Monday, June 17, 2019

Why alcohol and good singing don’t mix

Performing in public can be nerve-racking. Some singers have a drink to take the edge off their nerves.

But that often results in very bad singing. Here’s why should avoid it.

One of the very first gigs my first community choir in Coventry did was in a pub. We were on in the second half so we had to wait around in the bar before it was our turn.

Most of the singers were really, really nervous so they had a drink. Then some of them had another drink (it was a long first half). And to relax them that little bit more, some of them had one more.

It was lunchtime and you know how lunchtime alcohol goes straight to your head? Well, it did.

The singers who’d had a drink (or two) were now very, very relaxed, super confident and rearing to go. It was going to be a great performance. All the nerves had gone.

From the very first sung note we all knew that something was terribly wrong. Instead of each part singing the same note, there were three or four variations. Instead of the different parts being in beautiful harmony with each other, there was relative discord. The songs went at a cracking pace, leaving many singers behind.

Despite knowing there was something wrong, the singers who’d had a drink couldn’t do anything to rescue it. They didn’t seem to mind that everything was falling apart.

The whole performance was dreadful and we all knew it. We would refer to it years later as our worst gig.

It was a wonderful learning experience though. From then on the singers resisted drinking alcohol before or during any concerts.

The trouble with a bit of alcohol is that it dulls your reactions. But at the same time makes you feel that everything is OK.

It makes it harder to focus (on the conductor and the other singers). It makes it harder to know when you’re getting it wrong. And it plays havoc with your sense of timing.

Even one drink can seriously impair your faculties, and often leads you to think you’re doing better than you actually are.

Which is why I tell my singers not to drink before a concert and to resist the temptation of having an interval drink during the concert.

(Another side-effect of alcohol is that it dehydrates you which is not a good thing for your vocal cords.)

Remember: don’t drink and sing – you know it makes sense!

PS. Of course, if you’re engaged in a rousing pub singalong, drink as much as you like. But if you’re charging the public to come and hear you and they’re expecting quality singing, lay off the booze.

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Chris Rowbury




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