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Smoking and singing

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Hi singers, I am new here to this great forum.... thanks for having me...:)

i have a question for any singers who smoke or who have smoked in the past. I have been singing on and off for years and have smoked for about as long. I have only really sung for fun and almost stopped altogether as life and work etc took precedence and never took it too seriously until recently.

Anyway about 6 months ago I fell in love with singing all over again and really started giving it all I have.... I began singing lessons, doing my scales, joined a band etc etc and believed that giving up the ciggies would give my voice the very best chance of reaching my potential. Apart from the obvious health risks and it being a yuk and smelly habit everything ive read and been taught is that being a singer and smoking is bad. So for 3 months I quit with the help of nicotine patches and although I could feel a difference in my lung capacity which was great I didn't find any change in my voice... I Actually started having problems with "cracks" when moving from chest to head and felt like i had to clear my throat often and sounding nasal at times....none of which I had before....which is so weird as these are all apparently side effects of smoking, not quitting them!

Anyway recently I had a very stressful event in my life and I turned to my crutch...cigarettes....I know, stupid right after 3 months without but since I've been smoking again my voice has improved again and I have not told my singing teacher I am smoking but since I have been she has been saying how great I sound. Now I am wondering is it possible that smoking can actually improve a voice? Please don't think I am encouraging smoking, its a terrible habit and even more so for a singer i thought! I am totally aware that as a nicotine addict I am looking for reasons not to go through the quitting process again but I really don't feel as though it has any negative impact on voice aside from lung capacity....is there a process that your voice goes through after quitting where it sounds worse? If so how long does it last?

I would love to hear from others in this situation....or maybe just a kick in the butt to stop the cigs...thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it!

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I think that smoking can definitely have an impact on your voice in the long run but if you're not overdoing it will probably be minor. How many cigs do you smoke? One of the effects of nicotine is to help you relax, could that be the reason you can sing better?

I have found one pleasant side-effect of smoking though. I am not a regular smoker myself, just once in a blue moon, but when I smoke 1-2 cigs I immediately notice that my voice gets deeper. My low notes sound much cooler! :D

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Hi Luna,

Well consider the kick in the butt given ok :).

Its hard to know for sure the reason for this. Your voice depends on what happens on your whole body and mind, so a change on a habitual behaviour like smoking will have an effect on it. You said yourself, there is an improvement on lung capacity, which is a change and will have an effect on support.

Smoking causes a bit of swelling on the folds, which would mean you are used to them on another state of ballance. Heavier so to say.

Anyways I would not be surprised that a change would reflect as a need to reposition your technique a bit to make things work. With a work to readjust emission/support probably things will be back to the way you are used to.

Id say quit smoking for good now, check with an ENT to make sure your vocal health is ok and with your teacher ask for help on the issue of this change. It may take some time to readapt, but just the difference in lung capacity will make your life much easier in the future. Even if it takes some good 6 months to "learn" how to handle things.

GL! :)

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Thank you very much for the replies, I really appreciate the advice and butt kicking ;) I smoke about 10 on a good day and 15 on a not so good day. Singing is what got me through quitting last time, every time I wanted one I would sing which was nearly all of the time so with that said I've just been out to the chemist and bought some patches and will begin again. Yes I do feel feel like my lower register sounds nicer with smoking but another thing that is not so good as well as lung capacity is voice flexibility. It is harder to do runs. Anyway I feel motivated to give them up again, I hope I can make it stick this time. Thanks again :)

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I have smoked. I have also drank. In fact, I have broken every rule about singing there is.

Here's the deal. You are used to a certain lung capacity when you smoke. When you don't and the lung tissue re-generates, your lung capacity changes a little and your oxygen saturation goes up.

Here's something to keep in mind. If you don't smoke, eat in moderation, get rest, exercise, hydration, reduce stress, only drink in moderation and avoid accidents and diseases, some time, between 70 and 100, you will die. It's a statistically proven fact. And all the extremes in between. I watched a case history of a 20 year old man, never touched a cigarette, none of his friends and family ever smoked, and he was dying of lung cancer.

A woman passed away at 123 years of age but she had quit smoking when she was 119, probably thinking it was time to quit. And she had smoked since she was a teenager. And she did not die of lung cancer. She died because she was 123.

And all the points and places in between. I am not condemning or advocating the behavior. Your risk, your life. I don't think the cigs improve your voice. I think you being calm and confident is what drives your voice.

Ronnie James Dio would drink a beer and speak in interviews, then immediately go on stage and sing for 1.5 hours or so.

Rob Halford drinks a beer and smokes a cigarette for his backstage prep. As did David Bowie, though his was a Benson and Hedges Light 100 and a martini. I saw it in an interview. Someone was telling him how Mick Jagger, a friend of his, ran 6 miles a day to prepare for a tour. David was asked what he does to prepare. He held up his cigarette and his cocktail.

That being said, these physical things can have a physical effect. If you drink too much alcohol, for example, you will get too relaxed to maintain necessary tension and coordination to sing. This will affect you much sooner than the systemic dehydration of raising your BAC.

Quitting smoking can change the timbre of someone's voice, even a little. Eric Clapton used to smoke. And he gave it up. And some fans and others said that the sound of his voice changed to something less "warm." And his reply was, in so many words, sorry about your luck. I am quitting cigs and that's all there is to it.

And he remains to be a resounding success and a living legend, a benchmark for guitarists and blues singers, every where.

Again, I am not weighing in for or against. You have to make your decisions and live with the consequences. Though, I would like to add that when you quit smoking, your lung tissue will have re-generated and replaced itself in a calendar year. In fact, that is why lung cancer is so common. Because that part of the body keeps replacing itself and cancer is basically unchecked cell replacement with a mutation thrown in.

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I am not at all a credible person to give any advice on this, but I would say, let's not forget the obvious here, a big change Such as quitting smoking takes physiological and psychological adjustment, and that will affect your voice. After quitting you may need to slightly relearn how to use your voice as felipe said, and also id imagine it would take time to begin to feel mentally comfortable without the help of your smoking habit. And if you are not mentally comfortable that will also negatively affect your singing.

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Very insightful posts guys, thanks so much....I agree with all that has been said. It is definitely a psychological thing and if I am totally honest I was waiting for someone to tell me it's ok to smoke and still be a good singer. In all honesty dying of lung cancer concerns me less than not being able to reach my potential as a singer because of smoking. That sounds pretty lame but its how i feel. I really enjoy smoking, it relaxes me and makes me happy....if it weren't for my desire to sing well I probably wouldn't be trying to quit. Health wise i am faaaar from perfect, although i dont drink....i didnt know drinking could negatively affect your voice....it does give me some comfort to know that others are not following every single rule for singers too lol

Anyway I am definitely no health nut but I am somewhat of a perfectionist and if I want to do something then I need to do it as very best I can so I am going to try and stop....last time I went almost 3 months....maybe my voice needs a little longer to adjust after. The increased lung capacity was obvious to me within a week...very noticeably actually. But since then I have been trained to close my vocal cords which I hadn't been doing before so I am expelling a lot less air now anyway so I find I am doing ok with that too. Hmmm I think I am talking myself out of quitting already, must stop!! Since I made the initial post no cigs so I'm off to bed now and hopefully will wake up with the motivation to continue. Once again, thanks so much for your replies, really enjoyed reading them!

Luna :)

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