Why Does Water Matter?

Why is it that your vocal coach often asks you about how much water you’re drinking?   Is it really that effective in helping the voice? The body? The brain? Can I count juice, soda, tea and coffee as part of my daily intake? Does caffeine and alcohol really cause dehydration?

My story

As I started my vocal pedagogy journey in 2004, I used to ask the same questions.  I remember being particularly attracted to the chapter heading “Sermon on Hydration (or “The Evils of Dry”)” in our textbook by Leon Thurman & Graham Welch.  Just about every book, article and teacher I encountered advocated the importance of singers monitoring their body’s hydration levels.

The truth is that I didn’t fully grasp the importance of hydration until I started to intentionally increase my own water intake.  I experienced a massive difference in my vocal (and whole body) condition.  I felt readier to vocalise, as though my larynx was more robust, supple and adaptable.  My hayfever symptoms became easier to manage, I studied more efficiently, felt more energetic, and I had less headaches. 

I have since noticed similar experiences in the singers I coach when they too fully grasp and trial better models of hydration for themselves.  It is always a daily choice that needs to be made, and each of us has to find the way that works for us within our lifestyle and work demands.  

Top Tip:

Deliberately starting your day by drinking plenty of water in the morning is the simplest and most affordable gift you can give your voice every day.

What do you need to understand more about your body and your lifestyle in order to determine the right amount of fluid intake each day?  

This article does not answer every question…so follow up your insights and queries with a vocal coach, chemist or GP to fully understand and trial what will work for you.

The Big Picture:

The Details:

*The following data is drawn from the excellent sources listed at the end of this blog.

Your Body & Your Voice

How much is enough?

How do you know if you’re de-hydrated?

How do you know if you’re hy-drated?

Other causes of dehydration

What can you do to improve your hydration while taking medication?

Take the next step:

What hydration habit will you commence or resume today?

How to build a habit

Systemic Hydration

Drinking Water

Environmental Hydration

Inhaling Steam



Again – the bottom line is that you need to know what works for you.  Be curious.  Be observant. Be consistent.  Your voice will thank you for it.

Sharon Tree

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Akhtar, S., Wood, G., Rubin, J. S., O’Flynn, P. E., & Ratcliffe, P. (1999). Effect of caffeine on the vocal folds: a pilot study. The Journal of Laryngology & Otology113(4), 341–345.

Erickson-Levendoski, E., & Sivasankar, M. (2011). Investigating the effects of caffeine on phonation. J.Voice25(1557–8658 (Electronic)), e215–e219. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2011.02.009

Franca, M. C., & Simpson, K. O. (2013). Effects of the Interaction of Caffeine and Water on Voice Performance: A Pilot Study. Communication Disorders Quarterly35(1), 5–13. https://doi.org/10.1177/1525740113487554

Hartley, N. A., & Thibeault, S. L. (2014). Systemic hydration: Relating science to clinical practice in vocal health. Journal of Voice28(5), 652.e1-652.e20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2014.01.007

Killer, S. C., Blannin, A. K., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2014). No evidence of dehydration with moderate daily coffee intake: A counterbalanced cross-over study in a free-living population. PLoS ONE9(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0084154

LeBorgne, W. D. & Rosenberg, M. (2014). The Vocal Athlete. Plural Publishing, San Diego.

Tanner, K., Fujiki, R. B., Dromey, C., Merrill, R. M., Robb, W., Kendall, K. A., … Sivasankar, M. P. (2016). Laryngeal Desiccation Challenge and Nebulized Isotonic Saline in Healthy Male Singers and Nonsingers: Effects on Acoustic, Aerodynamic, and Self-Perceived Effort and Dryness Measures. Journal of Voice30(6), 670–676. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2015.08.016

Thurman, L. & Welch, G. (2000). Bodymind & Voice: Foundations of Voice Education. The VoiceCare Network, National Center for Voice and Speech, Minnesota.

Trinidade, A., Robinson, T., & Phillips, J. S. (2014). The role of caffeine in otorhinolaryngology: guilty as charged? European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology271(8), 2097–2102. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00405-013-2648-0

Wilson, P. W. (2013). The Singing Voice: An Owner’s Manual (Second Ed.)  Lazy O’Rhinus Press, Sydney. 

Photo by Sime Basioli on Unsplash

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