5 Bad Habits that will Kill a Singer’s Voice

Written by  //   //  Vocal Training  //  31 Comments

Have you ever wondered why some days your singing sounds better than others? Maybe one day you feel complete vocal freedom, but then you wake up the next day and you can hardly carry a tune in a bucket.

Unfortunately for us singers, our instrument is ever changing and can be negatively altered by outside sources. We literally can have a different sound from one day to the next due to different vocal circumstances. That being said, below I’m including a list of what not to do to help you stay in the best vocal health possible.

1. Sleep Deprivation = Bad Singing

I learned this the hard way. Freshman year of college I hardly ever got 8 hours of sleep… honestly, I was probably averaging 5 to 6hr/night. I also didn’t progress at all vocally my freshman year. My lack of sleep not only led to a lack of focus, but also swollen vocal cords that made my voice feel very heavy.

The following year I forced myself to get 8 hours of sleep every night, regardless of petty things such as homework (;p). This made all the difference in the world for my voice, helping put me in the best position where I could continue to grow. The moral of the story - get your 8 hours of sleep each night.

2. Screaming is our #1 Vocal Enemy

No, I’m not picking on the rocker’s reading here. There’s actually a legitimate way to produce that epic growling sound you’re looking for (though probably less than 0.1% of all vocal teachers could help you get there). No, what I’m actually referring to is over using your voice.

Lets face it, we all over use our voices sometimes. Whether it’s cheering at a high school basketball game or a college football game, talking over a band at a bar, screaming at a sibling, or maybe yelling at the dog when it’s done it’s business inside. Whatever your reason, if you scream enough you’re singing voice is going to have some major issues.

Now, I can give you tons of advice as to what to do instead of over using your voice, but in the interest of time I’ll give the you simplest answer I possibly can. Don’t Do It!

3. Don’t Sleep with Your Fan Blowing on You

I’ve known people who can get away with this one, but whenever I sleep with a fan blowing on me I always wake up with a scratchiness in my voice that lasts most of the day. If you do this and you consistently have issues with your voice, try turning off the fan and sleeping with less covers.

4. Caffeine and Alcohol Cause Dehydration & Kills the Voice.

Yes, I love Dr.Pepper. And honestly, I drink it way more than I should. This is bad because too much caffeine and/or alcohol can dehydrate the voice, causing your folds to feel very dry and scratchy. It’s not a fun feeling, nor does it make relaxing while you sing easy.

That being said, I will not tell you to stop drinking caffeine or alcohol, but what I will suggest is that you get in the habit of drinking water regularly. I’d suggest no less than one glass of water per other beverage you drink. If you do this, you’ll at least help balance the hydration issue making it less likely for you to get dehydrated cords.

5. Don’t Have Allergies :p

Don’t you wish it were that easy?! Well, of course the reality is that many of us do have allergies and it’s a real issue that we deal with on a seasonal basis. To fix this, many will take allergy medication (aka dehydrators) and others will battle this inconvenience with sheer will power.

While I don’t have a solution for allergies, I will say that water does tend to help those who are suffering from them, whether you’re on medication or not. If you don’t like water, try adding small amounts of flavor to it like lemon or a powdered mix that’ll help make it more palatable.

31 Comments on "5 Bad Habits that will Kill a Singer’s Voice"

  1. chia at · Reply

    hey – thank you for posting this up. I was curious about how lack of sleep really affected your voice, and I don’t really see much difference because I’m getting 6 at the moment, but I feel find singing. will I feel a difference if I get more sleep?

    annnd lucky I neither drink caffeine, drink or smoke. ;D clean!

    and thank you x

    Hey Chia,

    Getting the sleep your body needs will definitely help your singing voice, but it has to be consistent. Getting 8 hours just one night probably won’t be make that big of a difference, but getting consistent, good sleep should make things noticeably easier. This is partially because we can focus better when well rested, but the voice also tends to be less heavy, therefore more free.

    Glad you liked the post!

    - Ken

  2. yohane saezi at · Reply

    I always have problems to reach higher notes. I have tried so many lessons but I could not reach the level I wanted. What should I do with this problem. Now I am trying taking water regularly.

    > Response

    Well, it’s hard to tell what’s causing the limitations of your range. Long story short, it’s probably a combination of a lack of space and too much tension. For most people, singing is a real effort. If you’re having to try really hard to sing (the case if your voice is tired or maybe even sore after some singing), then unknowingly, you’re drastically limiting your range.

    The sound you produce should be dependent upon the resonance space you utilize, not your ability to push or force out the sound. Think of it this way, if you thump an empty drinking glass, it will ring loudly. But if you fill that same glass with pennies, it will make a much softer, shorter sound. If you try to thump that glass harder to create more sound, you’re going to hurt your finger! The same rule applies with your voice.

