Hoarse Voice From Singing

hoarseness from singingDo you get a hoarse voice from singing?

I gave a Skype singing lesson tonight and my student and I were doing a serious session about the singing tongue.

We did a few tongue exercises and then we reviewed a little bit from my first singing tongue lesson post, mostly using the photo below the crazy “I Can Has Cheeseburger” type cat at the top of the post.

We talked about the importance of the tongue and how it can muffle the sound of the voice if it is pulled back in the throat, forcing the epiglottis down so that the vocal cords then have to work harder to get the sound out of the body.

And that led us to the subject of what causes hoarseness from singing.

I have articles about that subject, but I wanted to find something more visual, more alive for her to relate to.

So I did a quick YouTube search and found this very informative video made by Dr. James Thomas, M.D. in which he does a great job of clearly explaining how a person can get a hoarse voice from singing.

It is so good that I decided to post it here for you.

After my student watched the video, she was blown away it. She said that she always thought that a hoarse voice came from singing too long.

Many people think that way, but it is simply not the case.

Here is what I told her:

So you have discovered that the voice doesn’t get hoarse from over singing but rather from not knowing how to use the breath properly to support the tone, or from too much tension in the back of the tongue, right?

It can get hoarse from over-singing if you mean by pushing the voice to try and sing “over” the hoarseness or the tightness, yes?

So it is not from singing too much but from not singing with a technique that helps you free up the tension in and around the vocals so they do not get overtaxed, right?

It was cool to listen to her response to this video that I just had to embed the video here for you own discovery of why you might be getting hoarse from singing.

The good news is that you don’t have to get hoarse from singing!
You don’t have to get vocal polyps!

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • billy budapest March 30, 2011, 8:34 am

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been singing for 30 years. I have a pretty high voice and sing in clubs, etc.
    I have struggled for YEARS over stamina. I can sing 2 nights fine. The third gives me problems but isn’t impossible. A 4th in a row is impossible. My shows are about 4 hours a night and I sing 90% of the tunes. I’ve had lessons forever. I’ve also tried many of the “programs” out there. I still have stamina issues. The Phlegm sensation is something that I have a lot of, but I’ve been to a few doctors now and they’ve scoped me and have told me my chords are fine. Not sure what else would cause it, but I do know that it’s way frustrating.

    • Joy March 30, 2011, 9:32 am

      Hi Billy,

      Wow! 4 hour singing gigs! That’s a lot of work! Hats off to you for doing it.

      And thanks for being so open with me about your voice.

      I’m glad that you have had doctors verify that there is nothing wrong with your cords, so you are doing something right, otherwise you’d have trouble there.

      So, let’s break this down into your 2 issues: stamina and phlegm

      First, let me ask you some questions about the stamina problem:

        • How well are you resting at night?
        • Do you eat a lot of bread/sweets/processed foods/fast foods/soda/alcohol?
        • How much exercise do you do every day?
        • Is that exercise done indoors or outdoors
        • Do you get a lot of fresh air or go walking out in the sunshine?

      Now some questions about the phlegm problem:

        • Do you eat or drink milk products?
        • Do you smoke?
        • Do other people smoke in the clubs where you work?
        • Do you have any allergies that you are aware of?

      A lot of stamina and phlegm problems center around the things I’m asking you questions about. So, get back to me on this and we can take things a step at a time.

      Again, thanks for your questions and your trust in asking me about these important issues.


  • billy budapest March 30, 2011, 11:21 am

    I sleep OK. Some nights better than others. I perform at least once a week, and so after the performance, I’m usually fairly wired and have trouble getting to sleep. Been taking Melatonin or a half of a xanax maybe once a week.

    Sweets and Soda- I finally got off of a 2 bottle a day of Mt. Dew habit and have switched to non-caffeinated sodas. I still do have a few sodas a day.

    Processed foods, probably. We eat out a lot, though not really burgers and things like that.

    I don’t exercise much. I work a day job, play in 3 bands and also have another job that I work from home at.

