks will help maintain a good balance of hydration and digestion.

    Basically the things to avoid or only take in small quantities on “day of ” performance are anything dairy, spicy and acidic.

    Dairy based products (cheese, milk, yogurt) can produce excess mucous in the throat but not always. I have eaten two slices of pizza and gone right on stage for 3 sets.

    Spicy foods and acidic drinks can lead to indigestion and acid reflux once you start moving on stage.

    Hydration is important but its not all its cracked up to be either. Just drink plenty of plain, room temp water in between anything else you drink – soft drinks, alcohol, coffee, tea etc.

    In my 25 years of stage performing I have found that chewing gum or gummy bears is probably the best thing to do on stage. It calms nerves and keeps saliva flowing within the mouth keeping it lubricated. Its really hard to be nervous in front of an audience while chewing a couple of gummy bears.

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  • Richard Mosley

    When I sing and my throat feels dry I drink water at room temperature at it immediately clears. Now I will agree that the vocal chords and vocal folds aren’t affected but when singing certain fluids tend to lubricate the throat and my voice clears. What drinking water and staying hydrated does is allows longevity while simply drinking moment to moment is only temporary.

  • Deanna Dubbin

    The problem with eating chocolate bars when you sing is that you can get a ‘sugar high’ that eventually causes a crash with your blood sugar dropping. And sometimes the sugar can cause the saliva to thicken up making it tougher to swallow. That can also be as a result of candida that shows up orally. There are many reasons for excess mucous when singing. Post nasal drip can also be a factor if there is constant dripping down the back of the throat. A Nettie pot is good to keep sinuses clear. Also, gargling with warm salt can help clear mucous and have a healing effect if the throat or cords are inflamed at all. But you have to gargle so that it reaches quite far down the throat. Almost to the point of gagging. Don’t do this before singing however. Only the night before. Hydration is important over all for your body and organs, not necessarily just to soothe your throat when you sing. The water isn’t actually reaching your vocal cords directly. But overall, good hydration is keeping everything healthy. And if you’re a ‘sweater’, then staying hydrated is even more important. Some singers are bullet proof and can handle many things others cannot. I have been singing for 40 years. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.

  • Deanna Dubbin

    Try ingesting more healthy oils in your foods to help with inflammation and overall lubricancy in the body. Also try a nettie pot to clear sinuses that could be creating mucous from post nasal drip.

  • Rahere

    Actually, it can, the epiglottis adjoins the larynx and liquids coating the former can transfer to the latter along the surface.

  • The food you eat doesn’t touch the actual vocal chords: however, the parts it does touch all affect natural resonance.

    Certain foods can cause resonance-blocking phlegm (eg spices, dairy, citrus); others [eg, caffeine] can cause dryness.

  • Mercyblaze

    I guess everyone has to discover what works for them then.

  • johnonthespot

    Yes. Discover what YOU can tolerate and not tolerate. There is NO definitive list of “do not eat” before a performance as each person is different.