Why is water so important especially for a vocalist? Kind of a silly question….but then why do so many singers NOT drink nearly enough?! Watch my video and then you’ll know why its so necessary, it will motivate you to actually drink more water and take your vocals to the next level!
0:36 Cord Hydration
1:44 Dealing with Phlegm
2:37 Brain Fog
2:45 Physical Show
3:14 Vocal Recovery
4:28 Immune System
6:15 How Much?
6:30 Matt Walst – 3 Days Grace, Stefan Babcock – PUP, Luna Li
6:59 Coffee? Beer? Energy Drinks?
7:25 Water and Lemon
8:43 The Goal – Every Day!
9:55 Singers Issues can Disappear
hi I’m Mitch Seekins the vocal coach welcome to my singer survival tips Series this episode is all about water oh and if you like this and learn something hit that subscribe button and forward this on to your friends I got a lot more stuff to come.
Why is water so important ….and particularly for a vocalist? I know this may sound like a ridiculous question…but there are numerous reasons beyond just a parched throat. And if you understand why it’s so important to drink way more than you think, you will be much more inclined to actually do it!
Some of the benefits of drinking water are:
- Vocal Cord Hydration – the one major point you need to understand, is that anything you drink, takes at least 20 minutes to actually benefit your vocal cords. Anatomy wise, in the esophagus there is a flap of tissue that covers the larynx and the vocal cords when you drink or eat.
So, it is really only an illusion that you have water flowing through the cords soothing and clearing them. Yes, it does feel good in the moment and does help, but the benefit isn’t quite what you think. As far as the brain is concerned, the voice is a nonessential part of the body and if you start from an even slightly dehydrated state, when you finally provide your body water, your brain will make sure that the water is distributed where it’s needed most. Getting water to the kidneys, liver or stomach, to flush out toxins from your system or aid digestion is far more important than making sure that your vocal cords are well hydrated. If you are a vocalist or speaker, your brain doesn’t really care! So, the goal is to keep your entire system hydrated at all times, not just when you sing or speak.
- Another benefit of good hydration is that it will keep any phlegm build up, thin and runny as opposed to thick and cement like (at least that’s what it feels like!). This is one of the reasons why they say, when you have a cold, get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. With good hydration, the phlegm stays thin, and it’s moved fairly easily out of the sinus cavities and lungs and off the vocal cords. As a result, you have a much better chance of completing the session or gig.
But if you don’t stay hydrated, the phlegm begins to thicken and becomes heavy. Once that happens, it’s very difficult for the phlegm to be moved… And if you’re a singer and the phlegm is on the vocal cords, this limits your range and endurance. Which makes your job VERY difficult to do.
So drinking lots of water gives a much better chance of performing while you are sick or suffering from allergies.
- It’s really important for brain function and there’s nothing worse than being on stage in somewhat of a fog.
- If you are in a show that’s very physical, in terms of dancing or stage movement (e.g. being in a metal, punk or rock band), that means you’re going to be using a lot more water than usual through sweat, coupled with rapid breathing and of course, using your voice.You will need to replenish that water as quick as you can. And if you hit the stage in a dehydrated state already, there’s a good chance that things won’t work well for you… or at least limit the level you could be performing at.
- It’s also essential for vocal recovery. I will be doing another, more complete, video all about vocal recovery, but essentially it’s all about getting your vocal cords back to a healthy state after a solid vocal workout, which happens when you perform. The muscles get tired and dry and if you are not well hydrated, recovery is much slower and can take days. Not a good thing if you are on tour. On top of that after the show, if you go and rest in a very dry room which is heated by forced air gas or cooled by air conditioning, or get into a car to travel, the air that you are breathing is extremely dry… And the way the body responds to this, is to produce mucus in order to protect the areas in your sinuses and your vocal cords. (If you have a chance, please watch my episode on humidifiers) So if that’s what happens, after you finish a gig, it really, really hampers the vocal recovery. Which means that you might be going into the next gig in a vocally fatigued state. Then you use the cords again and they get hammered even more, which makes you even more fatigued. This becomes a vicious cycle that requires more and more time to fully recover or heal… and in the worst case scenarios, over time, can lead to vocal damage.