    I live in Seattle. It rains constantly. Not a lot of outside exercise.

    I don’t do a lot of dairy. I might have a very small bowel of ice cream every few days. No milk though. Cheese is probably something I get a lot of, but I’ve not had any today of either of those and I still feel the need to clear my throat.

    Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Only one club I’m at has smoke in it. Haven’t been there in a bit. The rest are non-smoking.

    Not sure about the allergies. Dust I would say for sure. Might be better to do this via email as then I can be a bit more frank. I’d rather people locally didn’t pick up on this, though the Mt. Dew thing’ll give it away to may friends. Hahaha!

    • Joy March 30, 2011, 5:39 pm

      Glad to hear you are off the Mt. Dew. I know it might be hard, but if I were in your shoes, I’d get off soda all together. It’s just not good for the voice. Something in the chemicals that are used.

      That being said, I think that getting rid of excessive phlegm is best done by the process of elimination, meaning, try not eating any dairy at all, including cheese or ice cream, etc. for a week and see if it helps.

      If it does not help, then eliminate something else, like any wheat products. Many people do not do well with the gluten that is in wheat and there is a lot of wheat in a lot of food other than bread, cereal and pasta.

      I would try experimenting so you become more aware of what your body is trying to tell you.

      Ok, so no outdoor activity. I used to live in Alaska and came to Seattle to get some light, so you can image how tough it was up there! How well I remember no outdoors for long stretches of time, except to dash outside to scrape ice and snow off the car and turn on the engine heater so I could get the car started!

      Back to your voice and the stamina thing.

      When you use the word stamina, do you mean that you are getting hoarse at the gigs?

      I should have asked that in the previous comment.

      And about emails, I usually don’t do that, but we can keep this generic. No privacy type issues because of what you mentioned about the local people in your area. The thing that I have found over my years of helping people is that the more transparent they can be and I can be, the more I can help them.

      You don’t have to write anything that you are uncomfortable about. I can still help you with every bit of knowledge that I have that is possible to give.

  • billy budapest March 31, 2011, 6:06 am

    Cool. I was actually going to send you some clips, but that’s fine. I don’t get hoarse during the gigs, unless it’s a screamer song, which I don’t do much of, but even that’s not a big deal to me. By “stamina” I mean that I do good the first night. Better the second night (though my talking voice can feel a bit fatigued before I walk on), and then the third night in a row, I really REALLY have to mess with my voice (LOTS of warming up, teas, voodoo, etc.) and I can usually get through it and do well. There are times where I struggle with that third night. 4th night would probably be out of the question.

    There’s no “pain” in any of this. Just have to push more to get the notes and it compounds. Recently, because I’ve been sick recently and also working my voice a lot trying new things, I will get a bit of tenderness around my larynx, but it’s just the muscles outside of it and it doesn’t seem to really get in the way of my singing. It’s probably from trying to keep the larynx down, which I struggle with sometimes.

    As far as material it’s anything from The Beatles, Prince, Queen, Styx, Michael Jackson and more. Pretty rangy stuff some of it.

    Yeah, today, I’ve actually made the decision that I need to get off the soda. That’s kind of been the constant in my life for years. I just love it. I need something to replace it and I’m NOT a big fan of water. I only drink it when I know I’ve got a long week ahead vocally. It just doesn’t do anything for me. I’ve also heard that about wheat, but okay- No wheat, No Soda, No sugar– um… then what? (rhetorical question there!)

    • Joy March 31, 2011, 1:05 pm

      There’s no “pain” in any of this. Just have to push more to get the notes and it compounds.

      Whenever someone tells me that they have to push more to get the notes out, I start asking questions about the way they use their singing tongue.
      So, tell me, when you warm up your voice, what is happening with your tongue? Is it pulled back, is it forward, is it tight, loose, relaxed? Where is it and what is it doing?

      trying to keep the larynx down, which I struggle with sometimes.

      The tongue again.

      Tell me about your singing tongue. Your awareness of what is going on with it when you sing.

