A cow with a bell and horns Vocal Health

Dairy Products and the Voice Artist: Friend or Foe?

Are you avoiding dairy products right now to keep your pipes operating at peak performance?

Perhaps you save ice cream, cheese, yogurt, or chocolate milk until your work day is done to reward yourself and indulge…
Is dairy a friend or foe to the voice over artist?
If this behavior sounds familiar to you (and your voice over business), I want to hear about it!

Voice Artists Weigh In

Earlier this afternoon, I asked voice over talent what their feelings were about dairy products, in particular, how they interact with dairy close to the time they are to perform. The following responses were shared via Twitter and Facebook!
Be sure to comment with your own thoughts about how dairy may or may not affect your voice.

DavidHoustonVO @VoicesDotCom I’m valiantly ignoring the butter pecan ice cream in my freezer. Mmmm, butter pecan… — David Houston
jorglieberstesh @VoicesDotCom I’m looking up warmups and practice techniques with my jug o’ water to leer over at my fridge full of chocolate milk.

“When I did morning radio, I stayed away from dairy completely. It was brutal for throat-clearing-uh-umming and hitting the mic mute. I still avoid dairy on voice-work days. However, if I forget and suffer the side effects of that cottage cheese I had at breakfast, a slice of granny smith apple does the trick!
— Glad Faith Klassen

“Not a friend to me, just room temperature water thanks 🙂 Then there’s the singers trick. Regular potato chips helps the voice they say. Several singers I know swear by it.”
Bryan O’Neal

“Yessir… not even soy, that’s thick. I drink rice milk and minimal soda.”
Johnny Crescitelli

According to Therisa Bennett, dairy actually helps her! If you suffer from dry mouth, dairy’s properties could bolster the vocal folds and give them additional moisture… if you can relate to this, be sure to let me know!

What About You?

Is dairy a welcome part of your day or do you avoid it like the plague when you have to record?
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Best wishes,

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  • Avatar for Ralph Hass
    Ralph Hass
    November 17, 2009, 5:01 pm

    I do avoid dairy during the recording process and when I was in radio. Water works!
    I do make time for Tim Horton’s on my breaks though:)

  • Avatar for Rick Marcil
    Rick Marcil
    November 17, 2009, 6:26 pm

    I have been singing for years, and I always have a coffee with cream and sugar before performing, with no ill effects.

  • Avatar for Amanda Mack
    Amanda Mack
    November 17, 2009, 6:26 pm

    With the VERY little voice acting I do, I’ve realized I can’t have milk before I start recording. Give my pipes a thick coating that I can hear in my voice when I talk. Usually strictly water for me. 🙂

  • Avatar for Nikki Thornton
    Nikki Thornton
    November 17, 2009, 6:27 pm

    Nope, no dairy not that I have any anyway, and same with my hubby. Can’t voice after dairy, his voice goes on him after it.

  • Avatar for Mike Elmore
    Mike Elmore
    November 17, 2009, 6:28 pm

    I never consume any dairy products before recording. Now…I’m not sure how it would affect me. I have just never done it because of things I have read and heard about NOT doing it..lol. Too afraid to try I guess> And no need to really. Looking forward to reading everyone else’s takes on this. Good topic as always!

  • Avatar for Kristen Neary
    Kristen Neary
    November 17, 2009, 6:28 pm

    Foe, I get too flem-ish. Plus the fact that I have become lactose intolerant… wouldn’t want to toot in the booth!

  • Avatar for Caroline Lesley
    Caroline Lesley
    November 17, 2009, 6:31 pm

    I don’t make a point of avoiding dairy on a daily basis (for auditions) but if I have a booking I do try and make a point of not eating dairy that day. (Mucus builds up)

  • Avatar for Michael J. Schoen
    Michael J. Schoen
    November 17, 2009, 6:31 pm

    I knew a guy — big tall skinny guy — who ate a big helping of ice cream every day before heading into the studio for an long daily broadcast. Much the exception. Dairy products are not good for the voice for most of us.

  • Avatar for Richard Tatum
    Richard Tatum
    November 17, 2009, 6:32 pm

    I find it really depends on what I am recording. I wouldn’t want to have dairy before working on a commercial, because it gums up in the back of my throat a little. But if I was working on a fantasy game, doing something other-worldly, needing some extra goo in the voice, than absolutely — let it work for ya, baby!

  • Avatar for Jaclyn MacRae
    Jaclyn MacRae
    November 17, 2009, 6:32 pm

    Ah! I was JUST talking about this on Saturday! How dairy is something that most singers/voice people need to avoid before working!
    I never did find anything that worked for me, other than flat out avoiding dairy – but a slice of a granny smith apple sounds intriguing (thanks for that, Glad!)!

  • Avatar for David Cook
    David Cook
    November 18, 2009, 8:38 am

    Hi there, Stephanie – Early in my VO life, a studio engineer related a horror story about a gig that had to be scrapped since talent had drunk a big creamy latte while en route and couldn’t do the job. Very careful before the fact, and find that room temp. green tea and Herbal Expec syrup work great. After last gig of the day, however, all bets are off. 🙂
    David Cook

  • Avatar for Lisa Rice
    Lisa Rice
    November 18, 2009, 9:47 am

    I allow myself dairy as long as a green tea or apple can follow. My teeth and tongue get brushed several times a day, too.

  • Avatar for Mike Forrester
    Mike Forrester
    November 18, 2009, 11:58 am

    Recently I’ve read: No Dairy, No Caffine, No Alcohol. Good lord what am I going to EAT?? I feel Like Yogi Bear after someone has taken away his pik-a-nik basket.
    Seriously though a bottle of tepid water accompanies me into the booth.

