Singing with a sore throat can be very uncomfortable, but sometimes as they say, the show must go on. So while many of us can simply choose to shut off our hurting vocals, you may feel pressured into carrying on with your performance. But now the question is, is it okay to sing with a sore throat? The opinions on this are certainly divided, but here are some quick recommendations you’ll hear from vocal experts.
So, should you sing with a sore throat or not?
The safest option is not to sing while having a sore throat. Aside from it will be extremely uncomfortable and risky for your performance, singing while having an active infection in your throat can take its toll on your vocal cords, leading to potential damage in the long run. However, reality speaks that this isn’t always a practical option, particularly for career singers that rely on their voice for their income.
So if you’re somebody who needs to sing for a living and taking a few days off isn’t an option, then you’re in the right place. Let’s learn more about singing with a sore throat, along with some tips and remedies to help for your upcoming performance.
How can a sore throat affect your singing voice?
A sore throat is commonly triggered by viral and bacterial infections, but can also result from the exposure to cigarette smoke, allergens, and acid reflux. Sore throat can lead to painful swallowing, dry and itchy throat, as well as voice hoarseness. This also means that even if you’re a professional singer, a sore throat can turn your vocal sounds breathy, strained or raspy.
Using your larynx or voice box too often or too much while having an active infection or inflammation in the throat may strain or even inflame your vocal cords, leading to a condition known as laryngitis. While the vocal cords normally open and close smoothly and form different sounds out of their movements and vibrations, the inflamed vocal cords may give out distorted sounds while speaking, and especially while singing.
On top of the pain you may be experiencing, many experts are more concerned about long-term damage that it may incur. While sore throat can easily be treated, continuous use of your vocal cords while they are inflamed or strained may lead to certain medical conditions such as vocal or singer’s nodules. These more serious conditions may require a longer time to rest your vocals, or else, you can actually end up losing your golden voice.
Sore throat remedies to prepare for a singing performance
While singing with a sore throat can be detrimental, you can at least increase your chances of getting back on the game by helping your body recover more quickly. The best thing to do upon suspecting a sore throat is consulting your physician. However, in the event that a consultation isn’t practical (such as if you’re on tour) then here are some sore throat remedies that may help you prepare for an upcoming gig.
Warm salt water gargle
Salt water gargle has been a historic natural remedy for sore throat and it actually works to lessen the associated symptoms. The salt water can draw out fluid from the surfaces of your throat and lessen swelling. It may also create a salty barrier that will make the throat less favorable for bacteria and viruses. So even if it can’t directly eliminate the exact culprit behind you aching throat, spending a minute or two gargling with warm salt water can definitely pay you some time to felt relieved from swelling, itching and pain in preparation to a recital or show.
To make this solution for your sore throat, you can mix ¼ or ½ tablespoon of salt in around 6 to 8 ounces of warm water. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved. Then, you can use this mixture to relieve the pain and swelling days before your scheduled performance.
Ginger or turmeric tea with lemon and honey
This immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory combination can help ease out the pain and swelling, without adding up excessive dryness in your throat. Turmeric and ginger are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, meaning they could aid in decreasing swelling in the throat. Vitamin C has immune-boosting properties and promotes hydration, while honey is known for being a natural antioxidant and antibacterial agent.
Simply brew a ginger or turmeric tea, then squeeze a slice of lemon and add up some honey. A cup of this warm tea can be soothing for your painful throat, especially if you are getting your vocals ready for an upcoming event.
It helps to have some of this on-hand for when a sore throat strikes!
Increase your water intake
Dry throat is one of the things you would want to avoid, especially when you’ll be singing with a sore throat. It could be damaging to your vocal cords if you continue to push through the more intense notes without properly hydrating its surrounding membranes. Alongside, water can help clear up your throat with mucus safely.
Drink more water not only during your singing performance, but also on the days before and after the event. This will help your vocal cords function appropriately and may help prevent undue harm on your voice.
Rest promotes healing, so some singers may be instructed to have a total vocal rest for a certain period of time while having a sore throat. When we say total vocal rest, you wouldn’t intend to use your vocal cords for a while, be it humming, talking, or even whispering. This is thought to assist your swollen throat and vocal cords to heal faster and protect them from damage while you’re experiencing an infection.
Humidify the surrounding air
Humidifying the air in your room will help keep your throat linings moisturized and may help clear out congestion from mucus. Turn on your room humidifier as you rest, but if you currently don’t have one, you can also improvise. You can add boiled water in a basin and inhale the steam, or run a warm shower for a relaxing relief.
Additional tips when singing with a sore throat
Even if you did your best to relieve sore throat before your performance, sometimes, you’ll just have to deal with it. So if you’re planning to pursue singing while having a sore throat, then these tips may help:
Minimize solo numbers
You might have been used to becoming the soloist, but this may be a good opportunity to let somebody else take center stage. This may be the perfect time to consider a duet or collaborate with new artists to be able to push through a less stressful, yet equally entertaining performance.
Choose your song wisely
You wouldn’t want to stretch out your vocals too much while having a sore throat. In this case, you might consider rearranging your set to lessen or omit the very challenging songs. If possible, some vocalists prefer changing the key of certain songs in order to make them easier to sing. This way, you can continue giving your audience a nice show without worrying too much about the after-effects on your vocal cords.
Stage up with back-up singers
Those backing vocals can help you get through the higher notes and will give you a chance to rest on some parts of the performance. This can lessen the strain on your vocal cords while singing with a sore throat.
Turn up your mic’s volume
If you will be using a PA system, you may request beforehand to increase the volume of your microphone and decrease that of your band mates or the background music. This way, you can sing at a lesser volume without being overly empowered by the background tune. Be sure to bring this up during the sound check!
So overall, it would be best to rest your voice for a while as you allow your body to heal from a sore throat. However, if singing with a sore throat can’t be avoided, then you may try to consider our above-mentioned remedies and tips to help you get through this performance. Good luck!