  • billy budapest March 31, 2011, 1:47 pm

    I have no idea… Seems to be in there, doing it’s tong-ee thing. 😉
    Doesn’t feel tight or anything that I’ve ever noticed…

    • Joy March 31, 2011, 1:50 pm

      Ok.Is the tip of your tongue forward? Touching your lower teeth or inside your lower lip?
      Have you explored anything on this page?

  • billy budapest April 1, 2011, 6:10 am

    Yeah, I had looked at that page before I replied. It looks interesting.

    • Joy April 1, 2011, 12:03 pm

      Good. Now, based on what you read or saw about the tongue, can you feel the lower part of your tongue muscle when you are singing? Or the tip of the tongue? As you know from the articles, the idea is to become more and more aware of what your tongue is doing so that you can exercise it is various ways in order to make it work for you in the most powerful ways possible. That’s why I keep honing in on what you are aware of about what your tongue is doing. Get in front of a mirror and experiment with it.

      • billy budapest April 1, 2011, 1:19 pm

        Thanks Will Do.

  • lisa March 1, 2014, 5:23 pm

    Is there any reversing or help with this situation of being hoarse. This tells me why but that’s all…

    • Joy March 3, 2014, 10:30 am

      Hi Lisa,

      The quick answer to your question is YES!
      Yes, you can reverse hoarseness. It is basically a 2-step process.

      • Vocal rest until the swelling that most often causes horses goes down
      • Retraining how you use your voice
      • That’s the simplified answer. Once you wrap your mind around those two things the rest is not as hard as it might seem.


  • Rick March 7, 2014, 12:31 pm

    I am the lead MC/vocalist for a hip hop band. For years I’ve struggled with going hoarse after just a few songs, and find myself straining to push through the rest of the set. It’s been very frustrating and takes me out of my zone. I don’t drink soda, but I do drink beer. I eat pretty healthy for the most part. I don’t exercise as much as I should. I try to get out for fresh air as much as possible but it’s been tough lately with the winter weather. I have an important gig coming up this weekend and would like to prevent this issue form happening if possible. I was going to try some of the warm up exercises that you suggested and was also recommended by a friend to use the “Throat coat” tea before performing. Any other tips or suggestions?

    • Joy March 7, 2014, 1:11 pm

      Hi Rick,

      Thanks for writing. Throat Coat is good. You can also take a slice of raw ginger and suck on it today and tomorrow and before the gig.

      That being said, however, the problem you describe sounds like it is a vocal technique issue and correcting it will take more than herbal tea or ginger. If you would like me to help you solve your hoarse voice problem, I would be glad to do so. I’ve helped many many vocalists to approach their singing technique in ways that promote a healthy voice rather than a hoarse one.

      A thought for you from one of my former singing teachers: “When you sing with correct technique your voice actually sounds better after a couple of hours of singing rather than worse.”

      I have found this to be true and continue to pass on my knowledge to those who love to sing and want to sing without becoming hoarse.

      Since you have the gig right away, do what you can to release the tone rather than push it out then get back to me after the gig and let’s explore ways that I can help you further.

      A final thought: you don’t have to be hoarse after you sing. You truly do not have to settle for the awful feeling of struggle and defeat because of hoarseness. Instead, trust me when I tell you, you can find great pleasure and power from having a free voice that will enable you to express yourself with more power than ever before and WITHOUT the fear of hoarseness getting in your way.

      Meanwhile, focus on having a relaxed voice while you sing and on what you are going to do differently in the future to prevent hoarseness before it begins.

      All my best,

      • Rick March 11, 2014, 8:01 am

        Hi Joy,

        Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I apologize for taking so long to get back you though. My gig on Saturday went well for the most part. I tried the tea and ginger remedies and they both seemed to help out. I still managed to go hoarse a little toward the end of my set though. I may have strained my chords after doing a song that required me to rap and sing loud and fast. I have to agree with you, that I’m probably not using the correct techniques when I perform. My voice is rapsy and growling at times when I rap. Also, I’m usually a reserved and shy guy when off stage. Do you think that has anything to do with me not being able to perform freely? To point it effects the way I perform?

