Singing Without Throat Pain

Doctor examining an patient's throat

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Tensing the vocal cords is one way for singers to sing more loudly, and it causes the most throat pain while singing. Healthier means include finding your breath threshold, singing into the mask, lifting your soft palate, and if all else fails, being realistic about the volume you can produce.

Breath Threshold

The breath threshold is the most efficient combination of air and muscular effort of the vocal cords. Find yours by whispering ‘ah.’ Now repeat ‘ah’ with increased air and energy repeatedly getting louder as you go until you reach your maximum volume. Your breath threshold is the ‘ah’ before your last attempt to increase air and energy or your loudest vocal sound. You should feel no throat tension and the voice should project well. If​ a pain is felt, increase air flow. Imagine the air spiraling through your throat, rather than pushing air through a hollow tube.

Sing Into the Mask

A trick for producing more volume is to imagine singing into the mask of the face, the part of the face that is covered when wearing a Mardi Gras or other mask. The physical location is just below the eyes. Focusing sound into the mask will help you become aware of when the area vibrates, which means other areas of the body are working in a way that projects the voice.

Mouth Position

Our body has natural resonators that can work just as an acoustically well-made room does. Particularly important for projection is the space behind the tongue. Imagine an egg placed in the back of your mouth, allowing the tongue to lie flat and the soft palate or roof of the mouth to rise. Once the back of your mouth is properly positioned, be sure the front of your mouth is comfortably open in order to allow sound to fill the room. You may not hear a difference in your sound, but others will. An easy test to see if your mouth position helps you project is to record and listen to yourself singing with several different techniques.

Register Shifts

An entirely separate issue outside singing too loudly that people encounter when feeling throat pain deals with register shifts. Your vocal cords should thin and shorten as you go up the scale. If higher notes are sung with a thicker and longer technique, you are pushing your lower register up. The result is a pain in the throat, pinched sound, and an inability to sing past a certain point on the scale. Instead, practice singing from the top to the bottom of your voice with a lighter, brighter tone quality. Some might find it helpful to “squeak” out the tone when first starting and add air as they become more comfortable singing higher notes.

Sing More Quietly

If all else fails, sing more quietly. You may just have a smaller voice or need time to develop your vocal technique. In the long run, saving your voice is more important than anything else. Remember that if you feel pain when you sing, you probably sound strained as well. Since we hear ourselves differently than others do, it is best to rely on how your body feels when you sing rather than what you think you sound like.

Other Causes

If none of the above methods ease your throat pain, then something else may be causing pain. A tense tongue can bunch up in the back of the throat, or you may feel pain due to health reasons. A specialist should be consulted when experiencing severe or persistent pain.