3 Ways To Tell If You Are Straining Your Voice When You Sing

posted in: Vocal Health, Vocal Technique | 0

So how can you tell if you are straining your voice when you sing? This is something that most singers worry about because we want to keep out voices in good shape. Today I’m going to share with you three signs that you can look for if you worry that you might be straining your voice when you sing.


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This blog post is all about helping you recognise vocal strain. Then, you can avoid it, and keep your voice beautiful for a long time. But first of all what is vocal strain?


What is Vocal Strain?

Strain on you voice happens when your air rubs against your vocal folds and creates friction. This usually happens when the muscles in your throat tighten and keep your vocal folds from moving freely with the air.

So why are we scared of this friction between the air and the vocal folds? Well the friction creates heat which causes your vocal folds to swell. To understand what happens try and rub your hand together until you feel it get warm. Pretty crazy right.

Now this is quite common actually. For example, if you are at a party talking loudly or at a game cheering on your favourite team. Your voice might feel rough afterwards, but it heals itself in a couple of days and there is nothing to worry about. That is completely normal.

The thing to worry about is if this friction happens often to your voice. Then it does not have the time to heal and callus bumps, also called nodules, can form on your vocal folds. Once that happens, people usually experience that they lose some of their vocal range or get a permanently raspy voice.

This is not something that happens overnight, so please do not feel scared. But, as we singers use our voice more frequently than others we need to learn the signs of vocal strain so that we can avoid it.


3 Ways to Tell If You are Straining Your Voice

So, let’s look at three ways to tell if you are straining your voice and you can use them to catch yourself when it might be happening. Also, your voice sounds much better when you don’t strain so that is a good reason to avoid it too.


#1 Use Your Eyes to SEE if You are Straining Your Voice When You Sing.

A big tattle teller of strain is if you can SEE the muscles on your throat tighten. This is a clear sign of strain. Trying to control your sound from the throat instead of relaxing and letting your breath support do the work.

When that happens take a deep breath, lower your shoulders, and reconnect with your breath support.

Another visual sign of strain is if you are locking your jaw and tilting your head back when you sing. I’ve said this in previous posts but it is so important that you keep your head level and drop your jaw down to make room for your sound.

Related: Why Posture Matters When You Sing 


#2 Trust How You FEEL

Nothing should ever feel tight, uncomfortable, or even hurt when you sing. I had someone tell me the other day that their voice feels on fire after they sing. I have also heard some describe that they have a “lump in the throat” feeling when they sing or feel like they have to push their voice out of their body.

These are signs of strain. It is your body telling you that something is not quite right and that is actually a great thing. Listen to your body and work on training healthy technique.

When you sing, you should feel your control coming from your diaphragm and that your voice is sort of “falling out” as you sing.

Related: How to Breathe When You Sing

Also, if your voice feels great trust that as well. I have so many students who really wants to do a good job with their voice and so they put so much effort into forcing the sound out and making their voice sounds like their favourite artists.

It is a bit crazy actually because singing is not always one of those things where you can just push harder until it works. Instead the best thing to do, sometimes, is to take a step back, be more relaxed, and sing with less effort until it feels relaxed and effortless.


#3 Listen to Your Voice

Often you can hear it when your voice is strained. The quality of your voice is more like yelling than singing. An unstrained sound usually has a certain brilliance to it that rings out as opposed to a strained voice the often sounds like you sing with a cover over your sound.

I’ve demonstrated this in another post as well but it is really a great trick to hold your hands in front of your ears and hear how your voice sounds to everyone else. In my experience hearing your own voice, the way that everyone else hears it, often makes you stop straining because you naturally will adjust your voice until you hear that healthy brilliance.

Related: 1 Trick to Sing Better Now


Ways to Avoid Strain

Ok so now you know how to look for signs of strain in your voice. Let’s look at a few thing you can do to avoid strain.


Make Sure That You Can Hear Yourself in Rehearsals.

I had to learn this the hard way a bunch of times. I used to come home after rehearsals with a horse voice, because I could not hear myself and I would yell to try and match the volume of the band.

Do not be scared to be a bit of a diva and ask the band to turn down. Or, if you have a really hard hitting drummer, turn your mic up. This change will also help the rest of your band hear you, witch will make you guys play better together as well.


Sing in Front of a Mirror

Another way to avoid strain is to sing in front of a mirror. This way you can check yourself if you are tightening the muscles in your throat or keeping your jaw locked.

You will be surprised how many little things you can catch by investigating your technique in the mirror.


Record Yourself

Last but not least I encourage you to record yourself. Often we do not strain in an entire song but only on certain phrases.

Listen to a recording of yourself and learn to recognise the sound of your voice when you are straining. This will take a bit of work but it will make you a way better singer fast because you sound better when you sing healthily.

Learning to recognise your “nice sound: will take you to the next level as a singer.


I hope this helped you in knowing when you are straining your voice. If you have any questions about this please feel free to ask them in the comments below. I love to geek out on that stuff so bring it on 🙂

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