January 30, 2024

About the Author: Stefan Joubert

Passionate manager of LSI. Discover your voice, regardless of age or talent. Contact now at enrol@londonsinginginstitute.co.uk to start your singing lessons in London or online!

When you find yourself facing an important performance with a cold, don’t let a phlegmy throat and runny nose deter you. Learn how to sing when you have a cold and make the most of your situation, even when rescheduling isn’t an option.

Here are some top tips to help you sing your best even if you’re not feeling it.

Woman holding her chest and nose

Don’t Try and Sing if Your Cold is Chesty

If you feel your cold moving to your chest, you won’t be able to get enough power from your lungs to sing your very best. In this case, you’ll need to cancel or rearrange your performance – you just won’t be able to give the show that the audience deserves. And you don’t want to suffer a coughing fit halfway through a song either!

If, however, your cold is firmly in your head, you stand a chance of belting out a good few notes without being left breathless. The trick is to practise light vocalising. You’ll want the phlegm to bounce off your voice box. When warming up, start as high-pitched as you can and work your way down the scales to get to the low notes. Make sure to warm up fully before you start to sing properly – your poorly voice will thank you. During your performance, try to sing an octave lower for your best voice.

Man singing high notes

Avoid the Most Challenging Notes

If you’ve been working hard on your top notes, it can be frustrating to think you might not be able to reach them when it really counts. But it’s not worth straining your voice or hitting a bum note. Think about how you can adapt your songs to better suit your limited ability.

Look After Yourself

The normal rules of looking after yourself when you have a cold apply. Get plenty of sleep, eat well and stay hydrated. Keep washing your hands for the best hope of getting rid of your virus faster.

Other things you can do include:

  • Nasal irrigation: Have you ever heard of a neti pot? These small teapot-shaped devices come with special salt that you add to the pot, along with hot water. You then use this mixture to clean out your nasal passage. This is something you should be doing regularly as a good hygiene practice, but it is especially useful to help flush out a cold.
  • Facial steam: Fill a bowl with boiling water and lean over it so that you can inhale the steam. This is the only way to really clear out the vocal cords so they are phlegm-free for your performance.
  • Medicate with zinc: Zinc has proven benefits when it comes to dealing with colds. Keep your body’s zinc reserves topped up with a zinc supplement that will help fight off that nasty cold. Vitamin C is another vitamin you might want to stock up on to help strengthen your immune system.
  • Only sing when absolutely necessary: If you have to sing with a cold, make sure you rest your voice as much as possible the rest of the time to avoid straining your vocal cords.

Ill woman using nasal spray

Avoid Decongestants

Sound counterproductive? The problem with these kinds of medication is that they completely rid your vocal cords of any kind of mucus, but you need a little bit to lubricate your voice. Mucus is almost always present in your throat, but when you have a cold, you produce extra, which is where the problem lies. If you take a decongestant, you risk completely drying out your vocal cords, which will make singing difficult at best and painful at worst.

Other medicines you might turn to include throat sprays, which provide targeted pain relief. Again, these can be problematic because they don’t deal with the issue. If you can’t feel the pain, you risk straining your voice. And any medicines with alcohol should be avoided too, as, like decongestants, these can dry out your throat.

If you feel the need to take something, stick with paracetamol.

Doctor holding a pen

Take Professional Advice

We’re not talking doctors here. A good vocal coach will be able to talk you through your best options if you are struggling to sing at an important event. They can give you effective warm-up techniques and listen for areas where you might struggle in your performance songs.

Getting a vocal coach is the best thing you can do for your voice, whether you sing professionally or for fun. At the London Singing Institute, we have experienced coaches who know just how to navigate every potential performance issue. Get in touch to book your first singing lesson!

Tags: Singing advice, Vocal health, How to sing, how to sing when you have colds

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Tags: Singing advice, Vocal health, How to sing, how to sing when you have colds