Hoarse Voice From Singing

Do 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 it here for you own discovery of why you might be getting hoarse from singing.

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  1. billy budapest says:

    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 says:

      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.


  2. billy budapest says:

    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 says:

      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.

  3. billy budapest says:

    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 says:

      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.

  4. billy budapest says:

    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…

  5. billy budapest says:

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

    • Joy says:

      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.

  6. lisa says:

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

    • Joy says:

      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.


  7. Rick says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

        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 says:


          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,

  8. seanna Libby says:

    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 says:

      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?


  9. seanna Libby says:

    get *

  10. Seanna libby says:

    Like mucus

  11. Seanna libby says:

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

    • Joy says:

      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?


  12. Danny says:

    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 says:

      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.


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  14. breonna says:

    Hello I sing at church and very Sunday I loose my voice, I do not know what I’m doing wrong . I have never been through this before. I’m afraid to loose my vocal cords. What is going on .

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  20. Lisaellen says:

    Hi there,
    I stumbled on this page after I typed hoarse voice after singing, which has been happening to me a lot on and off since I came back from a New Zealand Tour in Oct 2013. I sing in a heavy metal band where my range is constantly challenged in one song from low, to classical/operatic vocals to full on growls. I don’t do screams, I do more death metal/ grind core style vocals very low and deep sounds but only in bridge/ chorus etc. So there is a lot of vocal gymnastics going on, switching from one style of singing to another.

    Another factor that has changed is my job I work as a group fitness instructor and I am constantly shouting over and above the music to motivate people. I started this job before the tour of NZ. Up until I started this new job I was never having this issue. I work inside its air conditioned and it is carpeted, I do get episodic asthma and if I push too hard can get exercised induced asthma. I know people with asthma type illness can also have allergies, I notice my voice is affected also by seasonal changes.

    A lot of the time I feel dry but have to keep clearing my throat but I noticed the mucus seems to come from the back of the nose and runs into my throat, though I drink water and eat very well, a low carb, low fat, high protein diet. I do smoke but I’m a light smoker anywhere from 3-5 a day to none a day. I don’t drink alcohol very often and will perform my gigs sober. I drink mostly green tea, water, coconut water and coffee with almond or soy milk only 1-2 x per week. I do not have dairy as I’m lactose intolerant and eat only gluten and wheat free due to my food allergies.

    . Earlier in the week I sing beautifully clear and no huskiness I work mon-wed 6am starts and then band practice wed 7- 10pm and then wake up Thursday with a croaky hoarse voice and then have to go to work on Friday and shout on a croaky hoarse voice. Knowing I will have a Friday or Saturday show to perform I then go into damage control and try and get the voice ready drinking warm water with manuka honey and lemon, culvita throat spray, gargling with betidene throat gargle, ibuprofen to try and reduce any inflammation and on the day I only drink warm water with the honey. I get through the show but don’t really get to rest my voice as I have to do this all over again next week.

    I notice my tongue position when singing in most part, the tip and middle part is down at the front, slightly curved at the back with a small dip through the middle and the tip is resting on the back of my teeth and when singing big and loud my mouth is wide open, jaw is forward and drops low when I hit the big notes along with the same tongue position as i mentioned but the dip in the middle is now flattened. when I do the growls the tip of the tongue is resting on the back of the lip but the tongue is still down with a little dip, as I do the growl sucking in air and not pushing from the diaphragm its on only done I some words then I switch back to diaphragm singing, i.e. “loved so selfish”, loved is growled and so selfish is sung into a crescendo and ascending pitch with a held note at the end before going back into that same pattern another 3x making a 4 bar chorus. The classical voice never seems to give me trouble when I sing only in this style and have not been shouting but mixing up between metal and classical has been quite a challenge and when I am hoarse it affects the rounded sounds of the classical voice and I have a little more husk. But when I pull it off and I am not hoarse it sounds brilliant and gives our music the drama and emotional feel to the music we are creating.

    My voice is going through a lot of vocal strain and I really need some good advice how I can nurture it in the environment it is always under. Thanks Lisaellen

    Thanks Lisaellen

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  1. [...] voice principles that will enable them to release their voices and conquer their pitch problems, or hoarse throats or fear of singing in front of people or whatever their particular problem happens to [...]

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