Taking the strain out of speaking and singing
February 25, 2021
You may be disappointed, though not surprised, to know that the best drink for your voice is water. It’s definitely the most effective way to stay hydrated. When you’re using your voice, either speaking or singing, your vocal cords vibrate against each other at great speed, which can cause them damage if they get dry. Unfortunately, you can get quite dehydrated before you actually feel thirsty, and as you get older your thirst mechanism becomes even more unreliable. So don’t wait until you feel thirsty before having some water. To make matters worse, your vocal cords don’t have any nerve endings in them, which means that even if they are getting damaged because they’re dry, they won’t give you an ‘I need a drink’ message by feeling painful.
If you’re using your voice a lot, always have some water with you - in an eco-friendly refillable bottle of course - and drink a couple of mouthfuls every 20 minutes or so. But more isn’t always better, so don’t overdo it, and certainly don’t drink the vast quantities some misguided health ‘experts’ recommend. Overhydrating can be just as harmful as drinking too little. Not only do you need to pee a lot, it can also make you lose essential minerals from your body in the pee. Without getting too personal, your pee is a good indicator of your hydration: dark means dehydrated, colourless indicates overhydrated, and pale yellow is just right.
Your body generally isn’t keen on extremes, so drink your water at room temperature if you can, rather than chilled or iced.
If you need to use your voice when you have a sore throat, adding some honey or sugar to your water bottle is helpful. And if you want to be really hardcore, a good quantity of honey, lemon juice and raw garlic mixed in some hot water and then sipped frequently actually does seem to restore a croaky voice - as well as keeping away any passing vampires and probably most of your friends.
But you were probably wanting to know about alcoholic drinks. Is red wine a lubricant or drying? Is port good for the voice? Is a vodka better than a beer? The answer seems to be that it depends on who you ask. Most professional voice users have their own strong opinions about which drinks to have or avoid, but unfortunately rarely seem to agree with each other. Though logic would suggest that drinks with a higher water-to-alcohol ratio, such as beer, would be more hydrating and therefore better than those, such as spirits, which contain little water.
Probably the most important thing to remember about voice use and alcoholic drinks is to keep the drinks for afterwards. While you may feel that a drink or three before you speak or sing to others helps you to relax, be more witty and sound better, your audience is very unlikely to agree with you. If you have confidence in your voice and know you can rely on it, you won’t need that pre-performance drink anyway.
[Photo: Lidya Nada]
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