Singers need more than chicken noodle soup -says Mister Tim.
I’ve been able to sing through almost every illness I’ve ever had.
Most of the time, however, the illness will eventually catch up with me, and I have to take a few days off.
What I’ve learned are management strategies: how to keep the illness at bay long enough for me to be able to do my job (sometimes the show has to go on!).
CAVEAT – Every person has different needs, a different metabolism, a different immune system.
I am not a doctor (But do check out this great page from Dr. Jahn), and I do not know your individual needs, so I am going to offer general ideas and a bunch of things that work for me.
It’s Not Business As Usual
When I get sick, life is no longer business as usual. Everything I do while I’m sick is to 1) get better and 2) make it possible to sing if I have to.
I adjust schedules, change routines, do whatever is needed to make sure I can sing.
A big part of that is to NOT sing.
Any non-vital vocal use is gone from my schedule.
Rehearsals, recording, teaching, it can wait a few days. I’ve got to conserve my voice… and also not spread my viruses around.
If you must be out, ‘mark’ at rehearsals (sing lightly).
Conserve your energy. Keep a steady flow of liquid and healthy calories going into your body.
Tell people you are sick and figure out if you can adjust schedules.
Learn What Meds Work
I have learned what medications work for me – some things that work for non-singers don’t work for me.
Antihistamines DESTROY my system. Some kinds of cold medicine work for me, some don’t.
Some medicines make me feel like I’m healthy but I end up over-exerting and making things worse.
Your body can only heal you with time and rest. You can delay some symptoms, but eventually you’ve got to allow time to properly heal.
The Big No-No
I NEVER sing through pain. If I’m in pain, I assume it’s serious, and I see a doctor.
Have Irritation or Mild Soreness?
Irritation and mild soreness can be dealt with similarly to fatigue: lots of air, singing more lightly than normal, turning up mic levels to compensate, relaxing and resting during the performance where possible.
I make the sound check as short as possible, ask others to take care of pre-show logistics, nap when I can.
Get Your Food Fuel
When I’m sick I crave Beef Lo Mein.
My body needs gobs of protein and carbs to fuel the fight against illness – I lived in Taiwan for two years and every time I got sick the easiest way to get protein and carbs was Beef Lo Mein.
As much as possible, try to boost your energy naturally. Extra vitamins and supplements can help, but be wise (and consult a doctor with questions).
Warm and Wet Wins
Plain warm water is my preferred ill-time beverage.
Soups, mild teas, and hot food help. I’ll often eat spicy to clear my sinuses.
Throat ailments and congestion are manageable, but for me they almost always advance to a place where I can’t sing accurate pitches.
Usually about four days after the main illness hits, when my body feels better, my throat gets froggy and hoarse and I can’t sing accurately.
Knowing this, when I get sick I try to calculate four days out and postpone all singing I have to do those days, because I physically can’t produce good sounds.
Remember: it is okay to cancel if necessary.
Twice I should have and did not. Once moosebutter had an early-morning school assembly and 3 of the 4 of us had laryngitis.
We all thought we could deal with it, but the night before we all got worse and the show was a disaster: 2 of us were so bad that we could barely produce any sound at all – should have cancelled.
While singing in Las Vegas with Toxic Audio I had been singing through a cold for several days when suddenly, in the middle of sound check 30 minutes before curtain, my voice warped to that of a tone-deaf warthog going through puberty.
Too late to call a sub, I had to push my way through the show and apologize to the rest of the cast afterward.
A Word About Prevention:
An ounce of it is worth a pound of cure.
I wash my hands compulsively, and I will not eat unless my hands are washed. I have hand sanitizer everywhere.
During cold and flu season I’m careful, and I’ll cancel social engagements if someone there is sick.
Sleep, hydration, avoiding bad foods. I have a wicked sweet tooth, and during the holidays it’s MURDER to keep my hands out of the candy dish.
But I wait until after gig season to indulge because my voice is my living, if I can’t sing I don’t make money.
Reactions To This Week’s Peer Review Vids from Mister Tim
David Singleton – I Gave You All (cover)
A strong and confident performance. Solid voice with command of your range. When you go to the higher octave it is very good, but I think it could get even better. You want to sound bold and huge without losing control, hurting your voice, or jeopardizing the rest of your set. Work your long tones in warm-up, siren slides and low-to-high octave slides, at different dynamic levels, and concentrating on the higher and louder notes not straining. Let your air free and let your air fuel the big sound, not tension in the neck or throat.
Lizabett Russo – Love Me No Matter What (original)
You have a rich and delightful voice! You wrote a very nice song that capitalizes on our vocal strengths. You have a variety of captivating vocal colors at your command. Much to compliment! I cannot understand half of your words. Choruses are mostly okay, but beginnings of lines are unintelligible. If we can’t understand your great song, we’re never going to know it’s great. Don’t stretch the vowels so much that they cease to sound like the word you are speaking. Clean up the diction and you’ve got a winner!
Paul Zotter – Fire and Rain cover
Don’t tell Mr. Taylor, but I think you have the perfect voice for this song. Warm and comforting. I adore the sensitive way of your subtle dynamic shifts. Sweet. Familiarity with the tune should be like bbq-ing short ribs in a slow cooker: the longer they are in there, the better they get, and the spices and flavors get more mature. Don’t let it be like a bowl of cold cereal where time turns things mushy. Keep your words and notes in control and strong. The guitar is overpowering in the video. If you plan to make other videos (and you should) it’s worth investing in a basic set-up to get your voice close-mic’d.
Mister Tim www.mistertimdotcom.com is a published composer, award-winning recording artist, and in-demand performer, teacher & performance coach. In addition to an active performing and touring schedule with his solo vocal live-looping/beatbox shows, Mister Tim sings with Boulder, CO-based Celtic Rock band Delilah’s Revenge, manages the… Read More