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Thread: Playing when "sick"

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Sacramento, CA area

    Playing when "sick"

    I am getting over the second week of a heavy "head cold". I still have a junkie head and sinuses, though the sore throat is gone. The thing that concerns me is that my ears still feel blocked/clogged. I am about to start a new project on my baritone, but I am concerned that trying to play in this condition could be bad for me.

    How do you tell when you are too sick to play? Will the back pressure from playing risk further problems? What advice would you give someone trying to play when their ears don't feel like they are working right?

    I welcome advice and information on whether this is a real issue for a brass musician, or just "all in my head." (laugh/pun intended)
    - Sara
    Last edited by Sara Hood; 01-29-2018 at 03:52 PM.

  2. #2
    What a drag! It's happened to all of us I expect. When I'm still congested, I will practice, but I avoid loud playing and high playing to limit the back pressure. Doctors I've talked to also advice care in this situation.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  3. #3
    Well, no one likes to play when they are sick or have cold sores or canker sores. But, I usually just power on through, especially if I have music commitments that I have signed up for. I did play trombone in a Wyoming symphony not long ago and on the Saturday evening dress rehearsal prior to the Sunday afternoon concert, I was so stopped up (nose) that at break time of the rehearsal, I left for the hotel room. Just could not breathe at all or continue to play.

    I have also played when my ears were stopped up. I don't think I did any damage, but I sure couldn't hear as well, as you would expect. I have not heard of people damaging their ears if playing with stopped up ears. Guess I wouldn't be trying for double high Bb's in that condition. Take it as easy on yourself as you can would be my advice.

    If you don't have any really pressing reason to be playing or playing a lot, I would sure reduce the playing as much as possible while sick. You lose a little of your chop endurance from a layoff, but it will come back with diligent practice.

    Guess my whole take on this might be a bit different from others. It seems throughout my life that whenever I have a big solo or something of importance to play, I invariably get cold sores/canker sores or get sick (usually in the way of a righteous cold). So, I have learned to just power on through. If I did not have to, I would definitely take it easy and reduce or eliminate the playing until I was feeling perky again. I don't think I have hurt myself in playing when sick.

    I would be curious to know what others think or have experienced. And Sara, get well soon!!!
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
    Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, Wessex EP-100 Dolce Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium
    Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
    Wessex TE-360 Bombino Eb Tuba
    Rapid City New Horizons & Municipal Bands (Euphonium)
    Black Hills Symphony Orchestra (Bass Trombone), Powder River Symphony, Gillette, WY (Tenor Trombone)
    Black Hills Brass Quintet (Tuba)

  4. I absolutely hate practicing when I'm sick and/or my ears just aren't working right. On these days I usually just practice the exercises at the front of the Arban's book. That way I know my face will stay in shape and I don't have to put myself in a bad mood. If I have an audition coming up, or a performance, or anything that requires music which I haven't fully prepared, then I will run through those selections as well. I stop as needed, try to correct what I missed, and play with heart even if I can't tell. My warm-up and cool-down methods on these days are just low tones and one octave scales
    T.J. Davis

    Wessex Dolce
    G&W Kadja

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Sacramento, CA area
    Well I guess I have been lucky, no cold sores. But when I blow my nose (and that, frequently), it feels like somehow my ears are attached slightly wrong. And like they too are stuffed full of gunk.

    Sorry if this has been too much information (oversharing), for a public forum. I just was not sure how this really affected my ability to play.

    I plan on going to rehearsal one way or the other on Wednesday. Thank you all for your good wishes (smile).

    Onward and upward (grin)! - Sara

  6. #6
    One other consideration: if you're sick and don't absolutely have to be at rehearsal, don't go. Over the holidays, I dealt with a band missing half a dozen players who'd come down with a bug.
    Adrian L. Quince
    Composer, Conductor, Euphoniumist

    Kanstul 976 - SM4U

  7. One summer in high school I went with my parents on a gulf coast vacation and proceeded to contract "swimmer's ear" right before band camp. I played on, making sure my head was clear, focusing my embouchure as best I could, and watching the director constantly for "the hand." By the end of the week it had cleared and all was well with the concert.


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