Singers are athletes who depend upon precision and are constantly called upon to make judgments and adjustments -says Dr. Robert T. Stataloff.
Many singers like to enjoy a glass or two of wine or beer at a gig. Whether you drink a lot or a little, you might wonder, “Can drinking wreck my voice?”
VoiceCouncil asked Dr. Robert T. Stataloff to give us the low-down on how alcohol affects the singing voice.
He is not only a highly respected ENT surgeon and professor at the Drexel University College of Medicine, but he also holds a doctorate in vocal performance.
In other words, he knows the voice from both the doctor’s and the performer’s perspective.
Is there anything wrong with getting good and drunk after a performance for which you have been well hydrated?
One of the big problems with getting drunk after a performance is preparedness for a performance the next day.
Consuming substantial amounts of alcohol results in mucosal and lubrication changes, vasodilatation, and impairment in fine motor control.
Some of these effects can last for a day or two, or even longer, as anyone who has had a real hangover can confirm.
Even if a singer has no scheduled performance (if, for example, the drinking binge comes at the end of a series of performances), we never know when the telephone call will come offering a unique opportunity.
An important critic, producer, television representative, etc. may well have been in the audience for that last performance; and his star may have gotten sick the next morning.
A wise singer is always ready to say “yes” and to do his/her best when an opportunity presents itself.
“I am hung-over” is not an ideal career-building response, and there is nothing effective that a physician can do to bring the singer’s body back to optimal condition in a matter of hours.
Does drinking a lot of beer cause excess mucous?
The “excess mucous” is a problem for only some people.
Allergies to the contents of specific alcoholic beverages are common. It may be allergies to the yeast, or just substances in certain red wines, white wines or other alcoholic beverages.
People who have such allergies commonly develop excess mucous, nasal congestion and sometimes headaches when they consume such beverages.
Obviously, these people – especially before performances – should avoid these beverages.
Does drinking cause reflux?
Alcohol consumption can aggravate reflux – even small in small amounts.
Is Alcohol more dehydrating than other drinks?
There is very little research comparing the diuretic effects of various ingested substances.
These include not only beverages such as alcohol, coffee, tea and others, but also other ingested substances.
Even large doses of vitamin C act as a mild diuretic.
One can compensate for the diuretic effects of alcohol. However, alcohol acts as a vasodilator and can alter vocal fold mucosal lubrication.
Does alcohol impair your ability to sing?
An important consequence of alcohol consumption is the neurological effect.
As you know from drunk driving literature and commercials, even a small amount of alcohol alters fine motor control.
Singers are athletes who depend upon precision and are constantly called upon to make judgments and adjustments.
Impairing neurological control impairs the singer’s ability to control performance precisely (this is especially problematic in classical singers, but it can create difficulties for pop singers, as well).
Are there any issues alcohol use and resonance?
Alcohol does not have a direct effect on resonance, unless the singer has and allergic reaction that causes nasal congestion.
Obviously, if the singer consumes so much alcohol that speech is slurred, muscle tone may be altered in the supraglottic vocal tract and a slight resonance effect can occur.
However, resonance is not a major issue with modest alcohol consumption.
Robert T. Sataloff, M.D., D.M.A. is professor and chair, Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Academic Specialties Drexel University College of Medicine. He holds many leadership positions with medical journals and on boards of directors. He holds degrees in music theory and composition as well as vocal performance and was the long-time conductor of the Thomas Jefferson University Choir. Read more.