  • Avatar for Carl Brooks
    Carl Brooks
    November 18, 2009, 12:13 pm

    I’d like to think it’s a friend. Depends what’s demanded of the job.

  • Avatar for Carole Richards
    Carole Richards
    November 18, 2009, 2:56 pm

    Dairy is fine for me, helps with a dry mouth, but need lots of room temperature water too!

  • Avatar for Dave Justus
    Dave Justus
    November 18, 2009, 4:39 pm

    Wow. You poor people! I’ve never even considered this…ever. Jesus must’ve bestowed me with a set of stainless steel chords because I’ve never been affected in any way by anything I’ve ever eaten or drank before recording. It’s absolutely bizarre to me that I’d have to be concerned…

  • Avatar for Art Smith
    Art Smith
    November 18, 2009, 6:25 pm

    Moderation, everything in moderation.

  • Avatar for Jay Lloyd
    Jay Lloyd
    November 18, 2009, 8:26 pm

    If you use your voice, the answer to dairy is simple:
    NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! It sticks in your mouth and throat and fosters prolific phlegm production.
    Clear liquids for me…preferably warm.
    Jay Lloyd
    Benicia, CA

  • Avatar for Laura Kamis Wrang
    Laura Kamis Wrang
    November 19, 2009, 3:18 am

    Hi there,
    Absolutely no dairy before VO work or singing for me. Takes at least 8 hrs before the flem dissapears. I use a Latte as a special and seldom dessert on my days off. Teas,green, freshly ground ginger and camomille works wonders for me. If I have a problem day… red spots or sore throat… hot elderberry, blackcurrant or cranberry juice with a dash of ginger, freshly pressed lemon and swirled with a cinnamon stick makes me feel alot better.

  • Avatar for Holly Franklin
    Holly Franklin
    November 19, 2009, 11:36 am

    Nope. And I drink Diet Coke while recording. And it’s not room temperature! I’m such a rebel!

  • Avatar for Christina Fadala
    Christina Fadala
    November 20, 2009, 12:04 am

    My mouth is very dry due to medication I take. I use biotene toothpaste before recording to add some moisture. I’ve heard the biotene gum is also helpful. The green apples don’t work for me. I don’t use dairy before recording.

  • Avatar for Trish
    November 22, 2009, 7:21 pm

    Yeah I definitely get a LOT more mouth noise when I eat something with dairy in it. I haven’t noticed that it makes my voice sound DIFFERENT, just that editing becomes MUCH more tedious when I partake. For those of you that have mouth noise anyway, like I do, I’ve found that anything with a tart taste will work for getting rid of those dreaded clicks. Laura, who commented a few above me here mentioned 2 of my faves, cranberry or black currant juice! I’ve found that pomegranite juice works really well also. Green apples are great but I don’t like chewing on something when I’m in the studio, it’s much easier to sip instead.
    I do know a talent that has NO problem with drinking coffee with heavy whipping cream in it all day long, so it just goes to prove that our chemical make-ups are all different and some of us are affected by it more than others. I know singers that PURPOSELY eat chocolate before a session to get that coating on their chords. Whatever works!

  • Avatar for Mirren Lee
    Mirren Lee
    November 23, 2009, 8:48 am

    Hi Stephanie,
    I wasn’t going to chime in, but then I just had to say that this whole dairy thing has been debunked by study after study. Unless a person is lactose intolerant, or has some kind of allergy to dairy products, there’s just no scientific proof that it’s a problem for voices. In fact, I call warm milk and honey “nectar of the gods” and prescribe it (as a voice coach) for throats in all conditions, sore or otherwise.
    It’s the same with caffeine. Yes, caffeine can be drying, but if one has a sip of water for every sip of caffeine, then it won’t be a problem.
    There are old wives’ tales, myths, and “we’ve-been-hearing-that-for-years” tales that no one knows the origins of, and the mucus creating problems of dairy are one of them. I have personally never seen it affect a voice, and haven’t experienced it myself, but HAVE seen studies online that say it simply can’t be substantiated.
    Ultimately, a voice-over artist must do what feels right to them. We all know smoking is bad, but I know successful voice-over artists who smoke. I have a bag of tricks I use for vocal maintenance when I’m coaching on set, but usually only need to use them when the artist experiences fatigue, stress, bad resonance placing or an illness (or has post nasal drip from recently quitting smoking). The use of a dairy product has never been a reason for needing to dip into my bag!
    Just my observation.
    Best regards,
    Mirren Lee

  • Avatar for Stephanie Ciccarelli
    Stephanie Ciccarelli
    November 24, 2009, 9:21 am

    Dear Mirren,
    Thank you for writing in! I appreciate hearing your thoughts. It’s a funny thing, isn’t it? No matter how many studies there are done on the voice and other things, if you believe something to be true, it’s really hard to shake those perceptions!
    I think it’s an individual preference as you say. Dairy products, caffeine and elements can affect the voice to varying degrees depending on how much is consumed. I know that dairy was off limits for me as a singer because it was simply too dangerous when recording, training, or competing. I don’t get clicks, phlegm or other irritants nearly as much if I abstain from that sort of thing while in good voice.
    Now, if I were under the weather, that same dairy product I would have shunned in good health may become a staunch ally in my battle to hydrate the vocal folds and soothe my throat!
    Isn’t it amazing how the human body works!
    Thank you again for writing. I appreciated hearing from you 🙂
    Best wishes,

  • Avatar for Ran Alan Ricard
    Ran Alan Ricard
    December 7, 2009, 8:57 am

    Dairy!?! love it, but it’s a one way romance. Dairy did introduce me to a famous movie star though …………….
    ‘Phlegm’ Pickens ;o)
    Ran Alan Ricard
    Voice Artist