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Singing with a cold or sore throat free help and advice

Singing_with_coldSinging with a cold or sore throat  – free help and advice is here

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.


Sore Throat Relief for Singers and Vocalists

Lady gets sore throat reliefSore Throat Relief for Singers and Vocalists (in fact anyone who is serious about keeping a healthy voice)

This guide is written primarily for the singer, but is useful to everyone who needs sore throat relief or suffers from a hoarse voice.

Our vocal cords are delicate membranes surrounded by muscle. These membranes need to come together solidly to create a clear sound. Sometime infection or over-use can cause these membranes to swell, resulting in hoarseness. Continued over-use, shouting, and even whispering can, over time, result in damage of the vocal cords, which needs medical attention.

Warm-up your voice before you start. You wouldn’t see an athlete tearing around the track without warming up their body first, so offer your voice the same consideration. It doesn’t take much effort.

• Start with a few deep, controlled breaths, followed by some humming.

• Hum your favourite song, if scales are not your thing.

• Use your voice to make a squeaky door being opened sound (use the ee sound to slide up and down your vocal range).

• Move onto singing some of your gentler songs, before you start tackling the belters.

• Also know your limits. Don’t try to sing too high, or too low until you are warmed up enough. Start at a comfortable range and extend from there.

Avoid abusing your voice throughout the day. Don’t talk for long periods of time – you will find your voice will get hoarse. Avoid whispering. This is stressful to your voice and will cause vocal fatigue. Do not shout over loud noises, such as machinery or concerts. I’ve know a few who have yelled at rock concerts, etc, and haven’t been able to sing for months afterwards. It’s just not worth it!   Talking for prolonged periods is also a hazzard for your voice. So many teachers, sales reps and call-centre staff end up having problems with their voice because of not taking care of their voice, or giving it enough rest to recover.

Vocal hydration is extremely important. Our cords are delicate membranes, which dry out very easily (especially when talking or singing in dry, smoky atmospheres). So drink plenty of water.  There are a number of sprays and lozenges on the market which can help. Also steam inhalation is good at getting moisture onto your cords.

Drinking – (alcohol that is!. We’ve all needed Dutch Courage at some point, but alcohol can lead to damage of your vocal cords. Huh? I hear you say. Alcohol numbs our nervous system, and helps lose our inhibitions. For example, Normally, when you’ve not had a drink, you know when your voice is tired, or when you have pushed your voice too far because you will feel discomfort in your throat. However, since you’ve had your drink, the alcohol can numb your throat, loosen your inhibitions, pushing your voice past its usual boundaries (this may take the form of shouting or singing too loud, too high, too low, or simply for too long a time period) and you can’t feel those warning signs. You wake up in the morning, with a sore head and no voice for several days (or in some cases several weeks!)

Smoking. There are no health benefits to smoking, so either cut down or stop completely. Smoking affects your lung capacity, irritates the membranes in the windpipe, resulting excessive mucus and a cough, which can inflame the vocal cords, as well as all the other health problems associated with smoking. That leads me onto recreational drugs – if drinking and smoking are bad – drugs are even worse. Don’t go there!

A few tips to help you recover from a sore throat:

1. REST!!

2. Drink plenty of Water.

3. Avoid Tea, Coffee, Cream & Alcohol

4. Take Vitamin C tablets or eat fruits/ vegetables rich in Vitamin C to aid your body’s natural defences. Hot Lemon & Honey or Blackcurrant both contain vitamin C and anti-viral properties and fresh ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties – grate a little ginger and add it to hot water, sweeten with honey if required.

5. Severe, violent coughing can injure the vocal cords. Cough Syrup, Throat Sprays and Lozenges can help.

6. Hot Water Steam Inhalation, with or without a few drops of Eucalyptus, Peppermint or other Essential Oil helps to clear the sinuses, and get moisture onto the vocal cords

7. Do NOT attempt to Sing and avoid Talking until you feel better to allow the inflammation an opportunity to reduce. This may be even take several weeks

8. On recovery start with some gentle humming for 5-10 minutes at a time and slowly build up to a few vocal exercises in your mid- range gradually expanding the range over several days. The rate of recovery will depend on the severity of illness and how experienced a singer you are. Any recurrence of hoarseness stop and rest the voice for another couple of days.

And Most Importantly – Take time out. We all need to have a break. You need a complete rest from singing at least once a week and I mean a complete rest. No practice, no singing along to your favourite records, no singing in the bath etc. Also if you done a hard day or long gig, then give your voice a rest the following day.

If symptoms continue, seek advice from your own Doctor.