man with long hair singing on stage

19 Things to Avoid That Can Harm Your Singing Voice

As a singer, your voice is your instrument. 

Practicing bad habits and disregarding your voice can lead to adverse long term effects. The best way to protect your voice is to first figure out what can be damaging to your vocal cords and how you should avoid them. You’d be surprised by some of the things that can wreck your ability to sing properly.

Here, are 19 harmful things that you should avoid to keep your singing voice in the best shape it’s ever been. 

  1. Smoking
  2. Not drinking enough water
  3. Alcohol
  4. Not Sleeping enough
  5. Singing outside your comfortable range
  6. Cold water before you sing
  7. Fried food
  8. Medications that can affect your voice
  9. Clearing your throat
  10. Citrus fruit
  11. Using wrong singing techniques
  12. Caffeine
  13. Vocal Fatigue
  14. Untreated Acid Reflux
  15. Air conditioning and heating systems
  16. Menstruation
  17. Bad talking habits 
  18. Forcing yourself to sing when you’re sick
  19. Not humidifying your home enough

It’s not always an easy task to avoid all the things that can harm your voice. But as long as you’re aware of what is good for your voice and what’s bad, your voice will consistently sound better in the long run. In this article, i’ll go more in-depth on the different things that can harm your voice and why you should avoid them.

Let’s begin!

1. Smoking 

I know there are a lot of singers out there who smoke every day and still sing beautifully. Some might even smoke to get that raspy, gritty quality. However, smoking and even second-hand smoking can definitely degrade your breathing and your vocal cords in the long run. Not to mention the list of horrible lung and throat diseases that it can cause. Improper lubrication can prevent your vocal cords to function and vibrate how it needs to. 

Singing high notes and long phrases can also become harder due to the reduced stamina and lung capacity. When you’re trying to hit those high notes, you need ample breath support to help hold and project that note. But by smoking, you’re restricting airflow from your lungs and limiting the ability to project clean and powerful notes.  

2. Not drinking enough water

You might think drinking a few sips of water will be enough right before you sing. But that’s farthest from the truth! You need to start lubricating your vocal cords days before your show. Your vocal cords are in constant motion, from when you’re talking to your friend to humming in the shower. So regularly lubricating and giving your vocal cords sufficient water is extremely important. 

An estimate of individual water intake should be about 8 eight-ounce glasses, which equals to 2 litres or half a gallon. Keep in mind that some beverages such as alcohol and coffee are diuretics. Diuretics cause your body to go to the washroom frequently. You’ll have to compensate for the loss by drinking more water. 

3. Alcohol

Though it’s quite common for singers to have a couple of drinks at a gig, it’s essential to know that alcohol can dehydrate the body and affect your ability to function at 100% onstage. 

When you’re singing, your body relies on your vocal cords to be well lubricated so that it can vibrate properly to create sound. By drying the vocal cords out, vocal stamina will become harder, and you’ll start to strain your voice early into your song. Hitting high notes will also become difficult because of a dried out voice. Try substituting alcohol with an organic throat tea (Amazon) or Manuka honey (Amazon) water for proper voice lubrication.

4. Not sleeping enough 

Being a singer can lead to many late nights and irregular nights of sleep. But how frequently you sleep and the quality of it can have a significant impact on your singing voice. If you’re exhausted from staying up late at night, you won’t have the required energy to control your breathing while you sing, which can lead to vocal strain and fatigue. 

If you sing while you’re tired, it can lead to hoarseness in your voice. You might think that this raspy sound adds to your tone, but in fact, it’s a signal that your voice is fatigued, and you should let it rest. Continuing to overwork your voice while it’s already weak can cause huge damage like vocal swelling and laryngitis.

5. Singing outside your comfortable range

Constantly forcing yourself to sing above your capable range can take a heavy toll on your vocal cords. Every singer should know their comfortable singing range and stay within it. Many vocal teachers and singing competitions place more importance on the ability to sing higher even though some singers sound the best singing in their lower registers. 

Improving and expanding your vocal range is an integral part of the learning process. Still, it must be done slowly and adequately. Stop if you feel pain in your throat. 

Hitting high notes should not be painful. If you’re singing a song that’s out of your range, find out what the highest note is and then transpose the entire song into a lower key. 

If you want to learn how to sing higher without hurting your voice, i’ve written a comprehensive article here. You’ll definitely find a lot of information that will help you out.

