Singing voice / throat vs. Alcohol?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by parrott, Apr 22, 2003.

  1. Basically, can drinking too much affect one's singing voice long-term?

    As in, if I have too much to drink at the weekend (say I've gone to a big party), would it affect my voice later in the week?

    Or, if I have a drink every night, will it gradually degrade my singing voice?

    btw, I don't do either (well, I enjoy a glass of wine here & there sometimes, and I'm not popular enough to go to many big parties :( ) but I was just wondering.
  2. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I believe alcohol does degrade the voice, yes - but as far as I know it's more of an "over time" thing. But don't hold me to that, I could be wrong.

    Anyway, that's by far a good enough reason for me not to drink. And I don't.
  3. but how else with u get the blues voice. beer and zigs.
  4. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    What I know from my former vocal training, alcohol is very astringent and affects your voice and your ability to sing dramatically....and not in a positive way.

    One of my former bands had a woman who sang fine lead vocals, a la Sass Jordan/Melissa Etheridge/T. Turner, who would hit straight tequila shots before a gig and during breaks. That seemed to work for her, since she had a bar room-raunchy voice anyway that fit our style of music. I guess it can work for vocalists like Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart too.....those types of voices are known as "whiskey voices."

    But, for most of us mere mortals, alcohol hurts vocal ability. As one instructor told me - if you have to drink alcohol during performance, choose wine or beer because they are less astringent than the hard stuff.

    There is a product, "Entertainer's Secret", that works well. I like it because, even though I don't drink booze, the cigarette smoke in the clubs gets to me.
    However, what they don't tell you is that you have to reapply it throughout the gig because the mucus and other stuff your throat keeps generating constantly washes it away in no time.
  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    The "Big Three" no-nos for voice are: Alcohol, Coffee and tobacco.

    Water is the best for your pipes.
  6. Long term, not sure. Ask Johnny Cash and Tom Waits. ;)

    Short term, yup. Though it may help you if you're going for something special, a whiskey voice or especially low notes. I can normally sing down to low Eb-D, after an especially heavy drinking night I went down to low B.
  7. Too much alcohol degrades your whole body over time. Moderation is best in all things. Pacman is right on the mark, when you're gigging, stick to water.
  8. I'm only ever guilty of alcohol, but in moderation. Soft drinks like Coca-Cola or Pepsi are pretty bad too, and I've managed to cut them right out of my diet.

    Gunnar; what was the top end of your range like after that drinking session?
  9. Baaaaaaad. Just barely crawled up an octave and gave up around C#-D.

    But this was at a weekend long choir practise, after four or five hours of practise I had a range of almost three octaves, from circa low C# to Bb or so. Wouldn't recommend it though, as it's temporary and goes away when you stop exercising it and you'll be singin with a hell of a hangover. :p
  10. mikemulcahy


    Jun 13, 2000
    The Abyss
    Rick you are right about the astringent part, but since the vocal chords do not come in direct contact with the alcohol, that really doesnt have much effect. However, alcohol has diuretic effects(makes you pee) and can dehydrate or at least decrease your fluid volume. Ever try to sing with a dry throat? Secondly with alcohol you lose fine motor control, cant control the small muscles in you larynx (voice box that contains the vocal cords) which makes you sing in the perfect key of K flat.

    Thats the simple explanation.

  11. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Mike - Well, after all, "you're the doctor"....literally.

    I just remember being told that alcohol dries the mucus membranes that affect the vocal chords. Maybe it has something to do with the "folds" in the singer's throat - it's been years and I can't remember exactly what the instructor said.

    Personally, as a non-smoker, second-hand smoke has been worse to me and quite a few others I've known who sing.
  12. mikemulcahy


    Jun 13, 2000
    The Abyss
    You are correct, it does, but that is more a function of the diuretic effect rather than astringent. This no only effects the vocal folds but the epiglottis as well (the flap that opens and closes for speech and eating). When the mucus membrane dries or becomes more viscus, the mucus becomes very thick and tends to clump, hence the throat clearing mechanism that helps but only temporarily. This in addition to the smoke, higher volume of air that must be humidified by the mucus lining, low relative humidity in bars due to what ever heat/ac is on, makes for a very dry airway.

    The upper respiratory tract has a very simple function. It serves as a conduit for air passage, the initial resonator path for speech. This tract is lined with a mucus membrane that serves 2 functions, 1)it warms and humidifies ambient air to 100% humidity and heats the air to body temp, 2) acts as the secondary filtration system (the nasal passage is primary). The Goblet cells that secrete mucus are reactionary, meaning they try to adapt to conditions both outside and inside the body. For instance: Ever come in from cold into warm and your nose runs like a fawcet, cold air doesnt hold humidity like warm air does so the Goblet cells pump a little harder to compensate. So when you come inside to warmer air, relative humidity has changed, the Goblet cells must slow down production.

    How does this tie into the topic? When your respiratory tract is already pushed harder to do its job in a "hostile environment", depleting it of much needed water by alcohol consumption causes a chain of events that will effect vocal quality.

    Hope that covers it.

  13. heh!
    i thought this was going to be about "throat singing" in which case i would direct you to
  14. mikemulcahy


    Jun 13, 2000
    The Abyss
    Weird stuff there