As the temperatures drop, singers around the world become uneasy at the thought of sore throats and vocal damage. Straining your vocal cords in cold weather is a serious concern, so much so that in 2013 Beyoncé lip-synced her performance at the presidential inauguration ceremony.
For an aspiring musician, cancelling a gig or an audition is usually not an option, but there are a few things you can do to avoid serious damage to your voice when singing in the cold.
Below we have covered some of the most effective ways you can keep your voice healthy throughout the cold weather:
#1 Stay well hydrated
We tend to focus on hydration in the heat, but dehydration can easily sneak up on us in cold weather.
As the voice is produced by the vibration of vocal cords (or folds), their delicate tissue is protected from damage by a layer of mucus. To produce this slimy substance, your body needs plenty of water.
It’s not enough to only drink before a performance — it is crucial to maintain a sufficient level of hydration throughout the day.
Choose room temperature or warm water rather than hot or cold drinks, that can irritate your throat, and avoid dehydrating drinks such as alcohol and coffee.
#2 Dress warmly
Its no coincidence that we fall ill in the winter. According to research, cold weather actually suppresses the immune system — leaving you more vulnerable to viruses and infections.
One simple way to reduce the risk is to insulate your body — wear big coats, extra layers, hats and scarves (making sure to cover the neck and throat).
Caution: Shameless plug ahead! Continue reading below.
#3 Protect your vocal cords with extra lubrication
Though staying hydrated will allow your body to produce protective mucus, the cold and dry weather (and worse yet, air conditioning) are likely to cause irritation to the throat.
While, most pharmacies stock lozenges that promote salivation and sprays that help lubricate the throat, it may not be wise to experiment with your voice.
Luckily, you don’t need a prescription to get an air humidifier.
#4 Don’t party too hard
Partying can be hard to avoid (and who would want to), especially around the festive season, but late nights, alcohol and shouting [over loud music] can all seriously damage your voice.
Frequent partying will compound and if the effects on your health and your voice become permanent, you could be forced out of singing altogether.
That doesn’t mean you can’t go out and enjoy yourself, but stick to the non-alcoholic drinks, where possible, and aim to leave in good time to get plenty of sleep.
#5 Maintain a healthy lifestyle
In the winter, the days get shorter — suddenly causing sleep patterns to change, bad foods can sneak in and your routines can go awry.
It may not sound too rock’n’roll, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important if you want to protect your voice.
Eating a healthy diet and taking moderate exercise will help to keep your voice in good health. Sleep is also important — extra recovery time can be just what you need to keep your immune system on top form.
#6 Avoid cigarette smoke
It goes without saying that smoking damages to your health, but did you know that cigarette smoke can cause lasting damage to your voice?
Researchers from Kings College in London have discovered that “smoking can cause 100 more mutations than usual in each cell of the voice box”.
If you are serious about your singing career, stay off the cigarettes and avoid those who are smoking, especially in less ventilated areas.
#7 Be careful with cold remedies
If you feel a cold looming over you, avoid over-the-counter remedies without checking in advance that they won’t cause mouth and throat dryness.
Painkillers and decongestants tend to only to alleviate the symptoms but don’t speed up the recovery, so sticking to rest and warm drinks might be the best choice.
#8 Always warm up your voice before a performance
Forgoing your vocal warm up is never a good idea but in cold weather it’s outright risky. If you’re heading indoors from chilly weather outside, allow your body a few minutes to adjust before beginning your routine — you may need to warm up for longer than you would in milder conditions.
#9 Never sing with a sore throat
It’s fairly common for singers to cancel their concerts due to illness: this July in London, Demi Lovato cancelled only hours before the show out of fear of hurting her vocal cords.
Although most aspiring singers dread cancelling a gig or missing an audition, sometimes it’s just not worth it. If in doubt, consult a throat doctor and make an informed choice that will be the best for the long-term progression of your music career.
Be upfront with your audience and use the situation to strengthen the relationship with your fans.
Have we missed anything? What do you do to keep your voice healthy in the winter months? Let us know in the comments below.