What To Do if You Have to Sing with a Cold

In this blog, our Principal Singing Teacher Peter Vox is continuing the series on easy vocal care. Sometimes singing with a cold, flu or a blocked nose is unavoidable, and there are ways to do it safely!

So, how do you sing when you are sick? Are there safe ways to sing with a flu? What are the risks, and how can you minimize them? What to avoid when singing with a cold? How do you save your voice and sound good at the same time?

When you are sick, please go to rehearsal and still practice and do your scales and do everything that you normally do as singer. But please properly warm up with either your UNG or a HUM or a BABY BUZZ to see how much of your voice you have to use, so you know how far you can push your voice.

Please, after you do this, try some lighter scales – maybe, just some vowels, – and take your range as high as you can go without hurting your voice. If you are feeling OK, go with the crying scale – which is an exercise that can make you go higher in your range without putting a lot of pressure on your vocal cords. So what I am trying to say here is, work out how much of your voice you can use when you are about to sing during your performance or your practice session.

If your voice is fatigued and you only have half of your range, please only use the low half of you range when you are rehearsing or practicing your songs at home.

Please keep your vocal cords lubricated – please drink a lot of room temperature water or warm fluids. Tea with a little bit of honey and lemon is fantastic.

When you have a cold or a flu, please do not go outside – keep your body at an even temperature. Do not load in the gear, or go out under the rain, or exercise outside in cold weather.

Avoid dairy products when you are sick – dairy products will create mucus. Mucus is where the bacteria lives and grows. So please, as you do not want to create more home for the bacteria to live in – get rid of dairy products altogether when you are sick, and even the week after you are feeling better. You’re still phlegmy and a little bit clogged up the week after you feel better and are recovering from your cold or flu.

Friar’s Balsam or Eucalyptus oil – you can buy this from your health food store or your local chemist, and this will basically decongest you if you are sounding really blocked up, if you’ve got a bad head cold. Pour a little bit of Friar’s Balsam or eucalyptus oil into a bucket, some boiling water, towel over the head and inhale the steam. Get rid of any congestion or gunk that is coming up – cough this up, spit this out and get rid of as much gunk as you possibly can.

As you know, when you have a cold or a flu, if you jump in the steamy shower – you will feel a lot better for the first five minutes after you get out of the shower. We are doing the same thing with steaming, but we are trying to get rid of a lot of the phlegm as well. The Eucalyptus oil will decongest a lot of the areas in your head – sinuses, nose passages, throat…. The Friar’s Balsam will help decongest more so deep in your chest, if you have some phlegm there.

When you are rehearsing or performing, please make sure that you can hear yourself clearly and adequately – when you have a cold or a flu, your ears are blocked up. So if you are rehearsing or performing please make sure that you can hear yourself clearly through your fallback or your in-ear monitors. If you’re at home, maybe just turn the stereo up a little bit louder, so that you can hear the music a little better.

Please, do not scream or shout over loud music after you’ve finished your performance or rehearsal – please, save your voice. Go home and rest as much as you possibly can.

So, let’s recap:

1. Please make sure that you warm up your voice – find out how much of your voice you have got and adjust your voice accordingly.
2. If you can’t sing high – for instance, you only have half of your range – please, either tune the songs down lower or cut the peaks and the higher parts of the melodies off, and just sing the root note of the melody.
3. Sing the higher notes in falsetto instead of going up in your true voice. Work out how much of your voice you’ve got to use, and work to the best of your ability with what you’ve got. Whether you’re going with falsetto, or tuning the set down, or decide to replace the songs in the set with some other, lower songs – do whatever you can to make your voice sound the best you can when you are sick.
4. Please make sure that you take care of your voice – do not push it beyond its limits when you are sick, take care of yourself, keep your fluids up.

Hope that this has helped you out!

Thank you, and see you on the next blog.

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