- Another very important fact is, that it also helps the immune system work effectively, to fight off colds and flues, etc. In order to be a successful, consistent artist you need to have a robust immune system, and it’s not just all about the shows. It’s the travel and the people that you interact with. As you work, you are constantly being exposed to different micro ecosystems. The germs that are in Toronto, are not the same germs in New York, which are not the same germs that are in LA…and if you’re flying, the planes themselves are full of germs from all over the world! If you’re doing gigs in different locations, that are even just an hour apart, you could be looking at slight variations on germs that are going around…and it’s not just the shows. Meet and greets, interviews, different production companies whose people, at every gig, are touching your mic and equipment. I realize I totally sound like a germaphobe (which I am not) but it is important to understand the scope of the issue particularly, as a vocalist. Any other musician can suffer through a cold or sickness and not have it affect their instrument. It’s not going to be fun but they can get by. As a vocalist it can be quite devastating.
This means your immune system is constantly being challenged. In order to be a successful, consistent artist, you need to have a very healthy immune system in order to deal with it all…and water plays an essential role in keeping your immune system as robust as possible.
So to perform at a consistent level whether it’s professionally or not, you want to maintain a high level of hydration at all times… for all of those reasons!
- How much should you drink? Of course, this can depend on body size. But why not listen to some of the pros that I teach, who travel the world and do huge gigs night after night have to say about how much water they drink? Matt Walst (Three Days Grace), Stephen Babcock (PUP), Ali Gatie, Ian Thornley (Big Wreck) and Luna Li, all drink at least 3 to 4 liters of water a day.
- Drinking coffee or alcohol is not hydration! Even though it might feel like you’re getting the same benefits at the time, unfortunately, it’s not true. Same is true for energy drinks. Water is the best thing. I toured for 37 years in total and I always had water on stage with me to stay as hydrated as I could. Of course it’s a lot easier to say than it is to do. What I found is that I didn’t like just plain water. So, what I did to compensate for this was take a little slice, and I mean, little slice of lemon and just couple ice cubes to keep the water cool but not cold. It just seemed to be something a little more substantial than just water. The added benefit beyond a little flavor, is that the citrus from the lemon keeps the saliva glands going as well as helps cut phlegm and gunk off the cords. So doing that is beneficial in other ways as well. Avoid heavy flavoring laced with sugar or sweeteners. Your body will use excess water to flush those toxins. As much pure water is the key. Honestly I just can’t stress it enough.
- Some people will fill their glass with ice, but if you look at that from an athletic standpoint (I have always thought of singing as an athletic event, as it is a very complex coordination between muscles) no athlete would ever, in the middle of a competition, jump into an ice cold bath. It is not beneficial or helpful to your muscles whatsoever! If you think of it from that angle, cooling the muscles down just a little bit is okay but not so cold that they could possibly stiffen up on you! Room temperature water is absolutely the best, but I always preferred just a couple of small ice cubes to cool it.
So the goal is to maintain a constant high level of hydration. Thinking that you can just drink a couple liters of water the day of a show, although helpful, is not the right approach. The best method is just to stay hydrated all the time…and that means constantly drinking water every single day, even when you are not doing shows or sessions or practicing. Your body will thank you immensely and you will stay much more vocally consistent and healthy.
- One thing to note is that it does take a little bit of practice to get into that hydrated state. When you begin this process, just be aware that you may feel overfull on water. But you can ramp up and if you keep at it, that feeling will go away and your natural thirst will kick back in. When you are dehydrated the natural thirst seriously decreases, which doesn’t really make sense, but that is the way that it works.
- Age plays a role as well. Thirst can decline with age making it harder to stay hydrated. You just forget to drink! It takes effort and determination to stay hydrated.
So once again, staying healthy is the goal and keeping the vocal cords hydrated. It’s amazing how many vocalists begin doing this and then report back to me that issues that may have been consistent with them are minimized or just simply disappear! It really is something you need to do at all times.
I will be shooting a video version of this shortly and I will post it as well once it is done. In the meantime grab your water bottles and glasses and start chugging!!