A common cold might be one of the overused excuses for being absent from work, but not when you’re a singer waiting to give out a full performance any day soon. We’ve all heard some renowned singers pushing through their performances despite having a cold, so you might also wonder if you can do it for yourself. Is it okay to try singing with a cold? Let’s findout.
So, should you sing with a cold?
Since colds produce symptoms that would make it unfavorable for you to sing, the safest decision would be not to sing while having a common cold. Colds would affect your nose, throat and upper airways which can also alter your voice. If you asked a vocal coach, they’d probably tell you to avoid it.
Sometimes though, the show must go on. If the demand for your singing performance is high and you’re unable to reschedule your show, then you may sing with a cold with some extra precautions.
While there is no black and white rules for singing with a cold, you may begin deciding whether to push through a gig or recital depending on your symptoms. Additionally, you may want to know a bit more on what might happen to your voice while having this infection, together with some cold remedies and tips in preparation for the performance.
How does a cold affect your singing voice?
A common cold is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract including the nose, throat and sinuses. Once the virus gets inside the airways, it will multiply and become a threat to the body. So as a response, the body will produce excessive and thicker mucus, activate an inflammatory response, as well as the body’s sneezing reflex to help wash away the unwanted visitors. All these symptoms are carried on for around a couple of days to weeks depending on your immune system response and to the type of virus that has infected you.
Now the problem is, your vocals have to face the consequences of this normal body reaction to colds. Here are some problems that may affect your voice when you’re having a cold:
In most cases, your voice would sound muffled or distorted due to the thicker consistency of mucus covering your vocal cords. As your mucus become thicker and stickier, your upper vocal range might also be limited for a while.
Another problem that may arise is the post-nasal drip. If your nose gets stuffed up with too much mucus, some of these would flow at the back of your throat and eventually, to your larynx or voice box. As a response, your vocal cords would be irritated and tend to swell a bit. This swelling would make your voice sound a bit deeper for the meantime, but be extra careful. Too much strain of the swollen vocal cords can lead to more serious problems like vocal nodules or even a total loss of your voice.
Common colds may also clog up your ears, making it more difficult to distinguish sounds. You may end up losing track of the tune and volume of your voice while singing, so better watch out for this also when deciding whether you should sing with a cold or not.
Another nasty problem that you might encounter would be sore throat. This would add up dryness, itchiness, and worse, pain on your throat that would make singing extra challenging.
Not everyone having a cold would experience the same symptoms. As such, you may try to sort out you own symptoms to decipher whether you can make it to your performance. If you have symptoms other than these like fever, body pains, cough, chills and phlegm which are suggesting lower respiratory tract infection, then it would be best to reconsider and consult your physician before deciding whether to sing or not.
How to prepare for singing with a cold
Since colds are a viral infection that typically subsides rather quickly, you’ll have a chance to recover if your singing performance is a couple of days ahead. While waiting for it to run its course into your body, here are some tips to help prepare your body for the big day:
It is essential to keep your body hydrated not only to help it recover, but also to keep your vocal cords smoothly sailing while the mucus is wrapping them all over. Water would help clear up the throat, prevent dryness, and prevent undue damage to your vocal cords.
A well-rested body recovers quickly from colds. So while waiting, go on and curl up on your bed as long as you like. You’ll need enough sleep for your healing process and also to pack up energy for your impending performance.
Increase vitamin C and zinc
You can take them as supplement or from certain fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C and zinc are known for their immune-boosting factors, just what you’ll need to combat the infection.
Humidify the air around you
Humidifying or increasing the moisture of the air that you breathe can help relieve clogged nose and reduce the swelling bought about by common colds. Turn your humidifier on while sleeping or perhaps, you can inhale the steam coming from boiled water in a bowl or basin. Spending a couple of minutes in a warm shower is also a relaxing way to relieve yourself from symptoms.
Be careful of taking OTC medications
While you might be in a hurry to get rid of your stuffy nose with a decongestant, you may need to think twice. Decongestants wok by drying out the mucus in your airways, but alongside, it will make your vocal cords dry and fragile.
So if you’re looking for a medication that can help you get rid of your congestion, you’ll have better odds with guaifenesin (Mucinex.) This medication is an expectorant which thins out the mucus to help you expel it more effectively. Plus, it also works for relieving post-nasal drip.
Saline nasal flush or sprays
If you’ll have to deal with congested nose right before a performance, you’ll find it convenient to bring a saline nasal flush o spray with you. These can be used to clear out the unwanted mucus from your nose to help you deliver your performance better.
Additional tips while singing with a cold
While you’ve done the necessary steps to decrease or eliminate cold symptoms right before the big day, it will be best to get yourself ready to stage up the best performance soon. Here are some additional tips to help you perform better whilst having a cold.
Choose your songs wisely
You might have gotten used to your falsetto or empowering vocals but now may not be the perfect time to showcase those talents. Since colds can swell up your cords and make your voice a bit deeper, you can take advantage of this by playing songs that cater to a lower register.
If the setlist has been handpicked a long time ago and you can’t do anything to replace it, then you may want to give out a rendition with an octave lower than what the song used to be – or at the very least, play the song in a different key. That would be better than pursuing those higher notes and then leaving with singer’s nodules or no voice afterwards.
Amplify your microphone
Have your PA system customized to turn your microphone’s volume higher than the background music. It can decrease your effort in delivering the song to your audience, thus minimizing the strain that your vocal cords has to suffer afterwards.
Minimize physical activity
With colds comes fatigue that will make you tire very easily. So if you’re fond of dancing or rockin’ the stage then this would be the time to have someone else do the stage acts as you focus your energy in completing your set.
Take sips of water in between
Minimize the dryness in you vocal folds and expel the unwanted mucus by bringing some bottles of water with you. It will also keep you hydrated all throughout your music act.
Rest your voice
If there’s any chance that you could introduce a band mate or a guest performer, now is the time to do it. Collaborating with other singers gives you a chance to take quick vocal rests in between the song numbers, which would help keep your vocal cords functional all throughout the performance and the days after.
Resting should start now – even try to avoid talking as much as possible if you can.
So now, you might be more than ready to sing with a cold, but here’s some final advice when deciding whether to pursue your performance or not. Sometimes, no matter how your mind badly wants to get things done, your body will disagree. So listen to what your body tells you. In most cases, a no show would be more acceptable than a bad show. However, if you feel that you can go through the cold and give out a nice performance, then you can use some of the tips mentioned above to give out your best shot.