You might be concerned about vocal damage if you have a sore throat from singing. They say practice makes perfect, but at the same time, pushing through a sore throat can not only stunt your progress but harm your voice too. So, here are ten reasons why you have a sore throat from singing and what you can do about it.
You’re Not Warming Up
Think of it this way; you wouldn’t run a marathon or do rigorous exercise without warming up – at least you shouldn’t do these things – to prevent injuries. So, the same applies to vocal exercises. Warming up relaxes your vocal cords, helps you get into the groove sooner and is also beneficial for overall voice health and vocal quality. If your throat is sore from singing, it’s possible you didn’t warm up, do the right exercises, or do enough of a warm-up in the first place.
Some younger singers dislike warming up because it can involve making silly noises. Put it in perspective, a sore throat and potential vocal damage are worse than feeling a little embarrassed.
You’re Pushing Yourself Too Hard Too Soon
Ambition is good, but one of the reasons you have a sore throat from singing is because you’re pushing yourself too hard too soon. If you have a big goal, like increasing strength or improving your range, it won’t come overnight, so suddenly trying to belt will strain your voice. You’ll have to break it down into smaller steps and make slow, steady progress. Eventually, you’ll get there.
You’re Not Taking Care Of Yourself
Your vocal health can be an indicator of your overall health and wellbeing. So, if you don’t take good care of yourself, like eating well and getting enough sleep, you’ll notice it in your voice.
A man playing guitar and singing.
Smoking can irritate your throat, which can make it inflamed and dry. This sensation might only become apparent to you after heavy vocal use from singing or speaking for prolonged periods of time, especially if you’re new to singing (or new to smoking!)
You Already Use Your Voice A Lot
One of the reasons you might have a sore throat from singing is because your voice is already tired. If you’re a very chatty person or need to do a lot of speaking at work, then your voice is already tired and strained by the time you come home and try to practice singing.
You’re Under The Weather
As mentioned earlier, your voice is a good indicator of your health and wellbeing. So, if you normally don’t experience a sore throat from singing, you suddenly do. You could be coming down with a cold or flu. Consult your doctor if you feel something serious is going on.
You might notice your throat feels dry and sore if you’re thirsty – so naturally, if you sing while you’re dehydrated, it will hurt. Contrary to popular belief, when you drink water, it does not physically saturate your vocal cords, but hydration is still vital for good vocal health.
Plus, it’s going to be difficult to sing anyway if you have a headache caused by dehydration.
You’re Pushing An Unnatural Singing Style
Sometimes you’re not a fan of your own voice, simply because it’s your voice. So, it’s common for younger singers to try to emulate the sound of someone they’re a fan of. I used to try to sing in a smokey style when I was younger, like Taylor Momsen from The Pretty Reckless, and my throat used to ache afterward since my voice was naturally clearer and higher in those days.
It’s not that you can’t learn new styles, but you should be careful with how you approach it. Eventually, the style of music you sing will naturally shape your singing style without needing to force things. But, as you get older and gain more experience, you naturally begin to find your own style and sound.
You’re Singing Too Much
A woman singing with a keyboard.
Practice is important. You’re not going to make much progress if you don’t practice singing often, but you can overdo it. This can cause a sore throat and eventual vocal damage. People are very quick to point out when famous singers seem to lose their ability to sing well – this is the result of prolonged constant touring and performing with few breaks. So, do not sing for hours a day every single day; singing in small regular bursts throughout the week is more productive.
Poor Air Quality In Your Practice Space
Poor air quality can also cause a sore throat when singing – since you’re more aware of your breathing while singing and are likely taking in more air than when speaking.
What To Do To Prevent A Sore Throat From Singing
Fortunately, if you have a sore throat from singing, there are a lot of things you can do about it, both to ease the pain and to prevent the same thing from happening again.
You might also be interested in these tips on how to sing and play guitar at the same time.
While you might find warm-ups boring or are eager to practice a new song right away, they simply need to be done. Professional singers typically warm up for 20 to 30 minutes before a performance, but if you’re just rehearsing by yourself in your room you don’t need to warm up for that amount of time. Around 10 to 15 minutes should do before you start singing properly.
As mentioned earlier, some singers might feel embarrassed doing certain warm-ups, but if there’s something you absolutely hate, you can find something else to practice instead. For example, I dislike the “1 121 12321” vocal warmup because it’s what my school used, so I prefer to sing scales to non-lexical vocables, like “la la la,” and “gee gee gee,” etc.
