We often get asked, should I sing with a cold or sore throat (or perhaps both!). The answer is simply NO – It’s not a good idea. You may not be happy with this answer, the reasons for which I will discuss below. However you must weigh up the importance of your gig against the possible damage to your voice. Whilst its not recommended you sing with a cold, sometimes, there is no option, So what can we do to make things easier, sound good & not cause damage to the voice?
1. Drink plenty of water before and during the performance. Sounds obvious, if your hydrated fully then your body will be less prone to the extra stress of a cold or sore throat. Isotonic drinks will give you more energy but don’t over use them. No alcohol or caffeine based drinks as these will dry out your mucus membranes & throat. Keep milky drinks to a minimum, as they can cause your body to produce more mucous, especially in the throat area.
2. Use a throat spray or lozenges. You don’t want any more damage than necessary to your voice and throat membranes. Use a vocal throat spray or throat lozenge whichever suits you best. Your pharmacist or doctor will be able to advice you on over-the-counter remedies available to you.
3. De-congest the nasal passages. Try regular steam inhalations with a couple of drops of eucalyptus, lavender or tea tree essential oils. If you have not done this sort of thing before please consult a health professional first, especially if you have a medical condition or pregnant. Always start with ONE drop first unless you are experienced with steam inhalations. Herbal Teas may help or you can also make your own brew of Honey, Lemon and Grated Ginger into a mug of boiling water. Again your local pharmacist can advice you on a good Decongestant if you needed something stronger
4. Reduce the time singing. Can you cut back on the number of songs in your set. Play extra background music or talk more rather than sing? See if can encourage a friend/band mate to help you sing or introduce the songs? Do you know another singer that you could introduce into the performance . eg. someone who’s first starting out and your letting the audience know this. Usually the audience will be favourable to this. Restrict the encore to one song? Can you change your set so that you drop out the really hard or challenging vocals in a certain song? If you switch it for a less demanding song on your voice will your audience really notice?
5. Turn up the Mic and sing at a lower volume. If you are using a PA system, get this to carry more of the weight, rather than your voice. Turn your music/band mates down a little, and turn up your microphone. Position your speakers to minimize the effect of feedback. Not singing so loudly may help preserve your voice.
6. Reduce the Physical effort. Remember singing is quite energetic and demanding on your body. So think about the amount of time on stage and how much movement you do during your act. Make sure as with point 1. that you are fully hydrated,
7. Read this article on Sore throat relief for singers & vocalists.
Why should I not sing with a cold or sore throat?
1. You are not going to feel 100% well, apart from feeling low and bunged up, your body is having to fight an infection. Give yourself a rest to help your body recover
2. Voice strain. Singing with a sore throat, excessive coughing or clearing your throat is going to make your vocal cords sore, causing a hoarse voice or loss of voice, which could possibly lead to:
3. Nodules. Vocal nodules are basically callouses on your vocal cords, caused by poor technique, over-straining your vocal cords. You will need complete vocal rest if these occur.
As you can see its not recommended you sing with a cold or sore throat, but there are some measures you can make to reduce the discomfort & make it through the performance, but please give you voice a complete rest for several days if you can.
If symptoms continue, please seek advice from your own Doctor.