Oh no! It’s cold and flu season…what’s a singer to do?

Hi everyone,

As a singer, we should always be aware of what is happening with our body and voice. Singing with a cold or cough, is definitely not ideal, but it also doesn’t mean you have to put your head in the sand. Good technique and paying attention to your body will go a long way.

Obviously, there are things everyone should do to minimize their risk of catching a virus.

  1. Get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids (water, that is!)
  2. Wash your hands regularly, and do not touch your face (nose, eyes, mouth)
  3. Get plenty of exercise and eat nutritious foods.
  4. Stay away from excessive alcohol and no smoking.
  5. Get the flu shot.

I’ve been singing through cold symptoms for years. It’s not ideal, but when you are being paid to sing…..well, you sing!

I’ve learned a lot over the years. I frequently had trouble with hoarseness with colds in my early years when I was playing music in the bar circuit with a band. Stages were generally small and I was usually put in the back beside the drummer. Everything was loud…the entire room was loud…and I had a cymbal crashing in my ear. Needlesstosay, these were the absolute worst singing conditions possible, especially when I had a cold. Sometimes at the end of the night, I had no voice left, and yet I needed to be ready to sing again on the next night.

I soon learned to pace myself to get through the bookings. Here is what I did…

  1. Made sure my voice was clear and loud enough in the monitor mix so I did not have to over sing to be heard above the other noise.
  2. Saved my “belting” songs for the end of the night….or, depending on how “sick” I was, I didn’t sing them at all.
  3. Took extreme special care at my first and second bridge (passagio) to make sure I stayed connected.
  4. Sipped water between each song.
  5. Sucked menthyl lozenges. I generally preferred Fisherman’s Friend.
  6. During breaks I would go to the band room so I didn’t have to talk to anyone in the loud environment.
  7. For symptom control I would take an antihistamine and use a nasal decongestant spray to keep my nasal passage clear. I would discontinue the spray immediately after the cold because these sprays can become habitual causing rebound congestion. Sometimes I would take an decongestant pill, but I find these can be too drying at times.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. With care you can sing when y0u have a cold. Singers with good technique who sing every day are most likely to have minimal problems when they catch a cold. On the other hand, if you struggle with your bridges, tone and high notes all the time, then I recommend you get some vocal lessons from a great teacher in your area.

Singing should feel as easy as talking. If it is “work” for you to sing, then you have probably developed some poor singing habits. Have a professional watch you sing a song, and go from there. All the best…..Susie Q

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