Vocal Myth Busting: 4 Myths and a Truth about Singing

One of these vocal myths is true. Can you guess which it is?

  • Dairy products make you produce more phlegm
  • Young children should not take singing lessons
  • You shouldn’t drink caffeine before singing
  • Singers can break glass with their voices
  • Singers (and really anyone) should drink eight glasses of water

Read on to find which one is true, and which ones are fabrications and superstitious of the singing community.

Dairy products make singers produce more phlegm: False

This is a hugely pervasive myth among singers. There is no evidence that dairy products increase phlegm or the consistency of phlegm. There are a number of studies on the subject, and one went so far as to give its participants colds and measure mucus secretions before and after dairy consumption. Subjects who had believed in the phenomenon did report that they felt more mucus, but that just goes to show how real the placebo effect is. You should note that some people do legitimately have dairy allergies which might effect mucus production, but those people are rare. Break out the cheese!

Young children should not take singing lessons: False

Browsing around the internet, I stumbled upon this: a forum of misguided parents and voice teachers talking about how kids shouldn’t enroll in singing lessons until they’re older, but stipulating that children should enroll in choir.

How does that even make any sense?! While vocal coaches should save the aggressive range training for puberty, how could a child—who sings all the time anyway—not benefit from learning healthy techniques? Not to mention, how is deferring to a choir leader any different than deferring to a private vocal teacher?

The Pennsylvania Academy of Otolaryngology certainly has a different stance on things:

“Voice abuse during childhood may lead to problems that persist throughout a lifetime. It is extremely important for children to learn good vocal habits, and for them to avoid voice abuse. This is especially true among children who choose to participate in vocally taxing activities such as singing, acting and cheerleading. Many promising careers and vocal avocations have been ruined by enthusiastic but untrained voice use. For children with vocal interests, age-appropriate training should be started early.”

Yeesh. now that’s more like it. Straight from the academy’s mouth.

You shouldn’t drink caffeine before singing: False

I actually wrote a more in-depth blurb about caffeine and singing early on in this blog, but I’m going to reiterate. The average singer on the street believes caffeinated beverages dehydrate you, but caffeinated drinks can actually do a great job rehydrating you. So while I wouldn’t really recommend downing a whole ton of sugary coke before a performance, there’s nothing to say green tea wouldn’t be fine to drink in whatever quantity you want. Check out one of many studies on the subject.

Singers should drink eight glasses of water a day: False

The origins of this myth are unclear, but what is clear is that the amount of water intake you need per day varies wildly from person to person. And the eight-glasses-of-water rule of thumb isn’t even a good baseline. There’s no evidence you need to drink more water than what thirst dictates, says Dr. Stanley Goldfarb. To add to this, it doesn’t even need to be water you take in to keep hydrated. Notice I say “take in” instead of “drink.” This is because even certain foods can contribute to your daily rehydration. Gatorade, tea, coke, orange juice, baked potatoes—whatever it is—chances are, if it’s liquid, a fruit, or a vegetable, and it’s not alcohol, it’ll help you rehydrate.

You can break a glass with your voice: True!!

Thanks for reading to the bottom of this post. As a reward for all that hard myth-busting, here’s something true! And it doesn’t even affect what you can eat or drink :).

Around 550 Hertz, a C#, is the resonant frequency of glass. Hit that note hard enough, and the glass vibrates until it shatters. It’s a well-documented, very piercing, and insanely cool phenomenon. Check it out.

1 Comment

  1. Marcia Gutman

    In the early 70s, Ella Fitzgerald did a commercial for memorex cassette tapes where she shattered a wine glass both with her voice and with a memorex recording of her voice and the tag line was,”Is it live or is it memorex?”


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