Avoid Certain Things Before Singing
You don’t need to completely overhaul your lifestyle to get better at singing, but you should limit some things a few hours before you intend to sing. For example, don’t smoke to prevent further irritation. Avoid drinking milk before singing, too, as dairy can increase the mucus in your throat, making it harder to sing.
Open A Window
If the air quality is irritating your voice, open the window and try to avoid using any sprays in the room while you’re practicing.
If the air outside is smoggy, then a humidifier might help.
Avoid Singing Too Loud
If you can’t hear yourself, turn down the backing track. This is why it’s good to practice with a microphone, as it gets you in the habit of singing without needing to strain your voice to be heard.
If you’re worried, that there’s an issue with your hearing, and that’s why you’re singing and speaking too loudly, go to your doctor. You should also wear earplugs in loud practice spaces to protect yourself from hearing damage – good quality earplugs will take the edge off the sound but still allow you to hear yourself.
Embrace Your Natural Style
It’s not that you can’t change the way you sing or try different styles. Your tone can change with age and be influenced by what kind of music you’re singing the most. But, if you naturally have a clear, wispy voice and want a more rocky, smoking sound, it has to be a gradual process.
Some particular styles, actually have a certain method and art to them – even if it doesn’t sound like it. For example, if you like heavy metal, hardcore music, and noise, you might want to learn how to scream or growl. While most people can find a way to sceam, most of your favorite artists use a proper technique to ensure they don’t hurt their throat or voice. So, don’t try something drastically different without making sure you’re approaching it properly and putting thought and consideration into it – ideally with the help of a vocal coach.
With that said, with time, you might come to appreciate your own unique sound too. Your favorite artist already exists, but there’s only one of you.
Consider Vocal Streaming
Staying hydrated is vital for vocal health. As mentioned earlier, while water doesn’t touch your vocal cords when you drink it, steaming can soothe your vocal cords. It thoroughly hydrates the vocal cords and helps them recover from strains.
If you have no intentions of becoming a professional singer, this isn’t essential, but as mentioned earlier, make sure you stay hydrated.
A cup of ginger and lemon tea.
You might have seen specific herbal tea blends directed at singers; these aren’t scams (for the most part, at least.) Tea blends containing honey and lemon help to soothe your throat after singing. If those flavors aren’t for you, you can try chamomile, licorice, or ginger tea. Remember, as we established earlier, dairy can make singing harder due to increased mucus, so have your tea plain if possible.
Take Care Yourself
All vocalists have good days and bad days. It’s just part of being human. So, once you get used to what a good day for you sounds like, you start to understand the bad days. It’s not something we have complete control over.
With that said, I’ve noticed I don’t sound my best if I had a poor night’s sleep, so I don’t push myself as hard on those days. So, taking care of yourself will keep your throat and voice healthy, but don’t expect perfection every single day.
Vocal rest is not something exclusive to professional singers. If you’re singing too much, you must take a rest to prevent frequent sore throats and vocal damage. This includes limiting how much you’re speaking and laughing too. Essentially, if you use your voice a lot, try to hold back where possible.
Try Singing Straws
Three metal straws & a straw cleaner. The middle straw is the correct size for singing
Singing straws are a little thinner than regular drinking straws – they work better for singing than regular straws because the narrowness helps create resistance. You simply sing through the straw. I find if I’m struggling to reach a note or do a riff, it comes a bit easier after trying the same melody through a straw – so they can help prevent overstraining your voice. Singing through a straw is a good alternative if you struggle with lip thrills. They also help you with breath control. They’re good for overall vocal health too.
Learn Proper Vocal Techniques
Established singers continue to take vocal lessons for a reason. Vocal lessons can help you learn proper techniques, spot issues in your voice, and how to target them. With that said, they can be pricey and are not accessible to everyone.
If that’s the case, all is not lost. There are countless free vocal exercise guides on the internet to help you nail techniques and warmups – for free! Consider recording yourself and listening critically to the audio to determine what you want to work on.
There are lots of reasons why you have a sore throat from singing. So, becoming more aware of how your lifestyle, environment, and health can help you determine the likely cause and what to do about it so you can improve your singing without tanking your vocal health.
With that said, if you have a persistent sore throat, or feel seriously unwell, be sure to consult your doctor.