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5 Bad Habits That Cause Vocal Cord Damage for Singers & How to Fix It

November 19, 2021

5 Bad Habits That Cause Vocal Cord Damage for Singers & How to Fix It

Girl Singing - vocal cord damageAre you starting to feel like you have vocal cord damage? Or trying to make sure you prevent that? If so, you’re in the right place! We will share with you 5 bad habits that can lead to damaged vocal cords and how you can heal them.

You may have heard the comparison between musicians and athletes before. Like great sports players have to prepare their bodies and minds, singers need to do the same. Let one little bad habit slip into your routine, and your vocal cords might end up in trouble.

Proper vocal care is crucial whether you’re performing on stage every weekend or simply taking voice lessons as a fun hobby. So, let’s take a look at some bad habits to avoid that can cause vocal cord damage.

How Do Vocal Cords Get Damaged?

We can easily take on a few habits without much notice that can cause vocal cord damage. These include:

  • Not staying hydrated
  • Relying on caffeine or alcohol
  • Skipping your warm-ups
  • Overusing your voice
  • Belting without proper training

Let’s take a look at how this can happen, what you can do to prevent it, and tips for healing vocal cords.

1. Not Staying Hydrated

When you sing, your vocal cords vibrate. When you don’t drink water, your vocal cords aren’t lubricated and protected.

Staying hydrated is one of the most important things a singer can do.  Keeping your vocal cords well-hydrated will help you avoid vocal injuries. This is especially important to keep in mind during the summer months when air conditioning can create a drying environment. While 8 to 10 glasses of water are recommended, you should drink more water when you’re singing a lot to protect your vocal cords.

2. Relying on Caffeine or Alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol can irritate the throat. As mentioned in the previous point, water is needed to protect your vocal cords while they vibrate when you’re singing. 

Alcohol causes the muscles in your throat to constrict, which may affect your range, and caffeine contributes to excessive dryness in the throat. While a cup of coffee to wake you up or one drink to calm your nerves before a show isn’t going to necessarily ruin your performance, it’s best to limit these drinks. And, if you do have a coffee, it’s best to follow it up with an extra glass of water.

3. Skipping Your Warm-Ups

Going back to the athlete comparison – similar to how the athlete needs to warm up their muscles to prevent injuries and help with overall performance, a singer should warm up to prevent vocal cord damage.

A voice teacher can show you various warm-ups to try, but a few popular strategies are:

  • Lip trills
  • Humming in an ascending and then descending pattern
  • Singing vowels in the same pattern

Your warm-up should leave your voice and throat relaxed and your breathing under control.

Interested in extra warm-up tips? Download our free singing video series here.

4. Overusing Your Voice

Imagine you’re at a loud concert or event. The music is so loud that you have to yell to speak to a friend standing next to you. You might not think twice about it at the time, but do this often, and you’re definitely putting yourself at risk for damaged vocal cords.

Of course, you may be using your voice often for performances and practice, so here’s how you can protect your vocal cords. Keep yourself hydrated and take breaks often to avoid overuse. If you have a performance coming up, try to rest your voice as much as possible before (and after!) the event.

5. Belting WIthout Proper Training

Belting, a style of singing that produces volume and power, can be extremely dangerous for singers who aren’t trained properly. Without this training, you may end up forcing some of the notes, which can lead to vocal cord damage. 

Healthy belting takes a lot of practice, and not all voices are made to do so. Luckily, there are other strategies you can use to generate power. Some singers take years to train their voices to belt naturally and properly. Find a singing teacher with specific training and discuss your goals. It’s recommended that you master breath control, pitch, and other mechanics of singing before attempting to learn how to belt.

Final Thoughts on Vocal Cord Damage

If you can steer clear of these mistakes that can lead to vocal cord damage, you have the best chance of singing beautifully! Remember to stay hydrated, give your vocal cords rest, and work with a singing teacher for proper training.

If you feel like you’ve already done some damage and you’re wondering how to heal vocal cords, it’s usually something that will happen naturally if you rest your vocals and stay hydrated. Warm liquids can also provide relief.


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Suzy S.