Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Is Singing More Difficult after Eating a Meal?

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Is Singing More Difficult after Eating a Meal?

Article excerpt


TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT before a performance is a debate that some singers take very seriously, and others shrug off as insignificant. For example, in an exchange between conductor and chorister, the conductor exclaims, "One should never eat before a performance!" A recent MM graduate in vocal performance shrugs and states that there is no point in refraining from eating before a performance since the digestive process takes hours and even after food leaves the stomach it remains in the abdomen. Performance folklore is perpetuated in many ways: from voice instructor to student, from singer to singer, and via the World Wide Web, to name a few. Although there is no empirical evidence to support the claims, various web sources make definitive statements that singers should not drink milk products or eat before singing.1

A survey study was designed to sample choral singers' viewpoint on post-meal singing. The purpose of this paper is to report the results of the study and to present scientific literature that supports or refutes the reasons provided by singers for why they do or do not eat prior to performing.


One hundred and five members of two New Orleans choral groups were recruited to complete an unstructured survey. Both groups were known to have singers of varying levels of training, including amateurs, semiprofessionals, and professional singers. See Table 1 for singer profiles.

The survey consisted of two parts. The first part included questions to identify basic information about each singer. It included items such as years of training, voice part, frequency of performance, and self-identification of amateur, semiprofessional, or professional status. The second part included a series of open-ended questions that focused on perceptions of difficulty singing following a meal as well as individual eating habits in relation to both rehearsals and performances. See Appendix A for the complete survey.


Selected questions from the survey will be addressed. Seventy-five of the respondents indicated that eating a meal would interfere with singing (see Table 1). Chi-square analysis confirmed statistical significance (Chi Square = 31.67, df = 2). There was no difference between levels of singers; that is, amateurs, semiprofessionals, and professional singers alike felt that eating was problematic to their performance (Chi Square = 2.919, df = 4).

Since responses were comparable among all groups of singers, the reasons identified to explain the relationship between eating and difficulty singing were examined collectively. Some respondents listed more than one reason. A majority (N=55, 52%) of the singers indicated that difficulties associated with eating related to diminished breath support. Reduced energy (N=20, 19%) was cited next most frequently, followed by burping (N=11, 10.5%), increased phlegm or mucus (N=11, 10.5%), discomfort (N=7, 7%), fullness (N=7, 7%), gas (N=5, 5%), indigestion (N=4, 4%), reflux (N=2, 2%), hiatal hernia (N=2, 2%), and bloating (N=2, 2%).

Only 35 respondents indicated they did not eat prior to a rehearsal, and 40 indicated they did not eat prior to a concert. In responding to how much time was imposed between a meal and a rehearsal or performance, there was a difference noted between the two conditions. In general, the duration of time between a meal and a rehearsal was shorter, with a range of "no time" to 3 hours. The average time was 1.33 hours. The time imposed between a meal and a performance was longer than that imposed before a rehearsal. The range of time indicated by respondents was 1-4 hours, with an average of 2 hours.


Reasons Against Eating Before Singing

Breath support

Survey results supported that many singers believe eating will interfere with breath support for singing. Breath support is critical to good singing and as a result receives tremendous focus in the studio. …

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