Playing Trumpet With A Cold – Sick Stuff!

A trumpet player is having a cold

Playing Trumpet With A Cold
Can You Practice While Being Sick?

As I’m about to start my practice session today I’m not feeling well at all. I can feel a cold coming on and this makes me wonder about a question I saw on a trumpet forum a few weeks back…

…can you practice while being sick?

Well, having friends around me heavy into health and medical stuff, I decided to take a deeper dive into that question in today’s blog post.

You can play the trumpet when you have a cold if you are just a bit sniffly, without having a fever. Then, by all means, do your regular trumpet practice routine. However if you have a funny feeling in your airways or you have a fever, then you might want to skip your practice session. And for good reasons, as you will discover in this post…

Playing Trumpet With A Cold
Exactly How Sick Are You

Practicing trumpet while sick is all about the intensity of the practice session and just HOW sick we are. As you know, the trumpet is a pretty physical musical instrument, and the most demanding practice routines can really take a lot of effort. You can see clear evidence of that if you read my post “how many calories do I burn when I play the trumpet?

Do you have a fever?

If you do, and you have a soar throat and soar airways, don’t practice louder than mezzo piano until the fever is gone.

If you keep having intense practice sessions, and you are blowing forcefully into the trumpet while you are sick, you could increase the risk of getting an ear infection. That is if your cold is bacterial and not viral….

…but that is something we most often don’t know, unless we go to the doctor for a check up, of course.

So should you practice trumpet while sick?

To make this as easy as possible, here’s a check list for you…

    • You are feeling tired, sick and sniffly but you do not have a fever. You do not have a soar throat and you don’t feel anything “extra” in your airways
      -Practice if you want to. You can even do an intense session if you must
    • You are having a soar throat and you feel that something is going on in your lungs and airways but you do not have a fever
      -Time to slow down a bit and leave the most intense exercises on the shelf. Practice mostly soft playing
    • You do not have a soar throat and airways feel fine but you are feeling tired and you have a fever
      – You can practice but take more frequent rests and don’t practice louder than mezzo piano 
  • You have a runny nose, soar throat, airways feels funny, you are tired and you have a fever
    -You would be best leaving the trumpet alone today. If you still have to practice (hey we are trumpet players, sometimes we have to do what we have to do) then ONLY practice very softly at piano to pianissimo dynamics. Drink  plenty of fluids and rest very often

Practicing trumpet while sick
Don’t expect much!

If we are playing trumpet when sick we do so because we want to maintain what we have. Perhaps we have a gig coming up at the end of the week and we don’t want to lose our chops.

This is all fine and dandy and it’s something we probably have to do, as every trumpeter knows we need practice to be able to keep the strength in our chops. And everyone of us knows how it feels to have a gig and run out of endurance…

…not fun Not fun at all!


Practicing while sick means we have to leave the expectations outside of our practice room because now is not the time to see big improvements in our trumpet playing….

…playing trumpet with a cold?…

…fine!  just know that right now it’s all about maintenance or…

…survival of the chops =)

Clean your horn after you get well

Even if your body has become resistant to the bacteria that made you sick, it is always a good idea to clean your trumpet as soon as you are well again. This is because the germs love to live and reproduce inside the warm and moist tubing on your trumpet.

If you are not careful about this it can even become dangerous, especially if you have asthma or sensitive lungs. I write more about that in the article how often should you clean your trumpet.

A few tips to help you get well sooner

  • Get a lot of vitamin C

Some people think that this one is only a myth but it turns out there are some intriguing evidence behind it. Get yourself a high quality vitamin C supplement.  Vitamin C is is water-soluble and you won’t overdose if you take “too much” for only a couple of days. So take plenty of it but be sure to spread it out over the day and take some every other hour. Taking it all at once may give you loose stools.  For more information about this check out “That Vitamin Movie”

  • Drink plenty of fluids

While drinking a lot of water may perhaps not speed up your recovery, it is necessary because you lose fluids while you are sick. And one thing is for sure, if you are dehydrated, you will take longer to recover. In addition to this you can make yourself feel better, if you have a sore throat, and you drink something warm and soothing. This is especially true if you practice trumpet while sick.

  • Get more sleep than usual

A lot of people will tell you that there is no way to speed up recover from a cold. This is not true. Take this sleeping tip, for example. Everyone knows that resting and sleeping is a time of recovery. If you can get more sleep when you have a cold you will recover faster than if you were to sleep less…

…more sleep = more/faster recovery

So practice the trumpet, if you must, and then make sure you get to bed early. You should also rest during the day if you can.

  • Meditate

Meditation has so many proven health benefits and everyone would benefit greatly if they were to put aside 15 minutes a day to do it. Right now, however, as we are talking about playing the trumpet while being sick, I want to point out that there are several studies showing that meditation strengthens and improves the immune system. People who meditate are sick less often and are also happier and more motivated.

Now, will it help speed up recovery if you are already sick? This is unclear but it is certainly worth a shot, wouldn’t you think? Here is a link to a study on pubmed about meditation and how it strengthens the immune system.

  • Wash you hands often and keep things clean

Clean and wash your hands often. This will help keep the virus or bacteria under control.  Make sure to clean frequently touched surfaces. And like I already said, this is especially important when it comes to your trumpet. After every practice session put some dish soap on your mouthpiece and run it under warm water, and after you get well, remember to clean the inside of your trumpet as well.

Playing trumpet while being sick
Final words

Trumpet players have to practice to keep the chop strength. There is no way of denying that fact. However, it’s not the end of the world if we take a few days off and get some extra needed rest. Even though your chops and endurance will temporarily suffer, in the long run, it might even be good for them.

If you are really sick, with soar airways, and you decide to not practice, you can always keep some of the chop strength by doing the pencil exercise.

Deload weeks can be beneficial

For example bodybuilders, and other athletes as well, often take something called a “deload” week, where they do no training at all, or very little training. And while they initially may lose a bit of strength the body gets some needed rest and, because of this, it will respond to the training much better the following weeks. The results of this is an increase in strength, in the long run.

Even though playing trumpet with a cold is possible, perhaps you would be better of doing like the bodybuilders and take a deload week. Or a few days, at least. And while practicing trumpet when sick might help us from losing strength, one thing is fore sure, don’t expect to improve and get better during your cold.

So the final verdict on “should I practice trumpet while sick?” from me would be, if you don’t have a super important gig coming up, why not take a few days off, rest and get well?

Taking periods with a few days off from the trumpet is beneficial in the long run even if we are not being sick, with a cold. So if you do it when being sick, it should be a 100% guilt-free rest.

Thank you for reading the article “Playing trumpet while being sick”

-Robert Slotte-

P.S. While we are on the subject of practicing the trumpet, perhaps you would be interested in reading the article 26 trumpet playing tips. It is full helpful tips on how to improve and become a better trumpet player.

P.P.S. What do you do when you feel a cold coming on? Do you practice the trumpet while having a cold? Or do you kick the trumpet under the bed until you are well again? Please share your thoughts in the comment section down below. It would be interesting to learn how other trumpeters do in this situation.


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