Two leading voice coaches have shared their views on the role singing can play in helping Covid longhaulers.

Dr Rachel Goldenberg and Phoene Cave, both of whom have worked extensively with people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), discussed their insights on the Long Covid Physio podcast.

Goldenberg is a vocal health specialist who, along with physio Jessica Del Marsa, created the Breathe Sing Move and Breathe Speak Pace programmes in Canada.

Cave is a vocal coach and music therapist who developed Singing For Lung Health in the UK. She is the founder of The Musical Breath.

Almost 400,000 people in the UK have had long Covid symptoms, such as breathlessness, fatigue, brain fog and muscle pain, for more than a year (Office of National Statistics).

Three things we learned from the podcast

Working with long Covid is not the same as working with COPD

In the past year, Goldenberg and Cave have been overwhelmed by inquiries from singing teachers interested to learn more about helping people with long Covid.

But both women are keen to stress that it’s not as simple as replicating the methods employed with COPD patients. Long Covid is very different to COPD and requires a unique approach.

Goldenberg says: “When you work with COPD and asthma, the idea is to get out the energy and get everyone up and moving.

“With long Covid, people are going to have very little energy. It has to be about management and not about treatment. We’re teaching from a completely different place.

“Singing teachers have to do their homework and be prepared to re-evaluate and change things on an individual basis because it’s so heterogeneous.”

Meanwhile, Cave urges singing teachers to be “robust, creative and appropriate”.

“There is a fine line between holding uncertainty and curiosity and not being led by fear. There is an awful lot of concern about doing harm, which is understandable, but the danger is if you do less and it becomes a bit of a lie-down.”

Pacing is vital 

recent study found singing is as exertive as moderate walking. For this reason, pacing is important for people with long Covid, who often experience post-exertional fatigue.

For example, Goldenberg has been working for months with a pro singer with long Covid – and they haven’t sung a note yet.

“Our lessons are very slow,” she reveals. “We’re still working on that exhale. She’s not there [ready to sing] yet. But if this is where you are right now, so be it.”

Don’t ignore the power of stillness

It’s important to remember that singing, especially with other people, can be uplifting – and exhausting.

Cave says: “Singing is like having a nice bit of cake or a big bowl of ice cream and that, mixed with the social cohesion of being with people who are like you – who have the same condition – can give you a real high.

“Singing, sound, music – they stimulate us. But you can potentially crash three days later.

“I’m interested in the power of stillness and silence. Songs don’t exist without rests. For music to help, in terms of pacing and breathing, you also need to have powerful stillness and powerful silence.”

Listen to the podcast in full here.