6. Cold water before you sing 

Hydrating your throat is essential, but make sure you’re drinking room temperature water and not cold water. Drinking cold water before you sing can restrict the necessary vibrations that it needs to be at optimal conditions. 

Think of it as similar to exercising. Your body isn’t as limber and agile when the muscles are cold and not warmed up. The same goes for your throat. If your vocal cords are cold, it stiffens up, and you’ll strain your voice a lot easier when you’re singing difficult songs.  Putting ice cubes into your drink can also hinder your voice’s flexibility and function 

7. Fried food

As delicious as these foods may be, eating a lot of deep-fried food not only affects your overall health but can also create dryness and hoarseness in your voice. Fried foods contain high-fat content, which can trigger heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux. 

The salt content should also be taken into account when eating fried food. Overly salty snacks can dehydrate your throat and body. It can also force you to clear your throat more often which can lead to an irritation to your vocal cords. 

Read Next: 21 Simple Tips on How To Sing Better Quickly

8. Medications That Can Affect Your Voice

Many drugs can affect the overall function of your voice. So be careful with taking medications, which include over-the-counter, prescription, and herbal supplements. Some of the medications can affect the throat by drying and limiting the mucosal layer that covers the vocal cords. 

Figuring out all the properties of your medicine can be confusing. So if you decide to buy medication, make sure to ask your physician or pharmacists what effects the drugs have. Do your due diligence in learning the effects on your body and voice. If there are side effects involved, decide if it’s worth the risk and whether the benefits of taking medicine outweigh the negative impact on your voice.  

9. Clearing your throat

Stay clear of clearing your throat too often. Doing it too much can lead to irritation in your vocal cords and injury, which can make you sound incredibly hoarse when you sing. The throat clear only temporarily relieves the feeling before it comes right back. 

Try hydrating yourself more frequently. Take lozenges and use a good facial steamer to loosen up the phlegm in your throat. I personally like to use Vocalzone lozenges (Amazon) because of how soothing it makes my throat as well as the Nano Ionic Facial steamer (Amazon) for clearing up my sinuses.

If you continue to find irritations in your neck area and need to clear your throat often, make sure to visit your doctor. Check to see if any severe conditions might be present.  

10. Citrus fruits

Fruits that have high citrus properties like oranges, grapes, pineapples, and tomato can cause dryness to your vocal cords. It also increases the symptoms of acid reflux, especially if you eat high acidic foods before you go to bed. 

There has been little evidence that using lemons has any effect on removing mucus or congestion for cold or sinus issues. It may be the hydration from the liquid or the soothing properties of the honey that help ease the throat. You’ll have to decide if using lemon in your drink improves your vocals or not. You can try this Eucalyptus throat tea (Amazon) instead. 

11. Using wrong singing techniques

Singing with improper techniques can create tension in your vocal cords, which can lead to long term damage in your voice. Some of the main methods that you’ll need to learn correctly are singing posture, diaphragmatic breath support, the use of different singing voices, etc. 

You can find out if you’re singing the right way by feeling how relaxed your voice is. If you notice that you’re constantly straining your voice, and your shoulder shrugs upwards when you sing the high notes, it means you’re not doing it correctly. 

Try finding a vocal teacher to teach you the basic singing techniques. If you can’t find a teacher in your area or if the price is too high, I recommend using a good online singing program like the 30 Day Singer to learn the proper fundamentals of singing. It’s great for both beginner and advanced singers alike.

Read More: 30 Day Singer Review – The Best Singing Course In 2020

12. Caffeine 

As much as I love having coffee every day, caffeine and singing aren’t friends! Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it makes you go to the bathroom more often and dehydrates you. Your vocal cords need water to be in a lubricated state so that it can function naturally. Refraining from caffeinated drinks can lessen your chance of vocal injury and voice cracks when singing. 

I personally enjoy coffee and drink it almost every day. But there are a few rules that I follow so that it doesn’t negatively affect me. The first thing is that I make sure I don’t drink more than 1 cup of coffee a day, or else my breath rate increases a lot. Having more than 1 cup of coffee amps me up more than I need to be. 

I also make sure I drink coffee in the morning of my show day and not close to my actual performance time. And lastly, I make sure I drink enough water throughout the day so that I’m properly hydrated. 

