Smoking and violin: compatible?
Encouraged by the topic about alcohol and instruments, although I've been asking myself this since I first bought my first violin, I'd like to know what's your opinion about being a smoker and playing in a orchestra (orchestra because that means you're always practicing and playing, and that mixes with your smoking habit).
Truth be told, out of my 3 violin teachers, 2 of them are smokers, one smokes weed (recreational) and the other smokes tobacco. None of them are addicted to it, at least from my experience. By addicted I mean that they are not constantly smoking or have urges to do so, they can spend a whole morning or afternoon without smoking, or a weekend. Well, the tobacco one I guess smokes at least 1 cigarette per day, but you know, smoking tobacco is socially accepted and even "cool". The weed one smokes just occasionally, she's not a pothead by any means.
To be clear: I think both of them are normal people, both have high violin studies (degree) and they are kind and friendly. Also, I hate cigarettes and everything related to smoking, I can't stand it.
First, I've noticed that it's very, very common to find smokers in conservatories and music schools, it's really extended, indeed I've sometimes joked about classical student musicians being "potheads". It doesn't really matter the instrument, when I was friend with a violin student and hang up with him and his conservatoire friends, I noticed how many of them smoked.
That really shocked me, because musicians, specially classical ones, and more specific the students of a degree that want to be professional, are really meticulous with their instruments, they spend or invest hundreds of dollars in instruments, many take care of them as if it was a child: humidity, so expensive cases, temperature... but then, you find they start to play their instruments (oboe, violin...) just after smoking a cigarette, with their smelly hands and breath, surrounding their instruments with very strong smells and substances, that stay in the violin, wood, bow, flute...
I'm quite sure they have many times smoked while playing in the comfort of their houses/rooms.
What do you think about it?
Won't the smoke damage the instruments?
What about the smoker's breath injected into oboes, clarinets, flutes....
Are you a smoker? Do you have any rule or philosophy about smoking and practicing?
In example, I try not to play or practice if I've smoked recently, I avoid sticking the smoke smells into the instrument, etc...
One of my violin teachers smoked cigarettes, and I'm reasonably certain was thoroughly addicted to his cigarettes. But he would go outside or into a separate room from his violin to smoke.
I'm married to a returner smoker ("quit" for a decade - even though they would still smoke a few cigarettes a week) and I can assure you that the thing they love more than their health and well being is cigarettes. Thoroughly addicted, even when going for "long stretches" without cigarettes. My husband says that once you really smoke cigarettes, you will never go a day not wanting to have cigarettes.
I don't smoke, either tobacco or weed. I didn't ever want to touch the stuff, although I did try weed once in high school, because other kids were doing it and I didn't want to make a scene by refusing. But I was afraid to inhale because everyone said newbies always cough their lungs out the first time -- so I faked it. Years later when Bill Clinton said he "didn't inhale," I immediately understood, whereas everyone else just pointed and laughed. My inhale-faking strategy served me well many years later when I tricked a police officer giving me a breathalyzer test in his patrol car. I decided that day I would never tempt fate that way again.
A couple summers, I had a teacher from the Boston Symphony who smoked. An older French-trained man, who held his cigarette in his right hand while demonstrating on his Strad.
When I was a teen my parents would take me to an old Italian violin maker to get checkups and bow rehairs. He was a chainsmoker with nicotine yellow skin and never opened any windows to ventilate his house and I feel thhis lifestyle stole many years from his journey here. If he kept my instrument overnight it would smell from only being there a day or two.
That's the worst part of violinists who smoke from a purely selfish standpoint: When they come back from orchestra break they stink.
Pamela M, your husband is simply wrong. I smoked intermittently in high school, then steadily for about three years in young adulthood, and now I'm nothing but disgusted by them.
In the days (long ago) when you could smoke during rehearsals -you never saw our clarinet section. Both of them smoked, and were permanently hidden behind a smoke screen.
I’m sure a lot of musicians are addicted to caffeine. All of my child’s teachers either had coffee or tea near by.
Smoking/toking/vaping in all its forms gross me out and frankly I can't understand it and even less so stand it. I sometimes can smell a smoker driving on the highway at 100km/hr 2 cars ahead of me, and would hate having a smoker as my stand partner. My previous instrument smelled from decades (I assumed) of smoke exposure, it wasn't pleasant at all. One good thing about buying a newly made instrument I suppose.
I have a home recording studio and I don't allow smoking of any kind, it sticks to the insides of electronics and will discolor instruments eventually.
Hi Paul - you did not mention where you are. Here in Toronto Canada smoking is frowned on socially and is (at least in my experience) certainly not cool. That said, one violinist in our orchestra does smoke but he sneaks out at every break and is very quiet about it. I did smoke as a teenager but an older brother shocked me out of it but it took 20 years or more before the scent of a cigarette stopped being attractive. Now they revolt me.
Nicotine is one of the most potent addiction-agents in the world, maybe about the level of hard drugs. And this is because it changes the brains and due to that change there is a graving and addiction that is very hard to fight. So there is no non-addicted smokers. There are only people that refuse the believe that they are addicted. Addiction forms when the brains changes.
"An older French-trained man, who held his cigarette in his right hand while demonstrating on his Strad."