        • Joy March 12, 2014, 6:47 am


          Bravo! You are digging deeply to find the answers you need for your voice and absolutely asking the right questions. I love that!

          I think you are spot on about your character on and off stage, so here is an article and mp3 interview about your authentic singing voice that I think will help you.

          After you devour that, consider getting my book that people claim have helped them in deep and unexpected ways. Here’s the link to the book so you can check it out.

          Meanwhile, keep asking me questions because that is the way you will find your answers.

          Sing well, be well,

  • seanna Libby March 12, 2014, 6:47 pm

    hi! I am in select chorus and my voice tends to her raspy and I have to clear it a lot and then sometimes I can’t even sing for like a minute
    or it’s really raspy! How can I make this
    go away and improve my singing?

    • Joy March 13, 2014, 9:18 am

      Hi Seanna,

      Thanks for writing to me about your raspy or hoarse singing voice.

      When you say you have to “clear it” can you explain to me exactly what the means? Do you mean that you have a lot of music or phlegm that is getting in the way? Or something else?


      • C September 17, 2015, 8:33 am

        Hi joy. same issue here.. im a member of a chorale group and singing as soprano.but I dont feel that there’s need to clear out (like phlegm)but my voice seems to get raspy or bubble like sounds just before our rehearsals..
        Im 23 yrs old and i did stop 2yrs singing as soprano and leave choir group.. and when i get back my voice is not the same as the way i sing before..

        Before i became being one of sopranos and discovered my own talent that i can sing headtones.. My co-members says that i look so confident to sing higher notes while i didnt even notice and feels like nothing.. just relaxed comfortable even were not yet starting on our vocal exercise.

        I dont smoke, i dont drink alcohol, i love sweets but i didnt always ate those.

        I am so frustrated to my voice now because of that “bubbles” like sounds when singing falsettos.. i am ashamed when were starting to vocalize on our rehearsals it is obvious and loud being heard from other choir members.
        Please suggest anything can help. Thanks a lot! 🙂

        • Joy October 19, 2015, 5:43 pm

          Hi there, Jaiehmgirl (I’d use your real name but don’t know it 🙂

          I like it that you know that you can sing head tones and have some confidence about it.

          But I’m concerned about the “bubble” sounds. Can you tell me more about them. Do you get hoarse?

          Looking forward to hearing back from you,

  • seanna Libby March 12, 2014, 6:47 pm

    get *

  • Seanna libby March 13, 2014, 11:11 am

    Like mucus

  • Seanna libby March 13, 2014, 12:23 pm

    And it will go away and come back immediately and it doesn’t let me reach my full potential signing

    • Joy March 26, 2014, 7:55 pm

      Hi Seanna,

      If it is mucus that is the problem then I need to ask you some questions about the types of foods you eat. Often excess mucus is caused by what we eat. Can you tell me about the kinds of foods you eat and the things you drink?


  • Danny June 18, 2014, 12:41 am

    I’m a teacher by profession who has always practiced singing on the side. I’ve had some very annoying problems since I’ve started classical singing classes, as I find that my voice gets very quickly strained when I’m required to sing in my low range voice (like use my Adams apple) . I am a countretenor and I do not feel strained or hoarse after singing high but since I am now working on developing my full male voice I am required to use my low voice to hit higher notes and I get strained and hoarse really fast. I also use more air with my full male voice even at the same volume as falsetto. Help? (I don’t drink alcohol or soda and I do get out and exercise every day.)

    • Joy June 21, 2014, 6:59 pm

      Hi Danny,

      Thanks for being so open about your voice and the problems that you are encountering.

      I’m not surprised that you are experiencing hoarseness. I don’t know the approach that your teacher is taking, but I had a lot of classical vocal training and discovered over the years of performance and teaching that one of the most crucial concepts that needs to be taught is that the voice is one voice… not several voice registers.

