Did you know that singing can actually be referred to as a method of exercising? It's hard work on your body, especially if you aren't doing it the correct way. There are plenty of times I've sung and found myself having a throat ache shortly after, or even during and I had to stop.
The first thing to note is that your throat is likely hurting because of the muscles in your throat, not because of damage to your actual vocal cords. When using our vocal cords casually, like speaking, we don't use our throat muscles at all. But when we sing, we subconsciously start to work (and sometimes overwork) our throat muscles to the point where it also constricts the actual vocal cords. This is when you start to feel throat pain.
Have you had an experience where your throat felt tight or like it was working too hard? Where did you go wrong and how can you avoid messing up our throat when singing in the future? Here are a few reasons your throat can hurt, and how to avoid the problem entirely.
When we try to sing notes that we fear are out of our range, we tend to overwork out throat muscles and cause them to restrict our vocal cords to the point where we hit the note badly and cause pain to our throat. Think of it as tensing up in your whole body when you're nervous to sing. If you tense up in your throat, you're causing your throat muscles to get tense and cause friction, leading to pain.
To stop this, do your best to relax in preparation for hitting those notes that you think are too high. When your throat is more relaxed, there is less chance for that friction to happen and cause pain. Practice can help you feel more confident. You can also change your approach to the high note, maybe hitting it falsetto or even change the key to something you can sing more comfortably.
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Straining can also be a result of improper breath support. Whether you're hitting a high note or not, if you aren't breathing enough to make it through a sung phrase, your throat muscles will be overworked and cause that same friction. To avoid this, get a full breath in before your sung phrases that will also help relax your throat muscles more.
Sometimes singers overdo it. I'm not judging, if you feel the song, you're going to be tempted to put your all into it. A lot of styles like gospel and musical theatre call for singers to belt, which means to sing a high note with full power from deep down in your chest. Most people belt wrong, causing pain in their throat and hoarseness in their vocals.
To avoid pain from belting, you must learn the correct way to belt from the proper placement. A lot of improper belting happens in the singing world, but the key to do it correctly is to not bring too much power from your chest voice into the high notes. There's a fine line between yelling and belting correctly. For more details, check my what is belting post.
Lubrication is a must when it comes to singing and speaking. If you aren't properly hydrated, your throat will experience friction and possibly cause you some pain. If you're not big on drinking water, this is a great reason to get on it and make a lifestyle change!
Related Post: What Should I Drink Before Singing?
Getting the proper hydration is luckily an easy fix for those having throat pain for this reason. There are two important things to remember when it comes to staying hydrated. Firstly, you need to hydrate hours before actually singing, so don't think that a quick glass of water right before you start will do that much good. It's better than nothing for sure, but you want to stay ready so you don't have to get ready when it comes to hydration.
The second thing to keep in mind is that cold, especially ice-cold drinks can actually exacerbate the problem temporarily. When any muscle is hit with something cold, it contracts. Your throat muscles contracting from the cold can cause pain and tension. To avoid this, drink room temperature or hot beverages. Tea is always a good substitution for water when singing.
As I said, singing is like exercising, and if you exercise for too long, you're going to start feeling pain. While it is recommended that your practice singing every day, no one recommends that you sing for hours and hours on end every day.
Give your voice a break from time to time! As a studio vocalist who often has multiple projects to sing a day, I make sure to space my gigs out and keep myself on voice rest in the in-between time (very minimal talking!). The last thing I would want to do is work on all my projects back to back to back each day.
If you're actively working on growing your musical skill and want to put in several hours at a time, try switching between singing, playing an instrument, studying other singers, and learning music theory to allow your throat and vocal cords to rest.
Most singers know about warmups when it comes to getting your voice prepared for singing, but many people don't know about the need for vocal cooldowns that can help protect your voice after you are done singing. Read this post for more info on vocal cooldowns.
Throat losengers and Throat Coat Tea will do you very well if you need some immediate action to fight your sore throat.
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Water won't hurt either, even though the effects will take some time. The one thing you want to do for sure is not singing, and not talk much at all if you can avoid it! This is called voice rest and will come in handy many times in the future of your singing career when your voice gets tired.
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