Reading My Way Around the World

Monday 13 February 2017

Dealing with a cold on the road

This is the season for colds and flus - and there's a really nasty virus doing the rounds as well, giving people sore throats and awful coughs - and it just won't go away (this from personal experience).

Getting a bad cold at any time is horrible - we've all been there.

But what do you do if you need to sing (or talk) when you have a cold?

Well for me, warm ups are the thing - and rest - and fluids.

To warm up, I start early in the day just humming - and gradually expanding through my range - doing 5 minutes every hour or so - very gently so that someone 3 or 4 feet away from me could barely hear me.    I then progress to Lip Trills - the traditional singer Tommy Makem who found fame with the Clancy Brothers, always swore by these - he would do 15 minutes of lip trills before every gig .... There are lots of examples of how to do a lip trill on You Tube - This is one of the better ones I've found.  From Cari Cole who is a Nashville vocal coach - I probably should prepare one of these videos some time myself, but .I wouldn't look nearly as pretty as her lol

Coping with colds and jet lag when you're performing is not easy.   It's not always possible to get the rest and quiet time that's needed to recover.  Most singers carry a virtual pharmacopeia with them but in recent years I have stopped doing this as I've found it made me feel even worse, anticipating feeling bad.   However some sage sweets or honey and lemon to make a soothing drink can be picked up most places.  Throat sweets are usually very sickly and sticky so they can make matters worse, unless your throat is very sore and raspy in which case that sweet stickiness can be very soothing.

If the cold is a bad chesty one then you will probably need to change the key of songs to sing a bit lower but if there are other members of the band get them to shoulder a bit more of the singing.   Tom has been great on tours where I've had a problem, doing a few extra songs to let me rest.

I hope that helps.   Just keep warm and watch your voice - it's a great indicator of how your whole body is doing.

Do you have any great cold cures?  I'd love to hear about them.   Stay well this Winter.


  1. Hi Fil - nothing to add ... but I did do a brief spell with an actor - and those warm up exercises he introduced us to ... but now I just drink lots of warm lemony, ginger hot water drinks ... and as you say rest as best one can - good luck ... cheers Hilary

  2. Hope you stay cold free! It isn't a nice thing to get is it.

  3. Dear Fil, this is a post that speaks loads to me :) I am a "cold" traumatised person :) Because from the end of 2012 till the end of 2013 I had 6 bad colds, every 2 months one. And last year I caught the swine flu and was in bed reeeeally bad for around 16 days. So, I hope you don't catch a cold anymore! Having said that, the exercises are very good, and I disagree, you would look very pretty on a video, I have watched some of your videos and you look great! With so many colds I should know what to say on how to heal them soon, but I don't. I can only say relax as much as you can, sleep, indulge :) I really hope that this is the last cold you catch, cause for any person it would be bad, but for a singer, that's really worse. Sending you good vibes, dear Fil! Hugs!

  4. Exercises are great!!! I liked this one! I think Echinacea tincture is very good- take it when starting to get a cold and it staves the symptoms off!!!

  5. very interesting. I was rejected from an interview from choir in 7th grade so don't sing out of sympathy for others...but found her trills fun.


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