      This article will explain it better than I can in a short reply here. Read it and then make a comment at that page and we’ll go from there. I believe that I can help you, as I have so many others, with this crucial understanding.


      Meanwhile, focus on releasing any tension that you can feel in your throat, and do all you can to relax you tongue when you are singing.

      There’s more, but start with the article above and let me know if it helps you.


  • ken January 28, 2015, 4:09 pm

    Hello…I am ken..am 22 years old and I have been sing since I remember but I have this problem..I get hoarse after such a such time of singing…I go for choir rehearsal and b4 an hour of singing I am already sore… It pains me to see other singings like me having long singing times…even after rehearsals they are still able to sing both high and low…my voice gets restored after a period of quietness or sleep too so please what can I do to stop this soreness and elongate my singing time

    • Joy March 15, 2015, 2:36 pm

      Hello Ken,

      My apologies for taking so long to get back to you. Your comments were hidden within a bunch of spam comments, and so I didn’t see them until today.

      Hoarseness is caused by too much tension. Think of a muscle strain in your arm if you lift heavy weights for long periods of time before you have built up the arm muscles to be able to handle the stress load.

      In singing, tension can be cause by any number of things: forcing the breath out too fast and hard, a tight jaw or tongue, reversed breathing, etc.

      There are a number of techniques to increase the strength of your staying power with voice, but I recommend that you start with 2 things first:

    • Your breathing techniques
    • Relaxing your jaw and tongue
    • You can use these to help yourself for free:
      Slow Leaky Tire
      The Dog Pant

      Also, follow the links in those articles and find more info and help. And if you have not signed up for my 10 FREE YOUR VOICE QUICK TIPS, do it now!

      And stay in touch me, ask questions, like this page and the site, etc. It takes a community to help one another!


  • Liv March 13, 2015, 8:52 pm

    I study voice at my university and for the past 3 lessons I’m very hoarse before my lessons are over ( lessons are about 45 min each) after my last one I barely had a voice and it hurt to talk and. If I rest my voice the talking sounds a little better but my throat still hurts, Even when practicing, And being a soprano singing arias isn’t helping and during my last lesson on the high notes my voice was cutting in and out. I know i need to rest my voice, and not whisper, for a little but any advice?

    • Joy March 15, 2015, 2:12 pm

      Hi Liv,

      Thanks for writing to me. Being a soprano who also studied arias, I know this: you should never be hoarse after a lesson! If you are, I would like to know what the teacher is telling you to do.

      One of my most influential teachers told me this: “When you vocalize, your voice should not get more hoarse after an hour’s worth of singing (or 2 hours+), but more flexible and fluid.” And she showed me why that is true by carefully guiding me higher and higher without any strain whatsoever. The moment she sensed any strain, she immediately stopped whatever we were doing and taught me more of the principles for effortless singing.

      I had other teachers who pushed me too high and I would get hoarse. Those teachers did not have the amount of knowledge or personal performance experience that the other one did, which it did.

      It was a no-brainer: either risk getting polyps on my vocal cords because of the lack of effective teaching techniques from one teacher, or make sure that my voice became stronger, more powerful, more fluid, more beautiful, higher (and lower) without the slightest bit of strain with the other teacher.

      We are working with muscles here, delicate muscles, at that. Hoarseness results from pushing out the breath too hard, having a tight tongue and jaw, going too high too soon, etc. It is the job of a vocal instructor to prevent hoarseness, not cause it.

      Please stay in touch with me about this issue. I’ve worked with lots of people and never do I advocate forcing the voice to go up higher unless the person is ready for it. And even then, I will only encourage someone to approach higher notes in small increments by utilizing vocal techniques built on time-honored principles that DO NOT produce hoarseness.

      I do not mean to criticize your teacher, but something isn’t right here and it doesn’t sound like it is your fault.


