To Smoke Or Not To Smoke…

To Smoke Or Not To Smoke...
Chris kicks the habit after one final fling…

I knew it was time to give up smoking when I went out on tour this year; I wanted to have the strongest possible lung power to make it through such a grueling musical endeavor.

As any smoker who has quit smoking knows, it was far from easy – in the Metal circuit, it’s hard to find someone who DOESN’T smoke!

Not only that, smoking has been a regular aspect of my existence: I started smoking at fourteen and I’m just about to turn twenty-four.

No matter how difficult I knew it would be, I knew I needed to kick this habit, not just for the sake of my voice but also for the sake of my general wellbeing and the health of my body.

I was constantly subjected to temptation at every turn but I resisted and reasoned to myself that if I made it until the end of the tour, I would reward myself by enjoying my old habit!

So, when the tour was over, I got home and the first thing I did was fire up!

For two days I was my “old self”, smoking with no end in sight.

Then, I had a gig…

When I sang, I felt a negative impact just from those two days of smoking…it’s hard to describe the feeling but the best way I can put it is to say that I wasn’t vocally “connected”.

When I was on tour and not smoking, my voice felt fresh and vibrant; when I was doing that gig, I felt “burnt” and constricted.

Even though the gig went well, I walked off stage knowing that I had to throw in the towel on smoking–for good.

The feeling of my throat being burned to a crisp was enough to convince me that this was the right way to go. After all, I’d much rather give up something small like smoking than give up something I love—singing.

So, I’ve continued to stay away from smoking; I have the urge every now and then, but generally, I feel great about not smoking.

I’ve replaced my bad old habit with running and exercise and so far, it’s been a great substitute.

To appreciate air!! Simply wonderful hahaha!

I think that one has to do what is best for them and if something like smoking is bringing you down, and you know it, then it’s time to let it go.

If it works for you, then god-speed my friend! In my case, it was necessary to let it go.

More on Chris Barretto and Periphery

  • Thank-you for sharing Chris – and congrats on kicking it! ;-)
    This is a must read for all singers…
    All the best,

  • CarolineSky

    Excelent!!! I quick smoking too a few years ago and It was the best thing I did for me and my voice!!!!

  • I quit smoking too. Good work.

  • lapsmith

    Hi Chris, Glad you made the healthy choice. I have never smoked, but it seems (all?) smokers have a nice raspy quality to their voice. Did the sound of your voice change after quitting?


  • I started singing 20 years ago, I already smoked then, and I quitted it 2 years ago (quitted somking, not singing HAHAHA!!!). Not only I don´t miss any raspy sound, but I can assure you that I can now control the intensity of the grit I add to my voice much better. In my performances I used to light a cigarrette or two on special moments: a ballad or so. I used to smoke 20 cigarrettes daily from monday to thursday, but on weekends when driking that could be twice or thrice as much. Now I have the same raspy voice, a stamina I never dreamt with and I have saved a good amount of bucks (euros, in my case). There's nothing wrong with smoking from time to time. But in my case, it was really addictive, so I won´t take the chance of trying another cigarrette ever again. I hope…

  • krismatt123

    hi, i know exactly what you meant by your descriptions when singing with and without smoking…… embarking on day one AGAIN! of 'non smoking' after singing and smoking for three months,( after my last quit !! ) it makes a big difference to me anyhow….sometimes i think you can counterbalance the smoking with lots of exercise, but the burning sensation is still there…….well done, hopw i have your determination x

  • This is a tip a used that worked great for me. Everytime you feel the temptation of lighting a cigarrette, clean your teeth (you will need to carry tooth brush and paste) and afterwards drink two or three glasses of water. I felt that my anxiety cooled down with this. No clean and humidified mouth wants to become a chimeney. And remember: if you are addicted, smoking is a matter of all or nothing. I have seen many friends fail in their quitting because of giving a single shot to a joint. I myself failed once for having a Cuban on a wedding. No smoking means exactly that: NO smoking. Determination? You sure have it. You only need to bring it out. I do wish you can tell here in six months that you have done it. All the best.

  • ujiya

    Ah, smoking…I hadn't smoked for most of my life. About 3 years ago, I joined a metal band. I couldn't help but notice that my voice was very clear compared to the other metal brethren. As goofy as it sounds, I decided to start smoking to trash up my voice a bit, since I’ve never really liked drinking.

    Let me tell ya', if you want that raspy/nasal rock/metal sound it definitely works, but the ultimate costs are great and perhaps more severe than one might like. Yes I gained the coarseness I was looking for, but I also started to become winded, had sinus problems, lost range, and eventually got myself up to two packs a day – what an accomplishment! NOT!

    Still I rocked the house regardless…now, just as Paco put it, I found my metal voice about 2 years after smoking and realized “Hey I don't need this crap to rip metal licks!” As are most things with singing, it's governed by a feel, a throwing of one's self into a moment and letting go…letting go of the cigs is a better way to rock than giving into them.



  • lapsmith


    I'd almost consider smoking to get that sound, but then I come to my senses!

    So how did you manage to keep that sound (or find it) after quitting? I'd love to be able to do it!


  • ujiya

    Hi Tom,

    What I realized is…that particular style of singing wasn't as much smoking as it was singing incorrectly at time to acheive a certain sound.

    It's a nasal style and somewhat throaty. In pop culture, whether it be metal or something sweet, there are certain signature sounds. Yes, we'd all like to think of ourselves as “original,” and we are to a degree. Still the masses seem to crave something “familiar.”

    I sing a lot of different styles for 3 bands. Each is a lot different from the next. So, I basically jump around from my head, chest, and belly voice. For that raspy smoker sound, I go into my vocal mask and also utilize the throat some.

    I kept trying to sing proper, when it donned on me that most who engage these formats never cared about singing proper…they were hard, heavy, and full of piss n' vinegar. Actually what got me thinking this way was my brother. He's a solid producer. We were in the studio one day, cutting a modern-metal track and he says to me, “Stop singing that classical crap and give me some rage!” What? He said, “These kids couldn't give two S&(#! if you're singing perfect…remember Cobain?…go with the feeling and lose the technique for a minute.” Now most would argue this point, but in a round a bout way I got what he was saying…and got to it.

    The key for me, so as not to ruin my voice, is to pass in and out of the various places in my body that I use to sing. On signature parts of songs I'll use these tricks, but I don't stay there…only when that “type” of conviction in necessary.

    Love ya,


  • ujiya

    Good point Paco – it really is bawlz out or curl up in the fetal position and whimper – hehe – love your true grit attitude brother!!!

  • lapsmith

    Hi Brian,

    Wow, I've been taking voice lessons for a few years and it would be interesting to see what happened if I just lost the technique and went with my gut. Of course I don't do any metal, but some of the songs need that gritty sound. Although I think I understand what you're saying, I don't know how to do it, or even if I'm capable of getting that sound. No worries though, I'm happy enough with what I can do vocally, but you always want more:-).

    You gave me a few clues on what to try so I'll just play with it at home and see if I get anywhere.

    All the best!

  • I tried to stop smoking cigarettes by telling myself I just didn’t want to smoke, but I didn’t believe myself. It has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when awake. There exists, therefore, outside alkaloids and habit, a sense for opium, an intangible habit which lives on, despite the recasting of the organism.