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Trumpet Discussion Discuss Playing and smoking in the General forums; Hi everyone, I just noticed that three of the trumpeters that have influenced me more they all smoke regularly, including ...
  1. #1
    Pianissimo User just's Avatar
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    Dec 2013

    Playing and smoking

    Hi everyone,

    I just noticed that three of the trumpeters that have influenced me more they all smoke regularly, including my teacher. I don't smoke and I won't because of all the health inconvinients that comes along with it. My question is, how does smoking particularly affects trumpet playing? I'm asking because all of those three are excellent players.

    Thank you

  2. #2
    Utimate User Peter McNeill's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Melbourne Australia

    Re: Playing and smoking

    Different times, different socially acceptable habits, and little corporate conscience... 2 generations back, everyone smoked.

    Probably affects your health longer term, but unlikely to have any immediate affect on your trumpet playing. If you wake up with a Smoker's cough and a spit, then you have been at it too long.
    But seriously, I also have never smoked, but have been to some bars and places in the '70s that were worse than peak time LA smog.

    Don't smoke - it is just not good for you.
    tobylou8 and barliman2001 like this.

    Why do I like a bell that Points UP ?
    - because the spit does not run back into my mouth!

  3. #3
    Fortissimo User Dupac's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    Bordeaux, France.

    Re: Playing and smoking

    No link between smoking and being a good trumpet player! Maybe your three teachers had blonde wives? I assure you, no link either.
    Mikel Dupac / Lawler C7-3R-1A + Prana B6S1R
    Olds Super Bb 1962 / Carol Brass Dizzy pocket
    Conn New Wonder cornet 1917 / Many others...
    Music is the healing force of the Universe! A. Ayler

  4. #4
    Utimate User
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    Aug 2009
    Jackson NC

    Re: Playing and smoking

    Once upon a time ... and for many years I then smoked heavily. The consequence is that I now suffer Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), have had Abdominal Aortic Aneurism (AAA), left Femoral Aneurism and undergone an open heart surgery for a triple heart by-pass.

    Tobacco products contain nicotine which is highly addictive, and in concentration can cause a person, like an animal, to lose consciousness (veterinary dart).

    Still, nicotine is just the "come on" but it is the tobacco tars that block the alveoli of one's lungs that do the most physical damage, literally bringing on the pain of suffocation with lack of oxygen.

    Yes, so far I've survived, but it isn't enjoyable to have given up all active sports and even the capability of strenuous work. Too, it is no laughing matter to sleep with a cannula in my nose feeding me 2 liters of oxygen per hour from an expensive concentrator and to carry a tank of oxygen for emergency use wherever I go.

    Still, I've the capability to play my trumpet (and other brass instruments) for a short duration but the endurance to play a 4 hour gig or a full symphony or other concert is now just a memory. The only "gig" I still commit to is the sounding of Taps, as not too long from now will be sounded for me.

  5. #5
    Forte User
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Near Portland, OR.

    Re: Playing and smoking

    One can smoke, or not, and be an excellent player. The lung changes produced by smoking will lead to a reduced forced expiratory velocity of the air, which is not that much of a concern for trumpet players. We are fortunate to play an wind instrument that in fact requires little air flow (volume expelled per unit of time). Our problems reside much more with maintaining an air column in which the pressure will be consistent all the way to the aperture.

    As Ed indicated, it's the long term consequences that will likely affect playing abilities down the road. Your favorite players are fine now but if they keep smoking, they're not likely to age like Doc, still going strong in his eighties.

    The list of toxic substances released by cigarette smoke is too long to write here. Smoking promotes inflammation, vasoconstriction, activates platelets (makes the blood more sticky), destroys the ciliae that help your airway move mucus up and, interestingly, has been shown to drastically reduce the density of white blood cells in the vessels of the gums, thereby increasing the risk of periodontal disease. That part would certainly not be benign on your playing. Cancer susceptibility is very variable, some people contract cancer associated with smoking from second hand smoke, whereas many people can smoke for years and not get cancer. However, everyone who smokes long enough will get some level of COPD. When COPD becomes advanced, it puts the brakes on your life big time. And of course, there are the cardiovascular risks: increased probability of heart attacks, coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, aneurysm, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, etc.