    My advice is sing at no more than a speech level. Stop trying to hit notes and simply allow them to happen. This philosophy along with a couple of neat tricks allow me to sing a connected 5 octave scale, and I believe with the right guidance, you probably could too.

    Good luck and Happy Singing!

  3. Saroj Kandel at · Reply

    Hi sir, thank you a lot for this site, I was desperately waiting for tips like this.. Sir my voice cant go deep, I mean it is perfect in my original voice but when i have to suddenly go deep, It’s very difficult to explain but when i want to go deep(like that of girls’ somehow, hope you understand) it doesnt happen , are there some practice tips to make my voice sound great in deep also?

    > Response
    Absolutely! The best way I know how to do that immediately is to play with making the sound really hooty (think Scooby Doo). This will help lower the larynx and assist in producing a lower tone assuming you do what 95% of people do when they sing low and hike your larynx.

    Try vocalizing on a descending scale singing a “Buh” sound (as in book) keeping it hooty and relaxed, making sure not to tense up the tongue. This should help you achieve better vocal balance and gain a few notes on the lower end.

  4. Alec at · Reply

    Ken, I realized that soda damages the throat, So i quit cold turkey drinking it. But i’ve been looking for an alternative to savor me the flavorlessness of water..And i turned to tea… Would tea harm the throat? iced tea. With sugar.


    > Response

    Well, tea technically has caffeine in it, so it could have some dehydrating properties, but honestly, I’m not totally against it. I personally like a mint tea… it has a nice feel on the cords.

  5. batta at · Reply

    i wanted to know how to exersize my voice because whenever i try singing a high pitched phrase my voice seem scratchy and goes down like im losing my voice (and is there a singing school for me that you would know that i could get into .).

  6. Sharron at · Reply

    Can you give me a tip of encouragement. I have a really important opportunity to win a spot on a gospel show. That is making me nervous but I know I have what it takes and I just need to calm down. But if I have nerves day of audition I already know I won’t produce my best sound. I might just go to freaking out… Any tips? Please.

    > Response
    Sorry if I got back with you too late. I’ve been a bad blogger (but there are lots of fun and exciting things happening right now!!!). When it comes to stage fright, I would first suggest checking out my Getting Over Stage Fright article that can be found on this blog!

    But for a quick fix, you’ve got to start visualizing your audition going perfectly! Some people say they can’t do that, but if you’re spending your time worrying about the audition, I guarantee you can! How can I do that? Because worry is negative visualization. If you start seeing things going well and getting comfortable with the idea of things going well, you’ll find a confidence that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

    This may sound overly simplistic, but the reality is that our “emotional mind” thinks in pictures, so if you feed it enough pictures of success, you will program yourself to emotionally EXPECT success.

    Another thing I’d remind any gospel singer of is that you can take a great comfort in knowing that you’re not going into that audition alone ;-)

  7. Mark at · Reply

    Hello, came across this website and just had to ask:
    I hardly ever sleep, so I understand the negative effects on my voice. Gettin nocturnal rest is even harder for me- However, I wanted to know, if I slept “8 hours a day” (during the day time) would that be ok for my voice? Opposed to sleeping during regular ‘night hours?’
    In a nutshell: For a singer, is there any difference between opposed Or is it that once there is an 8-hour-rest period, ud be fine?

    • 8 hours is really a guideline, so I wouldn’t get rigid on the number, though it does help in the beginning if, like me, you’re somewhat of a night owl that doesn’t always want to give your body the rest it deserves.

      Anyway, to answer your question, it doesn’t matter if you sleep during the day or at night, but I would suggest that you try to get most of your sleep at once. Taking two 4 hour naps a day will not allow your body to get the deep level REM sleep that helps to rejuvenate you.

      Hope this helps! Happy Singing!

  8. natalie at · Reply

    After searching these were the only suggestions I found. Thanks, its been helpful. I have an audition for a drama school coming up and have to sing and am so scared of having a infection or anything that might affect my voice, so I quit drinking, smoking, shouting at my son (lol), and not eating chocolate.

    > Reply
    Well, those probably aren’t bad ideas. Just keep in mind… moderation is everything. Good luck at your audition!

  9. shirley at · Reply

    Have you heard of anything to clean your teeth or mouth with other than toothpaste, mouthwash, baking soda or salt and peroxide. I have allergies to red 40, yellow 5, peppermint and many of the additives put into these products. Your posts were enlightening. I drink black coffee continuously and almost no water. I’ll try some of your ideas. I really appreciate your blog. Thank you.

