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Throat Tension When Belting and How to Fix It for Good

Updated: 6 days ago



Singers may have the right technique when they sing, but still experience throat tension, which seems to be the number one concern when I ask singers what their struggles are when they are practicing. When singers experience tension for a long time it can lead to more serious issues like vocal loss and nodules. In this blog, I'll discuss some reasons as to why vocal problems keep happening even for singers who are trained and practice every day. It may not be your technique, but it could be something you're not taking care of outside of singing that is causing these issues.


In my Belt Like a Broadway Star singing course, I provide a health guide on what to do when vocal issues occur. It seems that these problems happen most when singers are trying to sing heavy intense songs over a long period of time such as doing 8 shows a week or on tour for months.


The worst thing that could happen to a singer with a paid contract is losing their voice or having their higher range be deteriorated for good. Some singers would even turn to steroids. I am very against taking steroid shots because the long-term side effects are not worth it! It will actually cost you more money when you take short cuts like that. Such costs are from having to do repeated shots to maintain what's been damaged and even vocal surgery. Not only is it costly, but a singer who is not trained on how to properly sing when an injury occurs will sing at maximum level while the cords are numb to the pain and ends up losing their vocal range entirely. Therefore, I created a comprehensive guide on how to take care of the voice when belting songs.


Let's get into the causes of tension and how it leads to vocal problems.


  1. DEHYDRATION

First leading cause of vocal problems is dehydration. All singers know they need to drink more water. However, when we are busy and drinking water becomes an inconvenience, it's really difficult to get the full amount of water intake in for the day.


But that may be why you are having throat tension when you go to sing, especially if you are trying to belt. When you understand what water can do for your muscles in your body, you'll understand why your vocal issues are linked to lack of water.


A solution to this is eating more high-water content fruits. If you can't drink a lot of water throughout the day, at least get it in when you are eating during lunch break, snack, or dinner time.


Here's a list of fruits you can eat with water content:

Strawberries 91% water

Watermelon 91% water

Oranges 87% water

Pineapple 86% water

Grapefruit 91% water

Plum 87% water

Peaches 89% water

Blackberries 88% water

Raspberries 86% water

Blueberries 84% water

Mango 83% water


But seriously, drink 8-10 glasses of water a day if you can. DAILY!


2. SPEAKING HABITS

The second cause of vocal problems is stemming from how you are speaking. Belting is a smooth transition from speech to singing. So, if you do not pay attention to how you speak your words when you're at work or when you're teaching, it translates into your singing.


How you incorrectly speak can cause hoarseness, dryness, or irritation and all of that could lead to vocal loss or nodules. That's how serious your speaking habits are. And so maybe it wasn't your technique at all that has been causing your vocal problems, it could be something outside of singing that has a side effect to your vocal folds. 


Here's how to fix your speaking to eliminate vocal issues.


If you find yourself feeling throat tension a lot from speaking, it might be due to your overuse of glottal strokes. Glottal strokes or attacks are when the vocal folds slam together which causes vocal issues such as irritation. Over time, continuation of this can cause blisters on your folds which leads to nodules.


Glottal stokes happen most often on vowels. So what you want to do is learn how to say those vowels on the breath. A great way to work on this is looking at the lyrics in a song you want to sing, and just read the words out loud. Anytime you hear yourself attacking a vowel, link the consonant of the word before that vowel to create a smoother connection. This is also one way to help you belt in a healthy way because it'll force your sound to stay at the front of the mouth rather than slipping back down to the throat.


I talk more about this in my course and give you more examples, but I just want to give a quick answer on why vocal problems occur even if you have technique. We overlook these other factors because it's a lot more work on top of practicing our technique. However, if this is your career and you want your singing voice to get better, then you have to be serious about it or you'll always run into problems like vocal fatigue after a show, vocal loss after auditions, and even nodules.


3. BREATHING

The third cause of tension is BREATHING. Singers who have not taken the time to work on singing for breathing will experience more tension and vocal fatigue more often, even if they warm up and cool down every time they sing. Improper breathing causes other muscles surrounding the larynx to overcompensate and therefore tension and tightness happens. Breathing correctly allows your throat to open up, to be free for better control, and to fuel your voice. If you go to warm up without opening up the throat first, the exercises will be useless no matter how nice you sound. You need to take a moment to work on opening the throat through the breath before you jump into any singing exercises. It also sets up your diaphragm in a way for you to breathe deeper into the body when you go to sing. There is an order to things to help you eliminate tension. Otherwise, you'll begin practicing with tension right away.


4. REFLUX

The fourth cause of tension is REFLUX. This is where health, diet, and nutrition are important for singers, especially if you intend on belting songs as a career. Your entire body is your instrument. The voice will tell you when it's not feeling well and that usually is when a singer decides to eat junk food, fast food, and too much sugar. What we feed our bodies affect our vocal cords. Now, even if you eat healthy, the cause of vocal issues is because of reflux and that happens when you eat late at night. You can eat the healthiest thing late at night, but still get reflux and damage your voice. Do NOT eat late at night or you will have reflux. The stomach acid will be produced when you eat something, and when you go to sleep, the acid flows to your vocal cords, burning the tiny hairs off that lubricates the cords, and then you get irritation, dryness, and hoarseness. Once you feel that, tension will build because it got harder to sing. The harder you try to sing on inflamed cords, the worse it gets. If you let it continue, you can lose your voice.


I've created a list of foods to avoid and what you should eat as a singer in my belting course to make sure you have all the information you need to not only become a better belter, but a singer who can continue to work on stage without needing to put your dream on pause. The last thing you want to do is leave a contract and wait several months to recover. It will be hard to get your voice back in shape if that happens. You might as well take care of yourself now, so that you can sing in every show you can without missing any opportunities.


If you need immediate attention to your singing voice, you can always book a drop-in lesson with me. I'll take a listen to how you sing and see what's going on, but starting today, you can make changes to your lifestyle on your own that can improve your singing so much more than learning a bunch of different vocal exercises.


Happy singing!



Tina Golden

Vocal and MT Audition Coach

10+ years singing and dance experience



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