  • James May 6, 2015, 5:29 am

    Hey joy…..last year I hav been indulged with my colleagues in singing …and in that enjoyment sang at high pitch..nd since then..I don’t know what’s wrong with my voice…I become hoarse after about 2-3 songs….also speaking makes me sore…….I went to the doc …he says my chords are in perfect shape…everything is fine!!…..still I don’t know what’s wrong with me…I am scared is it permanent damage..is there a thing like permanent damage…please help

    • Joy June 26, 2015, 6:32 pm


      My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. My website was hacked and it took longer than expected to get it back up and running even to the point where it is now.

      I understand your fears about hoarseness and permanent damage because I too have had those fears in the past.
      Here are 2 articles to help you.

      I am here to help so stay in touch.

  • Sophie June 16, 2015, 6:22 pm

    Hi Joy,

    I just turned 19 and have been singing in various choirs and show choirs since the 4th grade. I’ve learned from teachers along the way how to lift my soft pallet to resonate tone (which they described as the proper mechanics for singing). I’m almost certain that I’m doing it correctly, because I can tell the difference between the way I sing now and the way I used to sing, with the soft pallet lifted.

    For some reason, after about 10-20 minutes of any type of singing I start to lose my voice, and sometimes start to feel phlegmy. I used to have terrible pain in my throat randomly (probably caused from trying to use my voice even when it was starting to hurt), so I went to an ENT. She said that my vocal chords looked good, but the area behind them was enflamed and recommended I get checked for acid reflux. I got tested for acid reflux, but the test came back negative, leaving me completely stumped. I’ve been facing the voice hoarseness for about 3 years now and the problem hasn’t gone away. I’m really not sure what to do about it at this point because I love to sing, but can’t commit to anymore choirs with a voice that’s so unreliable.

    I’ve cut dairy and sugar from my diet almost entirely, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink soda, I get a decent amount of sleep at night, I exercise multiple times a week, and I drink lots of water. Do you have any other suggestions for things I could try?

    Thank you,


    • Joy June 26, 2015, 2:22 pm

      Hi Sophie,

      I’m sorry to hear that you are having such a rough go of this throat problem. It can especially discouraging when doctors do not find the root cause of the problem and therefore do not know how to treat the problem.

      Before I try to help yo (and I most willing to do that), I need to say that am not a doctor, nor do I have any medical training, and so cannot give any medical advice to you.

      That being said, let’s see what we can do together.

      First, can you specify the very specific area that is inflamed by going to this page and identifying it? Or did your doctor give you the exact term for the area that is inflamed? Locate it on this page from one of the 2 images and then tell me what it is. Then we can go from there.

      Meanwhile, read this article if you have not yet read it. It also has to do with getting help for singing hoarseness.

      And be sure to absorb everything you can on my site.


  • George June 25, 2015, 8:11 am

    I just wanted to say thank you for the help you provide! I have also trouble when singing, i go hoarse after 1 to 1,5 hours and sometimes when speaking carelessly – loud and for long time. I will read what you suggested at the previous posts and come back if i still got problems.

    Again a big thank you for your help, wish you the best!

    • Joy June 25, 2015, 4:24 pm

      Hi George,

      You are most welcome and thanks for your encouraging words.

      Keep me posted and be sure to look at these articles on breathing too, because how you use your singing breath can contribute to hoarseness while singing.

      Sing well, be well!

  • Laura October 18, 2015, 2:52 pm

    Hi! I looked at the video and I was just trying to figure out what was it suppose to help me with. Im struggling with the hoarseness of my voice every time I sing just one song. I do my vocal practices before because I was asked to and it’s the same outcome. And by the time I’m ready to sing I can’t even feel the power in my voice, it’s really frustrating

    • Joy October 19, 2015, 5:39 pm

      Hi Laura,

      Thanks for writing about the hoarseness that is happening when you sing just one song. I’m not sure what vocal practices you are doing or who asked you to do them, but something isn’t working right. I’d love to help you… so tell me more specifics about what kind of vocal things you are doing for warming up.

      All my best,

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