    > Reply
    Hmmm, no I haven’t really looked into it. Good luck applying some of the ideas!

  10. Quite enlighten! Thanks bro.

    > Response
    When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. …don’t know why I said that, but I’m glad these tips helped! :p

  11. shivesh singh Rana at · Reply

    hiiiii sir,
    iwant to get participate in indian idol 6.plz send me steps for going in audition.
    Thank u

    > Response
    I wish I knew. I bet you can find them online somewhere though. Good luck figuring that out!

  12. Mike at · Reply

    I am a singer who has battled with allergies his whole life and would like to offer some advice to others in my situation. Purchase the NeilMed SinuFlo ready rinse system or neti pot and use it EVERY DAY. They both involve sending a large amount of saline solution up one nostril and out the other, flushing out all of the dander, dust, pollen, etc. that you’ve been breathing in. After several days of use, way less “stuff” starts coming out and you’ll be amazing at how much easier your breathing. Improved my voice a million times over. Also… See an Ears, Nose, and Throat doctor! A big problem with allergies is that they make you prone to sinus infections. You may visit your ENT and find out that you’ve been dealing with one for months and had not idea! (which is what happened to me) Good luck!

    > Response
    Agreed! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Kacey at · Reply

    Thanks for posting this!(: I just had one quick question though..what if it was caffiene free soda? Would that be okay or no?thanks again!

    • Water is still the best thing to drink, or water-based. This being said, caffeine free soda is better than caffeinated.

  14. Rich at · Reply

    Hello, whenever i try to sing my voice “cracks and squeals” like im going through puberty. I used to be able to sing well, i was in a band that toured around north america frequently. It has been a gradual decline, which has ended up with my voice at a state where if i even raise it it will crack. I do have acid reflux and i do drink alcohol alot. just reading your comments here i also realize i may not get enough sleep.
    Anyways,i need to sing again! I need to be on stage! Maybe i could get some advice? have you ever heard of someone losing their voice like this? Oh and it happens the worst when i sing vowels like E and U.

  15. Andrenia Morgan at · Reply

    As a soon-to-be music major, I am ALWAYS, always, always looking for anything that will help me improve. Now, you say that sleep helps the voice, and it makes perfect sense, but what do you do when you just can’t sleep? And do you have any other ideas for vocal improvement???

  16. Andrenia at · Reply

    As a soon-to-be music major, I am constantly searching for anything that’ll help me vocally improve myself, so thank you for the practical advise.

  17. debra at · Reply

    Tips always a good thing

  18. Emma at · Reply

    this website has realy helped my vocal lifestyle

    thx for the free vid to:)

    • singerii at · Reply

      You’re welcome, Emma. Glad to hear my video vocal tips have helped!

  19. Gracie at · Reply

    Caffeine doesn’t cause dehydration. I can give you 5 scientific journal articles to prove it, or you can just Google it.

    • Thanks for the heads up. From what I read, only excessive amounts of caffeine can contribute to dehydration. …perhaps my experience was based on the fact that I drank a lot of caffeine. Regardless, thanks for contributing.

  20. Olivia at · Reply

    Hey. Tips are helpful, but caffeine doesn’t actually dehydrate. Not that coffee and soda don’t have acid that might bother your throat.

    • singerii at · Reply

      Just did a little googling and it appears that you’re correct. Only large amounts of caffeine can dehydrate the voice, not just one or two cokes. As a general rule though, I will say this… a singer is only as healthy and strong as his or her instrument, and whatever we use to fuel our instrument can have a positive or negative effect on it. I avoid sodas, but will indulge in coffee from time to time (avoiding sugars and additives). Diet also plays a huge part of keeping a singer healthy. It’s my understanding that many sinuses and allergies are triggered from less than natural foods. Just something I figured I’d throw out there. But yeah, thanks for sharing that info Olivia! We singers no longer have to fear caffeine when taken in moderation :-)

  21. Rhiri at · Reply

    OMG…I love Dr. Pepper soooo much. I’ve often thought about balancing my Dr. P consumption with drinking water, but I was never sure if that would help. I’m glad to know that balancing the two is acceptable lol. ^-^

    • singerii at · Reply

      All of us singers have our own vices. Mine used to be Dr. Pepper as well. Balance is key.

  22. Alyssa at · Reply

    Hi there! I’m in an advance choir that starts singing at 6:45 AM ( I know right!) till 7:20 AM. I’m a soprano and it really is difficult to sing that high early in the morning. What would you recommend to keep my voice from being exhausted and also what would be the best ways to support those high notes without hurting my voice?

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