    So short answer is: right now it's not affecting them, later it will, and it's a nasty way to attack your body, discourage everyone you can from doing it.

    Selmer Radial, Bb.
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    1930 Couesnon cornet

    A mind that masters the breath
    Creates strength (Lao-Tzu).

  6. #6
    Fortissimo User
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    Nov 2006
    Greenfield WI

    Re: Playing and smoking

    I smoked off and on from age 18 to about age 40. I wish I never started. At age 49, I still can't play a phrase half as long as I did when I was a kid.

    Phil986 and bumblebee like this.

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  7. #7
    Utimate User
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    Aug 2009
    Jackson NC

    Re: Playing and smoking

    If not the very best trumpeter, durn high ranked among them, was Harry James who smoked and drank prolifically. Suffice to say, he died at age 67. Well, I've now lived 11 years longer than he did and the only thing going for me now similar to how he played is that I can also play a Parduba mouthpiece.
    Dupac likes this.

  8. #8
    Pianissimo User
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Rochester, NY

    Re: Playing and smoking

    In college, whenever anyone remarked about my smoking, I would blow out a match from 6 or 8 feet. I thought I was hot stuff. It took many years for smoking to really affect my lungs. Fortunately, I don't do that any more, and I can function OK most of the time, but I get short of breath much easier than I used to.

    The one thing that smoking did affect in college was my chops. I'm not a doctor, so please correct any flaws in this, but it is my understanding that nicotine constricts the blood vessels. With me, because I was such a high pressure player, that inhibited the ability of my chops to rid themselves of lactic acid and other biproducts of chops abuse and restore themselves. I had major swollen chops issues which lowered my range and endurance, which made me press more, which lowered.... well, you get the idea.

    I found that if I could abstain from cigarettes for about 2 weeks, my chops would come back. Range, endurance, all of it. Because I was an addict, I would inevitably start smoking again. At the 2 week mark, my chops would swell, and the range and endurance would tank all over again. Eventually, stopping didn't restore the chops any more.

    Don't smoke.


  9. #9
    Forte User amzi's Avatar
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    Feb 2010
    Northern California

    Re: Playing and smoking

    I smoked heavily for about 20 years, didn't really think it was bothering me. After I quit I began to notice certain improvements in my playing--it was surprising how much I had lost. Pulled out some of the old technique books and began to work through them to determine exactly how much I had lost. Short story I got a lot of it back, but never had the breath control I once had. Fast forward to age 60--sudden onset of respiratory problems--pneumonia, bronchitis, COPD, inhalers, etc., etc. The COPD isn't bad in that it is somewhat controlable, but I'm not going to be running any marathons. And I have to look for places to sneak in little breaths before I get to the end of a lot of phrases. I still play pretty well, but it can sure be hard sometimes--sometimes the air just isn't there. Personal, anecdotal opinion--it may take 20 years, but eventually smoking will catch up with you.

    PS--my doctors ascribe my lung problems to the smoking I did 20+ years ago.
    Last edited by amzi; 06-24-2014 at 01:26 PM. Reason: It took 20 years, not 30 for smoking to catch up with me.
    Recording Olds Trumpet (64)
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  10. #10
    Utimate User
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    Aug 2009
    Jackson NC

    Re: Playing and smoking

    I can no longer ski, skate, (roller or ice) or run 5 & 10Ks and can no longer play an 8 measure drone on my euphonium as I once did in the Christmas song, We Three Kings of Orient Are. True, that it is also my back & hip injury that partially now affects the limits of my sports activity, but it would be a real humdinger of enjoyment if I could now march a mile in the parade while playing my trumpet.

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