There are very few smokers in my orchestra, at least of cigarettes. I can't speak to weed because that wouldn't be taking place at work during breaks anyway, and whatever crowd that might be, it isn't mine. I'm a never smoker; it revolts me. None of my childhood or college teachers were smokers either. The idea of smoking as part of the artist's life has been passe for a very long time. Even when I was in conservatory in the 1980s, nonsmokers outnumbered smokers, although not to the extent that we do now.
One of my schoolmates claimed that diameter of a cigaret serves as a perfect divider between fingers in a bow hold. My violin teacher smoked, and also did my mentor. I suffered from "allergies" back in Europe for a long time during my childhood and adolescence, only to find them magically disappear upon my landing in Canada. The only major difference is my surrounding: no prevalence of smokers in my immediate surrounding. Weed has become a major nuisance for pedestrians since legalization; it stinks everywhere. e-cigarets.... clouds of smoke. I lost count of my relatives who died of cancer, many of whom where chain smokers.
We live in an age that is a bit more health conscious than the previous generation. Of course, when you look around most people aren't all that healthy, at least from the visual standpoint. We musicians aren't immune. Fellow musicians smoke tobacco (and other substances), drink alcohol, eat too much, don't exercise, have high stress jobs, et cetera.
Smoking is definitely on the way out. I think the only hope of reviving the industry is to make it illegal.
There was a time when smoking could affect even non-smokers, when it was commonly done in enclosed spaces like offices and bars.
Think of the strings you can buy with the money you save
Anyone who thinks smoking is "on the way out" lives in a certain kind of American socio-economic bubble.
Non smokers are so sensitive to smells, one wonders how they can do their business in the bathroom, or maybe they gave that up too??
Will I need to stop cooking fish, cabbage, and brussel sprouts?
"Isn't this question a bit contrived? What does playing in an orchestra have to do with the question of smoking or not?"
Farts are poisonous gases, more so than cigarette smoke!!
So "on the way out" is now a melodramatic cultural signifier! No wonder a whiff of smoke puts us into a tailspin.
The most entertaining take on smoking and violin I ever encountered was the late Dave Swarbrick - long-time fiddle player and singer with Fairport Convention. He would set off a number fiddling away, fag in mouth, until it was time to sing. He would then lower the fiddle, remove the fag with his bow hand, sing a couple of verses and then reverse the entire process for his next fiddle break. I don't think I ever saw him without a cigarette.
"Farts are poisonous gases, more so than cigarette smoke!!"
he probably thinks smoking pot is just fine!! When cigarettes started out doctors were recommending cigs to their patients, now no self respecting doctor will condone smoking but when it comes to pot, they're all supportive of it, as if its not carcinogenic just like cigarettes, but it is, actually worse.
I remember of a fine Strad with a "burn scar" that was attributed to a cigarette.
I remember of a fine Strad with a "burn scar" that was attributed to a cigarette.
"The most entertaining take on smoking and violin I ever encountered was the late Dave Swarbrick"
Otto Erdesz apparently used a lit cigarette as part of his antiquing process. Nice-looking (and sounding) violas.
Nice, Luis Claudio, do you know where can I find the story?
Otto Erdesz always had a cigarette burning, when I visited him. Bob Bein could have two or more cigarettes going at the same time.
Hahahaha, banned parsnips!
Instruments will start to stink if they are in smoking environment for a prolonged time. just like if they are in a musty or damp environment.
Paul, I suppose smoke would eventually build up a film on the surfaces of a violin, like it does anything else.
Some of the most famous pieces of music have been written with smokers in mind, to wit (or lack thereof):
Instruments that have been in a smoking environment can be cleaned of smell in one to two weeks with baking soda or activated charcoal in the case, and a rub down of the outside surfaces.
So, it really doesn't affect the wood in the long term?
I think your hatred of all things smoker, is more damaging than anything that can be done to an instrument by smoke.
Paul N. wrote:
Thank you, David.
Well we all have to put up with your stinky attitudes, goes both ways. Outdoor smoke is not a health hazard, if you believe that you've fallen for a lot of BS. Indoor smoke is a problem, but not anymore.
Art conservators make a fine living cleaning such filth a cigarette smoke residue from paintings.
Paul D, my understanding is that most of this came from air pollution during the coal and wood burning era, and from the time candles and oil lamps were used for interior lighting. Some fiddles from old London were just black inside, prior to cleaning!
David, yes of course there are far greater sources of grime than cigarette smoke, but I bet they don't let you blaze up in the Sistine Chapel.
After the Sistine Chapel cleaning, there were complaints about the colors being so bright and vivid, that they were cartoon-like.
David I agree. I really love how my Topa violin plays and sounds, but I wish it weren't so heavily antiqued.
Going again off-topic, guys, hahaha, but doesn't matter as long as the conversation is interesting.
Paul N. I agree with you, I don't like artificial aging, it is done especially on guitars (electric) I really dislike it. Even that they are destroying them like very worn out. I have a few of my guitars 20 years, I drag them over the Europe on our concerts, many in harsh conditions, high used. And when someone is looking at one of these guitars, is amazed, how they are in perfect shape. Because I am overprotective on instruments, and taking care and using them carefully. My bandmate had guitar which after 3 or 4 years of usage was looking like pulled out of his a**, disgusting :/