This is a hotly debated subject. I had always been told not to have milk products before singing so I didn't. I also don't drink a lot of water because I just don't like how it feels. I do drink lots of tea. That hasn't bothered my voice. I seldom eat before a performance even when conducting. I just don't feel like it.
Bottom line it seems to me is to do what works for you. However, here are my rules and they have more to do with my fellow performers than me.
1. Don't eat garlic, onions or other smelly foods before a performance. Save it for the day ahead or after. The resulting odoriferous-ness (is that a word?) could be deadly. Read between the lines here. 2. Don't drink alcohol before rehearsals or performances. Aside from the obvious alcoholic smell, your behaviour and ability to concentrate could be impaired. And we haven't even touched on the drive there and back if you don't have transit available. 3. If you need to sip water or suck a candy then have a discreet cup from which you can sip quietly or have candy UNWRAPPED and don't choose to do either in the middle of the quietest part.
Here is an article by Kristie Knickerbocker about the myths and legends of eating and drinking and the voice. It seems as if it is all in our head and our vocal folds don't really care.
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.
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