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  • Writer's pictureAnna Leigh

How stoping smoking has helped my singing voice!

I have been singing, in one form or Another, all of my life. My late mother loved to tell stories about me sitting up in my pram and belting out the Beatles "she loves me" , whenever it came on the radio. My singing highlight at primary school was being chosen to join a choir made up of local primary school kids in order for us to perform at the London Royal Festival Hall. An amazing experience where we sang everything from Handel’s Messiah to The Owl and the Pussycat. During this time I was attending the Elim Pentecostal Church and the influence of Gospel, and the singing was an amazing outlet and something that inspired me and influenced my musical tastes ever since.

Secondary school was a bit of a singing wilderness. A mixture of testosterone and peer group pressure kept me from singing in public at least until the advent of Punk when everybody could be a singer and as a consequence me and 3 or 4 mate formed a band originally name the crew.

As the years have gone by I’ve been a very frustrated singer enjoying open mic nights during my university years and singing with a blues band but had a few gigs all of it was amazing fun and with some minor critical acclaim but the real world and real life got in the way and so only ambitions in the singing Arena but firmly put on the backburner.

Pretty much all of the time I had been singing I had been smoking. Probably wasn’t very long after the Royal Festival Hall in The Owl and the Pussycat that I discovered having a sly cigarette behind the bike shed.

With the advent of karaoke, I found an outlet for my frustrated singing ambitions . Instead of warming up with lip bubbles , I would warm up with a couple of cigarettes just to calm the nerves or at least that’s what I told myself.

At the age of 55, I had to take early retirement. I was then I decided that I would try and improve my singing and the fact that I was a smoker and that it might affect my voice hadnt really registered at least not until I started to seriously exercise my voice. Even so , I was amazed and grateful for the progress that I was making and the impact of the lessons from Anna Leigh but the were notes that were still completely out of my reach and songs that I couldn’t sing but I just put that down to the fact that I wasn’t good enough!

Then came a heart attack , albeit not a major one, but a heart attack no less, and it was the biggest wake up call I’ve had in a lot of years. I resolved to give up smoking on the very day that I was diagnosed with heart disease and, at time of me writing this, I still haven’t smoked another cigarette.

Once the initial shock of the heart attack and dissipated, and I had my treatment!, I began to feel much better and started to refocus on my singing lessons. Singing as a non smoker? Wow what a difference! I immediately felt that I could sing notes that I had never been able to reach before, and some songs that I thought we’re out of my reach were no longer impossible. I’m not exaggerating when I say I felt I’d been given a new instrument. With the help of my vocal coach Anna Leigh I felt that I could truly fulfill my potential. Breathing became easier! My head voice became clearer and the lower register had lost some of it's rasp, in a good way ! My range increased and singing became more fun. I really believe that smoking detracts from your voice and that quitng is definitely beneficial to singing.

All in all, I can feel and hear a vast improvement in my vocal performance since giving up smoking, and it has been 8 months since my heart attack and I can honestly say I’ve never sang better than do know. But I also know that without a good teacher , it would not have be successful.



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