What to drink before and during a concert?
It is important to note here that a drink does not pass through your vocal chords when you swallow! The tea you drink is not directly soothing your chords, only indirectly through little drips from your uvula and warmth to relax your muscles. The drink goes down the esophagus when you swallow!
Nevertheless, liquid is obviously an important thing for a singer. Everybody tells you to stay hydrated and yet you find yourself dry as hell after 20 minutes on the stage, or maybe even sooner! I definitely find myself running into this problem. So water seems like the first and most obvious answer right?
Water is a double-edged sword. If you chug a lot of water right before you go on to sing, the water can actually strip the mucus from your mouth and upper throat. Your vocal folds may want to use this mucus later and end up not having enough. Essentially, water is best for singing if you drink it at least an hour in advance. It’s not going to help you much right before you go on if you just power it all down. Little sips are the way to go.
What about milk? Everybody says milk and anything dairy is terrible before singing. This may be true for many people, but not for all people. A little mucus is good and the vocal chords actually need it. Too much mucus can be caused by a whole number of things, even citrus, and milk is just one of these things for some people. In fact, I know a whole bunch of people, including myself, who don’t suddenly get strange mucus from eating cheese or drinking milk. All I can say is just figure out what makes you have too much mucus. It could be allergies, a cold, or even something that you are doing to your voice. An example of this would be excessive throat clearing, where the act of clearing mucus away causes more mucus to follow. This is because mucus appears to protect the vocal folds from being slapped, grated, and infiltrated by bacteria. Mucus isn’t evil, it just gets in the way some times. Without it you can kiss your voice goodbye.
What about a beer, or a shot or two? Although it can loosen you up a little/lot, calm your nerves, and even make you feel more at one with your audience, who may be drinking a lot too, there are some drawbacks. Alcohol can make it easier to damage your voice because it brings all the little capillaries to the surface of your vocal cords. This makes them more likely to burst, if used too strongly in a noisy bar. Alcohol also dries out your throat after a while. All these things in combination with impaired coordination can lead to a very sore throat. All I can say is, pace yourself, and drink a lot of water and electrolytes a few hours ahead of time, especially if you know you need to sing. Plan on really celebrating afterwards!
Personally, I have found that Apple Juice works really well. It is closer to the natural pH levels of the body and it also has a small amount of pectin (as long as it is not clarified or apple “flavored” juice). These two factors serve to fortify a thin, useful layer of mucus for singing. Drink this before and during a concert and see if it helps you as well.
That’s just a few and I’m sure there are more. It’s easy to develop superstitions and rituals around singing and some even have a lot of truth behind them. In actuality, however, everybody is different. Don’t take this article as a go ahead to chug gallons of apple juice or never drink water, milk, or alcohol. Rather, if you think of anything else that you think works or doesn’t work for you, feel free to post it