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Should You Sing With A Cold? - Part 2

Part 2 Continued...

So, it’s the day of your big gig & you wake up with a bad cold feeling terrible…

…What do you do?

Your body IS Your Instrument!

If you feel like your nose is bunged up with a head cold, but you don’t have a sore throat, even though you may feel lousy, the good news is that you can sing without damaging your voice. If however, you have a sore throat as well as other symptoms it’s not great news.

Technically speaking, if you have pharyngitis (an infection in your throat) you can sing without damaging your voice, it’s only laryngitis (inflammation of your voice box) that you shouldn’t sing with but, without seeing a doctor, there’s no way of knowing for sure whether your sore throat is due to laryngitis or pharyngitis.

That being said, if you have a sore throat I would recommend you rest your voice and avoid singing altogether…

…No singer likes cancelling for a multitude of reasons & professional pressures so yes, I’m asking you to make a tough decision but just remember, you & your voice are human! Every single singer including your idols have all had to cancel gigs so be kind & supportive to yourself when making this decision & if you do cancel DO NOT beat yourself up! 

If you decide that the gig/audition or recording session is just too important to cancel, remember, DON’T PANIC because help is at hand!

Here’s my routine for preparing for a gig when I’m suffering from a cold &/or sore throat:

  • I would recommend you start the day with a nourishing breakfast like porridge with manuka honey & or fresh fruit & nuts & a homemade tea of fresh ginger, lemon & turmeric. I would also recommend avoiding any dairy as it stimulates mucus production & caffeine because it can dehydrate your voice.
  • ​Fresh air, movement & sunlight always help me to feel better so next I like to engage in some light exercise like a walk & stretching (fingers crossed it’s not raining)!
  • ​During your walk, focus on diaphragmatic breathing, long slow breaths in & out. Let’s get those feel good hormones pumping, breathe in positive thoughts/affirmations & exhale any negativity & tension from your body & mind. I like to start by remembering all the things I’m grateful for. Connect to the earth & the beauty around you, breathe all that goodness in.
  • ​Drink some water…. It’s always important for singers to keep themselves hydrated but even more so when you’re unwell.
  • ​Just like any other athlete, warming up is even more important when you’re injured. I would recommend a very gentle warm-up. Nothing crazy, you just want to get your voice moving.

Here’s my routine for preparing for a gig continued:

  • Steam – I thoroughly recommend getting a steam inhaler but if you don’t have one, breathing in over a bowl of steaming water with a towel over your head will work just as well (please be very careful when handling boiling water).
  • ​Take a siesta – when you’re under the weather, rest is one of the best medicines so if you can go for a nap.
  • ​Drink some water!
  • ​Lunch – something light & healthy with another soothing lemon, ginger & turmeric tea.
  • ​Go through your setlist & identify any of the more challenging songs that can be cut or replaced. Think about your stage banter to extend gaps between your songs, do you have any stories you can tell, interesting facts about the songs, any good jokes you can share? If you’re playing with a band, where can you add in extra solos? Can you alter any of the songs’ melodies to make them a bit easier/lower, change the keys, sing higher bits down an 8ve?
  • ​Now rest your voice & body as much as possible for the rest of the afternoon until it’s time to start getting ready for your gig & remember to drink plenty of water.

Here’s my routine for preparing for a gig continued:

  • ​Make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to get ready for the gig & arrive at the venue with plenty of time to spare.
  • ​Go through another light warm-up, chat to the band about the set & how they can support you.
  • ​Talk to the sound guy about the situation & ask him/her to turn you up so that you can sing lighter & discuss any other ways they can support you during the gig.
  • ​During soundcheck remember to start gently, take your time, ease yourself in & focus on singing with ease.
  • ​Drink some water!
  • ​If you can steam.
  • ​BREATHE! If you start to feel nervous, focus on slow deep breathing.
  • ​Warm-up your body & voice.
  • ​It’s PARTY TIME – Remember to focus on singing with ease & have a great time 😊

Remember, to take care of yourself!

So there you have it, on my 'Singers & Colds Series'. I hope this has been useful & remember to look after yourself!

About Karen

Karen is a vocal coach & 2x top 5 Billboard charting & BBC Radio play listed independent artist. 

She has played at some of the best venues in the world including The Isle Of Wight Festival, Bluebird Cafe Nashville, Hammersmith Apollo, Royal Albert Hall, supporting & working with an elite roster of the industry's finest artists, writers & producers, including Hans Zimmer, Robbie Williams, Ollie Murs, Mike & The Mechanics & Girls Aloud.

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