Should you sing with a sore throat?
Is it bad for your voice to keep singing when are sick?
It’s a great question and one that’s worth addressing!
This topic came up when I was recently sent this from a client…
“Tis the season for colds and flu! And I’m getting over a vicious cold and having trouble getting my voice back. Is it healthy to practice while recovering, or should I wait?”
In fact, there are many times when you HAVE to sing when you have a cold! Unfortunately you can’t schedule when you are going to be sick. But if you have an important gig that you cannot cancel, you need to be able to get through it with a sore throat.
I will say this though. If you have a sore throat and it’s possible for you to rest, then do so. While singing with a sore throat isn’t going to damage it, it can irritate things and make your recovery take a little longer.
Another question that came up is a funny one!
My client asked me why he was able to sing higher notes than usual when he had a cold.
This may or may not happen to you, but it is more common than you would think. In fact, my Mother used to say the same thing!
Here’s the reason. When you are sick, you can get really congested. And singing with this congestion forces you to use a different singing posture when you have to make your sound sit above the congestion.
This is actually very good vocal technique and it is something to pay attention to because you can use it when you are 100% healthy too!
You might have seen my “Nay Nay Nay” exercise before. This is a great exercise because it gets you to sing without your swallowing muscles coming down. It also helps you position your sound above your cheeks, maintaining good placement.
So let’s do a variation of this exercise that is geared to help your voice when it’s sore and congested.
What you want to do is really exaggerate the nastiness of the exercise! Many people when doing this exercise will naturally try to make it sound nice and pretty. But that’s not what we need to do in this situation.
What we are looking to do is shake away the phlegm and congestion that’s in your voice after you’ve been sick.
So the variation we are going to use is instead of using the words, “Nay Nay Nay’ we are going to use “Mum Mum Mum”.
NOTE: It’s very important that while you do this exercise with a sore voice you have your thumb under your jaw to make sure your swallowing muscles aren’t coming down. If you feel these muscles tightening too much it means you are going to make your throat worse.
So each time you feel these muscles come down, back off the sound and see if you can relax them. And if you they keep interfering then it’s really best to stop and not do any more while your voice is sore.
Click the video below to watch me demonstrate the exercise (it will begin in the correct place for the demonstration)
Now, I know I look really weird doing that! But it’s the exaggeration that is so important in making this exercise effective.
Each time you really exaggerate your face like that, it allows you to keep your sound up above your cheeks as well as shake away that phlegm that will cause your voice to sound choked up.
Another tip that I give to my singers all the time is to use Saline Nasal spray. This will also help clear congestion, which will help your voice recover faster.
So I hope this helps!
I hope this clears up any questions you have about singing with a sore throat.