As we approach the winter months and coughs and colds rear their ugly heads, I see more and more people asking how they can sing if they've got a sore throat. There is so much information out there that can make it confusing. Some say you must go on vocal rest, some say it's ok to sing through... I cannot pretend to know all the answers as we're all constantly learning, but here are 5 exercises that I have found really helpful on my own vocal health journey. The key with all of this is to only do what feels good. If something hurts, stop! I also really don't advise taking anything that is going to numb your throat and then singing, as you can't feel if there's damage being done. If you need a throat sweet to reduce pain, take one, (we're all human and the blackcurrant ones taste so good!!) but don't sing until the numbing has worn off.
1. Warm Up Your Airflow and Not Your Voice
Huh? Don't use your voice? Yep! Start with just getting the airflow going. Take a nice deep belly breath and then breathe out on various semi closed sounds. e.g Shh, Sss, Fff, Th. Try doing this laid on the floor with your feet flat on the ground and knees pointing to the ceiling, so that you relax into the ground and let the floor take your weight fully.
2. Add Voice To Your Semi Closed Sounds
Once you've got the breath going, add in your voice. This will take Shh to Zhh, Sss to Zzz, Fff to Vvv etc. Pick a nice comfortable pitch for you and just stick to that one note for a couple of rounds. Keep it simple and you can stay lying down if that helps your body to stay relaxed.
3. Gently Work The Range
Now the voice is working and the vocal folds have had a chance to come together, start to work the range. Choose your favourite out of a lip bubble, tongue trill or puffy cheeks and slide up and down some small chromatic scales. Only go up one semi tone at a time and don't work the range too high to start off with, Keep it in your comfortable zone.
If all of that has felt comfortable, you can extend your range a bit further, but keep it on a lip bubble. tongue trill or puffy cheeks. I find descending sirens a nice place to start, going from high to low. You can then play around going from low to high and back down, feeling your way through your breaks and noticing what feels good and if there are any pitches that cause your sore throat to hurt anymore or if there are points when your voice cuts out.
5. Sing Whatever Feels Good
If belting out a massive song like 'Let It Go' or Sia's 'Chandelier' causes pain and strain in your voice, don't sing it that day! You'll have kept your voice in good nick just by warming it up with some of these exercises. If you've got a gig, are you able to carefully select some songs that feel a little more comfortable? If you've got no choice, but to sing a massive song, then don't spend all day practicing it. Sing it once in warm up, once in the performance and then warm down. Treat your voice like you'd treat sore muscles after a run. Give them a gentle stretch, but don't go for a Personal Best!
If you'd like a quick check in to go through some of these techniques, why not book a trial here.