Why Does My Voice Get Hoarse? [3 Common Reasons]
I’ve been there – singing a couple of gigs in a row, or a smoky bar, a few drinks after the show talking in a loud room, maybe missing a note here or there, or even just trying to sing over the guitarist’s 100 watt Marshall amp in rehearsal; and the next day you sound like Maryanne Faithful.
You’re right to ask Why Does My Voice Get Hoarse? Because hoarseness in your singing or speaking voice is actually a sign that you’re on your way to something more serious – nodes, polyps and permanent damage to your voice.
Now that we’ve got the scary after-school-special type stuff out of the way, let’s talk vocal hoarseness.
I used to go hoarse a LOT. And I mean a LOT. Actually, every single time I sang, things just didn’t ‘feel’ or ‘sound’ right in my voice – sometimes for days or weeks on end.
Being pretty young at the time, I didn’t really think much about it – I mean, Mick Jagger has been yelling on stage like a mental patient for over 50 years and his voice is fine, right?
But what I realised at the end of the day – I’m not Mick Jagger, my voice isn’t his, and the material I was singing (well, trying to sing) was wholly different to ‘The Stones.
Challenging material, poor technique, poor foldback sound, bad habits and a warmup that consisted of a pint of Guinness and a few loud ROAR! sounds to get me into rock-God-character really had me struggling with a hoarse voice, yes, even my speaking voice, through most of my 20’s.
Fortunately, I met a voice coach that changed absolutely EVERYTHING for me in one fowl swoop by telling me that I was such a bad singer he didn’t want me back in his studio until I could sing the perfect lip trill. No vowels, no compression exercises, no vowel modification – just lip trills.
MAN did that sting. I had actually been taking singing lessons on and off for the better part of 5 years at that point – and to have someone say that I wasn’t worth the price of admission, the inner Irishman in me really got on the defensive “Thems FIGHTING words!”
As I delved into my first hour of practice at home to prove this old coot just how much he was missing out on with me as a student – I realised something truly horrifying.
I sucked at lip trills.
Oh oh – when it came down to it, was the old fellow RIGHT about my voice?
The walls came crashing down.
My ego splintered into a million… well… splinters.
And I realised I had two choices;
Lose my voice forever to the poor technique and hoarseness that had been plaguing me for years.
Go back to basics and EARN my place as his student.
But first up, I had to master the lip trill. Honestly, it wasn’t that hard with a few hours practice over the next few days and weeks – it’s just that I had never really thought about it that much before, and just powered through the trills and scales I had been given by previous teachers even though they were flipping, breaking, airy and weak.
Of COURSE I wasn’t seeing any progress as a singer – I was making the same mistakes over and over again in my practice routine and expecting different results.
Behaving the same way and expecting different results is actually the definition of madness.
So I decided to ‘get sane’ by making better choices as a singer, paying attention to the nuances that I had been ignoring and overlooking for so many years.
After a few weeks of practicing trill after trill after trill and in the process realising that prior to this;
- My onsets sucked
- I couldn’t connect chest and head voice
- I was airy but forceful (a weird combination, I know)
- My pitch was hit and miss
- I honestly had no idea how to actually sing
When I finally went back to my teacher armed with the perfect lip trill and a gloating grin on my face – I was again thrown for a loop when he said “right, now you’re ready for your first singing lesson”.
Didn’t I just spend a month practicing lip trills?
And hence I was introduced to the concept of “tabula rasa” – aka “A Clean Slate”.
At this point, with a basic lip trill under my belt my voice had become a clean slate ready to build a POWERHOUSE foundation and all round better approach to singing.
Now, you’re here because you’re going hoarse when you sing – and I’m going to tell you the #3 reasons that your voice is getting hoarse, tired and sore.
Why Is My Voice Hoarse?
Before I tell you WHY your voice is hoarse, let me first explain what exactly is going on with your voice when you’ve pushed it too far.
In most cases, hoarseness is the result of inflamed vocal folds – and do you know why your body creates swelling and inflamation?
When something is injured or irritated – basically, you’ve injured or irritated your voice by singing incorrectly.
Now, let me tell you the three reasons WHY you’re injuring your voice:
#1 – Yelling
My friend, yelling isn’t singing.
That’s right – that thing you’re doing when you “think” you’re belting is actually yelling and shouting. This push of weight, pressure and muscular force is creating tension and strain not just in the vocal folds themselves – but also in the minutae of the vocal mechanism from the TA and CT muscles, the digastric muscle, the tongue and so many other muscles and mechanisms within the voice.
Before learning how to belt (correctly this time) you must first learn how to SING correctly with full connection between chest and head voice – and no strain or tension.
#2 – Glottal Onset
My students get sick of me pulling them up on a Glottal Onset – but they’re glad that I do when their voices open up and that straining, tense, painful sensation and tone give way to a beautiful, free and pleasant voice.
A glottal onset occurs when you push the vocal folds together before singing, then push them apart with pressurised air when you sing a note.
Obviously, this makes the folds rub together at the most delicate part of the fold edge – it also requires a ton of pressure, force and pushing to start the folds vibrating. And almost as important; they sound horrible.
If you get an unintentional “UH” or “GUH” or thud/thump/grunt when you start singing – you’re struggling with a glottal onset, and you’re about to experience hoarseness if you keep it up much longer.
#3 – Improper Vowel Overtone
You’re sick of reading text – I get it. So, let me share with you exactly HOW to sing your vowel overtones correctly in this video.
(You can also watch the full video HERE to watch a “before and after” of my own singing)
Having BIG DREAMS as a singer means you need a BIG VOICE to match – watch the video above to hear my “before and after” and learn how you’re going to build a big voice too!
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