13. Vocal Fatigue

Not knowing when you’re singing too much can severely damage your singing voice. Singing is essentially like exercising. The muscles in your throat need to train so that you can use it for long periods. 

Some of the most common moments when singers overwork their voices are during karaoke, long sets at a gig, and concerts. Generally, at these performances and events, there is a lot of singing and yelling involved. So listen to your body and your voice. If you start feeling your voice weakening and sounding hoarse, stop singing! 

Don’t wait for your voice to disappear before stopping completely. Play the long game and drink more water before you start again. 

Read Next: Why Do Singers Block One Ear When They Sing?

14. Untreated acid reflux

Acid reflux is a common condition where stomach acid flows back up in the food pipe and causes agitation in the vocal tract and esophageal lining. If left untreated, it can become a chronic condition. GERD or (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) can severely damage your throat and, ultimately, your voice. 

Some factors contribute to acid reflux, such as eating diet, stress levels, smoking, and also obesity. Symptoms include a burning sensation in your chest after eating (heartburn), difficulty swallowing, acid flowing up your throat, and difficulty swallowing. (Source)

15. Air conditioning and heating systems

Drastic temperature settings and the cleanliness of your air conditioner can have a significant impact on your singing voice. If you’re in an extremely hot or cold environment, your throat can feel parched, which can strain your voice when you sing. A home’s humidity level should be between 40% to 50%. Anything lower than that can dry out your voice. 

Also, make sure to check your air conditioner’s filter more frequently. Dirty air filters can cause indoor air pollution in your home, leading to sinus congestion and trigger allergic reactions. 

16. Menstruation

Studies have shown that a singer’s vocal power and range can be affected before or during menstruation. Vocal cords can become drier during this time and make it more challenging to control vibrato. Also, pain and tension in the lower abdomen can affect the proper breathing technique that singers need to use. 

If you are feeling uncomfortable because of bad cramps, try to avoid singing. If you must sing, try easing the pain before before you go on stage by placing a hot water bottle (Amazon) on your lower abdomen or sticking a heating pad (Amazon). Every woman experiences these symptoms differently, so listen to your body and let it rest if it needs to. 

17. Bad talking habits 

Pay close attention to the way you speak every day and practice good speaking habits. Singers who get stuck in a pattern of poor speaking habits can develop conditions like muscle tension dysphonia (voice strain). Having voice strain can lower your vocal stamina and create lots of pain when you talk. 

Chronic vocal injuries, speaking too loudly, yelling too much, and talking in the wrong pitch may also be factors that contribute to vocal strain.

If you find yourself needing to talk or sing throughout the day and night, allow yourself to rest your voice and take daily “vocal naps.” For example, teachers that teach throughout the day can rest their voice in between classes or lunch break instead of talking to their students or colleagues. Taking frequent short rests helps tired voices to recuperate and heal. 

18. Forcing yourself to sing when you’re sick

If you’re sick, spare your voice. Not listening to what your body tells you can lead to long term damage. If you’re experiencing dryness in your throat, or if you feel your voice sounds raspier, it’s a warning sign that you should stop singing. 

If you really need to sing, you have to determine whether or not the performance is important enough for you to risk your voice. Refrain yourself from going all out on your rehearsals and save for it your performance. Make sure to properly warm up your voice and your body so that when it’s time to perform, you can set yourself up to succeed. 

If you want to learn more about singing while being sick, you can read this article here

19. Not humidifying your home enough

Lack of humidity in the air can be tough on your vocal cords because it can cause dryness in your larynx and the mucous membranes that line the throat. To combat this, consider buying a good humidifier from amazon that you can use in your house to regulate the appropriate humidity levels. It’s crucial for countries that have drier climates and harsh winters. 

If your throat feels dry in the morning, you should put the humidifier next to your bed and turn it on before you sleep. You’ll be surprised by how refreshing and comfortable your throat feels when you wake up! 

Your voice is your instrument

Knowing the different things that can hurt your singing voice is just the first part. Taking action and implementing them is the hardest, especially if they’re habits that have been going on for many years. If you have more than one habit to work on, try focusing on only one habit at a time. Trying to cut them out all at once will make it harder for you to follow through with it. 

Do you want to improve your singing and learn how to hit those high notes without straining your voice? CLICK HERE to get a FREE trial with 30 Day Singer!

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