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Tips for Singers:

"Binge Thinking"
(Will ten drinks make your voice ten times better?)

by Mark Baxter
Voicelesson.comIf one drink allows you to perform better, will ten make you amazing? (answer at bottom) I offer the question to illustrate how diluted our thinking can be regarding alcohol and singing. Can alcohol ruin your voice? Yes. Can alcohol improve your singing? Yes, if used sparingly. Don't get me wrong, to some people alcohol is poison and must be avoided. Most of us, though, are not alcoholics. Still, we tend to divide into two camps -- heavy drinkers or non-drinkers. This all-or-nothing attitude misses the point of what makes someone a compelling singer. Excessive drinking will not make you the next Jim Morrison or Janis Joplin. The bottle did not make them; it brought them down.

On the other hand, non-drinkers are not necessarily more productive. I've been in many situations (studio, rehearsal or stage) where the tension between four or five very sober musicians squashed any potential for creativity. A short drink is not the only way to reduce tension (meditation, fist fights), but sometimes it's the quickest way to get past the petty stuff and get on with making music. In the studio, when all efforts have failed to relax a rigid singer, I've been known to suggest a cocktail break. The puzzled singer often asks, "Won't alcohol hurt my voice?" To which I reply, "I'm talking one drink, and nothing would hurt you more than releasing this track with the vocal as it stands now."

As always, make your own decisions regarding what goes into your body. So let's go over the facts. Alcohol is a drying agent. The vapors evaporate some of the mucous which lines your throat. Tension, either from poor technique or nerves, restricts saliva ducts causing a similar dry condition. One drink is not enough to strip your throat, but may release muscles/attitude enough to re-hydrate. As with all foods, be aware of negative reactions. Besides the alcohol, wines contain tannic acid, which can dry your throat. Beers contain fungus and grains that may stuff your nose. Bourbons and whiskeys may be too harsh, causing more harm than good. Alcohol is not a cure-all, nor is it something to fear. Unlike other vices such as coffee, soda, cigarettes, marijuana or cocaine, it's also a fact that a moderate amount of alcohol is good for you.

Things change dramatically, though, if you partake in binge drinking. Becoming drunk means your blood is toxic. This is never good for singing. Your body sacrifices fluids in order to flush out, leaving your vocal folds dry. If you vomit, stomach acids burn the folds and throat muscles. It takes more than 24 hours for your system to rebalance after a binge, which means no partying on the road. On the performance side, you are lowered to the dulled reflexes and skewed judgment of a drunk driver. You may think you're singing great, but a recording of the gig might be harder to endure than the hangover. Which leads to the answer of the opening question: Yes, ten drinks will make you an amazing singer -- to anyone who's had eleven!

Mark Baxter is a vocal therapist who offers private and video lessons. To contact him, call: (800)659-6002. Visit his website at: www.voicelesson.com

(reprinted with the kind permission of Mark Baxter

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