Monday, May 06, 2024

Why is my throat sore after singing?

I ran a full day of singing last Saturday. At the end, a few people came up to say that their throats hurt.

Let’s look at why this might be and how you might avoid it.

There are three main reasons why your throat might be sore after singing.

  1. You sang too loud or too long or too high/low
  2. You didn’t warm up properly
  3. Your vocal technique is wrong

(OK, there might be a fourth reason: you’re sickening for something, but that’s not to do with singing. See What to do if you catch a cold and a concert is looming and Keep it to yourself! – why colds, singing and choirs don’t mix)

1. your voice might be tired

Like any other physical activity, if you do it too much or too long or you’re not used to it, you’ll get tired. Not just your vocal apparatus, but the whole of your body, which in turn supports your voice.

If you’re not used to singing, things will probably improve the more you do it. If you sing regularly at choir for one or two hours, but then do a one-day workshop of up to six hours singing, then you’ll probably get tired. Again, the more you do it, the more your body will get used to it.

Or not. Maybe there’s a limit to how long you can sing without hurting yourself, so you might want to limit yourself to shorter singing sessions.

It may be that you’re going at it too strongly. If you sing (or speak or shout) too loud, then you will get tired much quicker. Check in with yourself and see if you can tone things down a little.

See How to pace yourself in choir rehearsals and singing workshops and If it hurts to sing, then stop!

Your voice can also tire easily if you're trying to sing too high or too low. Make sure you're in the harmony part that suits your personal vocal range. This can change over time. Your range may increase with practice but it can also decrease with age. If you find that your voice is straining during a singing session you could always move to a different part for each song.

See How to know which harmony part to sing – a guide for new singers and Do you always sing the same voice part? Maybe it’s time for a change!

2. make sure you warm up

Like any other physical activity, if you don’t warm up your muscles (and the rest of your body) sufficiently, then you can easily damage or tire them. You need to ease into singing gently. Start with breathing and stretching then gradually introduce simple sounds like sighing. Never jump straight into singing from cold. And if there is no time or opportunity to warm up properly within the singing session itself, make sure you prepare beforehand.

See Are warm ups necessary for singers? and How to warm up your voice on the bus (or any other public space) and You sing with your whole body – not just your vocal apparatus.

It’s also important to stay hydrated. However, you need to hydrate adequately before singing (several hours before so it can reach the soft tissues). Drinking lots whilst you’re singing can simply mask any pain in your throat rather than solving the problem. See Singing and hydration – myths and recommendations .

3. use proper vocal technique

What is frustrating in a one-day singing workshop (or a large choir) is that I can’t go round and give individual attention to singers. Nor can I show you proper vocal technique in a blog post. Hopefully, your choir leader will incorporate a certain amount of vocal training into your choir sessions (see Why it’s vital to include voice training in your choir leading). I have written a few posts on vocal technique which you can find here: How to sing better 3: breath control, vocal range and singing in tune.

But eventually it’s down to you, the singer, to remember to put all this technique into practice. See Mind the gap between warm up and song: how to ensure vocal technique gets applied.

If you still get a sore throat after trying these three suggestions, then don’t persist or you might damage your voice. Seek some professional help, either by approaching your choir leader or finding a singing tutor (see Do you need singing lessons in order to sing?).

Good luck!

Chris Rowbury


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