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When You’re Sick And The Show Must Go On

When You're Sick And The Show Must Go On
These 7 points will give you golden nuggets for the gig you’re about to do -says Kerri Ho.

I felt like I won the singing lottery when I was booked for my first paid gig!

And, because I wanted to be nothing short of completely amazing, I totally overdid it with rehearsal and practice.

This was back in 2004, and I practiced 8-10 hours a day for several weeks on end, sometimes late into the night…

Because I wanted to be nothing short of completely amazing, I totally overdid it with rehearsal and practice

Since I was still at the beginning of my professional singing journey I didn’t know even 1% of what I know today about correct vocal technique and vocal health.

I was practicing incorrectly all those hours, every day.

What happened?

I lost about 90% of my voice, was ordered vocal rest for 3 months and had to undergo vocal therapy to rehabilitate my voice.

Despite feeling devastated and completely drained of confidence, the venue who had booked me wasn’t about to hear my sob story.

The show had to go on…

Back then, I just soldiered on and got through it. This totally went against my voice therapist’s advice – something I now warn singers not to do.

Since then, I’ve learned what to do when you find yourself sick or vocally fatigued and the show must go on:

Kerri Ho raising a drink to the camera

Prevention means making a habit of looking after yourself! Eat well, hydrate & get enough sleep (Source: LPhotography)

Prevention Will Help You

My next 7 points will give you golden nuggets for the gig you’re about to do, but for next time: my biggest advice is PREVENTION.

Prevention means making a habit of looking after yourself!

This starts with eating well, hydrating heaps, getting enough sleep, and making use of natural remedies (see tip #5 below).

It’s also crucial to learn correct vocal technique and don’t over-work yourself.

Correct vocal technique allows you to optimize and use your voice healthily at all times. This is not negotiable if you are a working singer.

Even if you’ve been good and done all the above you can still get sick and suffer vocal fatigue…


If Sick On Gig Day: Do NOTHING Else But Sleep & Rest

When you get sick or are vocally fatigued, your body is screaming out for rest.

Your vocal cords are also swollen and are begging you to give them a break to enable the swelling to subside.

Don’t stress about doing extra rehearsals or practice, or you will be facing your audience with NO voice or energy.

“But what if I’m not yet confident about my set and really need to practice?” I hear you protesting!

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered…Go through what you would normally go through physically, but in your mind’s eye


Do Mental Rehearsal

Close your eyes and rehearse in your head.

Go through what you would normally go through physically, but in your mind’s eye.

Memorize your lyrics by singing them over and over in your head (writing them down helps too!).

Practice those tricky notes and riffs on repeat in your head, imagining yourself nailing them every time.


Use “Marking” If You Must Rehearse

Now, what if you’ve already got a rehearsal booked with your band / accompanist leading up to the gig that you absolutely cannot cancel?

Use a technique calling “marking”.

This means, that you don’t sing through the whole song, but either sing or talk through only the first & last 3-4 words of each section, i.e. verse, Chorus, Bridge etc.

That way, you ‘mark’ the song out so that the band know where they are, and you get to boost your confidence about the agreed form, but you preserve your voice.You ‘mark’ the song out so that the band know where they are... but you preserve your voice

Make sure you use a mic and are turned up way above the band!

The moment you feel like you’re singing / talking over the band, STOP & adjust your levels.


Spend About 5-10 Minutes Doing Light Warm-Ups At Regular Intervals Throughout The Day

Light warm ups like gentle bubbles, buzzy mm’s and light head voice ooh’s on fifth descending slides are like taking your voice to the spa.

Do them once at the beginning of the day, again in the afternoon and then one more time before the gig.

This prevents you from putting any extra strain on your voice if you must talk throughout the day and ensures you are warmed up for your gig.


Kerri Ho preparing some tea

Garlic, ginger, honey, lemon and, most importantly, water will boost your immune system (Source: LPhotography)

Try This Potent Immunity Booster Tea Concoction

Combine one clove of crushed fresh garlic, one top-of-your-thumb-sized piece of grated ginger, one teaspoon of Manuka honey, a quarter lemon juice in a teapot of hot water and sip all day – a key ingredient here is the H2O!

Couple this with daily Vitamin C, zinc & garlic supplements for quicker recovery and as an immunity booster.


Get Grounded Before Your Gig

Center yourself with affirming thoughts that will help boost your confidence and choose not to focus on how weak and inadequate you may feel.

Remember everything flows from your mind.

If you want to deliver a great performance with your body & voice, it first must start with solid belief in your mind.


During The Gig: Have FUN No Matter What!

Remember that this is not about you, but about them.

Don’t focus on all the things you could have done better if you weren’t sick or vocally fatigued.

Your audience is actually FOR you and they want you to do well!


They are ready to enjoy a great night with you so just get out there and do your thing.

Do your best by singing from your heart and offering your songs as a gift to your audience and you will be a winner!

Oh, and have a thermos with warm water and Manuka honey next to you and take regular sips between songs to keep your vocal cords hydrated.

Remember, your body and voice are intertwined. Look after your body and your voice will thank you for it.

You Are Not Alone

Lastly, remember you are not a failure when you go through vocal fatigue and sickness. We all go through this, which means you’re never alone.

Let’s champion each other on towards greater vocal health so we can continue to share the gift of music with the world.

Health Note: If you’ve experienced symptoms of vocal fatigue (huskiness, cracking or pain), with no signs of recovery for over 2-4 weeks (AND you’ve followed all my above tips), consult your doctor and ask for a referral to see a voice specialist.

Kerri Ho Bio

Through her comprehensive singing program, The Vocal Revolution, Kerri Ho equips singers with all they need to transform their voices, while also connecting singers to each other in her global singers network (currently with singers from over 20 countries). Find out more at The Songbird Tree.

  • Hi Kerri. Do you have any videos or web sites where people could hear you sing? Your web site claims that you have worked with Estill, are you certified in Estill? The only way you can work with Estill is to pay for their seminars. http://www.TheFourPillarsofSinging.com.

  • Sams_1

    Well well we love ourselves don’t we? I do not like your attitude … vocalista.. THE vocalista

  • Freya Astrella

    Any singer can say what they have studied, but rightly so she uses no Estill logos and doesn’t claim to teach directly from the Estill model, only that she has studied it. Estill is a rapidly growing approach so I would assume most singing teachers who take their craft seriously would have studied it at some point.

  • Either you have studied Estill or you haven’t. Consider the ethics of claiming you are an Estillian, when you are not. At a minimum, if you can’t cite the six “vocal figures” of Estill, you don’t know the most fundamental principles of the method and your being dishonest.

  • I do not like teachers that make certification claims they can’t back up, for the purpose of stealing another organizations credibility without doing the work. Apart from the fact that she is misleading students regarding her credentials. It is a huge problem in the voice coaching business. Its called ethics and being honest.

  • Freya Astrella

    I didn’t see any part of her website that suggested she was an Estill certified teacher, so there is no problem. As a certified ‘Estillian’ myself, the only rule is to not use logos or directly teach the Estill model in its full context. Anyone can take elements of it and integrate it into their own practice. I think it is great that she mentions that she has studied many models and methods. And, who knows, maybe she has attended the Estill courses, what suggests she hasn’t?

  • Yes Estill has a lot of influence on my teaching as well.

  • Valid point Freya.