How to Play Well When You’re Feeling Under the Weather

It’s that time of year again – and I’m not talking about the holiday cheer! Stress is high, immune systems are weak, and many of us are battling the unfortunate realities of cold and flu season.

Unfortunately, the music doesn’t always stop when we’re feeling under the weather. As we all know, the show must go on, even if you’re not feeling 100%.

If you are sick but have to perform, I’ve created a few tips to help you get through your performance. These are intended for performing – not practicing – while you’re sick. If at all possible, you should take a few days off practicing to fully recover.


Disclaimer: These tips are intended for anyone who is suffering from minor colds or illnesses. If you are severely sick, don’t think twice about rescheduling or canceling any performances you have so you can visit a doctor and get on the road to recovery. Never gamble with your health – your music will be waiting for you when you feel better!


Here are a few tips to performing your best when you’re sick:

  • Try to reschedule. You should always try to present your fullest abilities when you perform, so see if rescheduling or hiring a sub is a possibility for your performance(s). If not, try some of the advice below.
  • Hydrate. Hydration is crucial for any performance, but especially when you’re sick. Your body needs fluids, electrolytes, and nutrients to perform optimally, so make sure you stay hydrated before, during, and after your performance.
  • Sleep. Prioritize sleep in the days leading up to the performance so your body has time to recover and rest up before you go onstage. Listen to your body and take it easy so you’ll feel as refreshed as possible.
  • Don’t overdo it. If at all possible, take a day or two off before your performance to do nothing but rest and relax. Modern society is so fast-paced that it’s rare we take an entire day to decompress, but you might be surprised by how much better you feel after even just one day of R&R!
  • Take your meds. I’m no doctor, so check with yours to see if there are any medicines, vitamins, or supplements you could take to feel better faster.
  • Watch your diet. Make sure you are eating healthy foods with energizing nutrients to fuel your body and help it recover quickly.
  • Don’t be a defeatist. It’s no fun performing when you’re sick, but that’s still no excuse not to give it your all onstage. Try to focus as much as possible on creating an enriching musical experience for the audience, and don’t lower your expectation just because you’re sick.
  • Critique yourself with kindness and compassion. All musicians have performed when they are physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually weak. Don’t beat yourself up for any mistakes you may have made, and focus on recovering so you can play better at your next gig!

If you’re feeling under the weather, I hope these tips help you and that you feel better soon!

Thanks to my friend Charlie Draper for giving me the idea for this article!

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