Throat Tightness

You may experience a certain amount of throat tightness as you sing, especially when attempting the high notes. You may start to strain your throat muscles or even squeeze your throat unnecessarily as you sing higher and higher. Yikes!

Here’s the reason for this tightness: The sound of your voice originates from your vocal cords, which are situated in your larynx or voice box, which is in your throat. When you sing, you may subconsciously feel that you need to control your voice with the muscles that you can consciously control. So you activate your throat muscles and this creates strain in your throat as you try to control the notes you sing.

To help become more aware of what you are doing, try practicing in front of a mirror each time you sing or practice your vocal warmup exercises. This way you’ll be able to watch your throat movements and remind yourself to relax your throat as you reach for higher notes.

Whenever you sing, your vocal cords are subject to muscle tension as well as air pressure. They have to withstand the breath that you apply on them to make them vibrate and produce a sound. Since your vocal cords are situated in your throat, if your throat begins to strain and tighten, you may unknowingly also squeeze your vocal cords. This makes it difficult for the vocal cords to stretch properly and fully to produce the high notes. To sing the high notes, you need to let go of your need for more control and let your vocal cords do their work.

To some extent, some of your throat tightness can also be attributed to a lack of breath support when singing. When you run out of air while singing, you may try to support your voice with other related muscles and your throat muscles will start to strain and tighten up.

Practicing some breathing exercises for singing, as well as understanding how to achieve good breath support, will help prevent the habit of throat tightening when you sing.

Do you suffer from end of the day vocal fatigue? Throat tension and vocal stress are common complaints by a lot of people. Many voice problems come from simply being dehydrated or not getting enough sleep. This can also happen from overusing your speaking voice without using the correct placement or support, resulting in accumulated tension.

Since your vocal cords lie within the larynx in the front of your throat, when there is tension in this area, there can be a sensation of tightness, heaviness and even soreness. This can result in a voice with a thin tight sound or an uncontrollably breathy sound. Either one can lead to a sore throat and/or voice problems.

One way to understand more about throat tightness is just to swallow and to yawn. When you swallow your throat constricts slightly. This is the sensation you should try to avoid when singing. (Imagine trying to sing while you are swallowing. It’s really difficult and not very productive.) However, when you yawn, your throat is at its most open state, allowing more air to enter your body through the throat. (Some people can yawn very loudly and start very high!) This is the feeling you want.

So when you sing, try to achieve throat relaxation similar to the feeling of a yawn, allowing your throat muscles to be fully relaxed so your vocal sound can pass through without obstruction. On the contrary, if you try to control your voice by straining your throat when you sing, you’ll find that you’re not able to sing as well and probably be unable to sing the high notes properly.

Exercise For Releasing Throat Tension
1. Put your finger across your throat at the top of your larynx and swallow.
2. Notice the upward motion of the larynx.
3. Now keeping your finger at the top of your larynx, relax and begin a yawn. (It’s the sensation that occurs at the beginning of a yawn that releases tension in the throat. The full yawn brings tension).
4. Notice the downward motion of the larynx. This motion opens the throat and releases tension.
5. Yawn again at the back of your throat without opening your mouth fully. Repeat a few times letting the throat muscles slip downward as you begin to yawn.
6. Repeat the yawn and then exhale by sighing “ah” starting at a comfortably high note in your range and float downward – sounding like a sigh. This is called a “yawn/sigh” and a great way to warm up.
7. Practice releasing tension in your throat with this yawn/sigh motion several times to release throat tension.

There are many other ways to decrease tension in the throat including getting a massage that focuses on your neck and throat muscles, doing yoga to decrease overall tension, and daily neck and shoulder stretches. Also keep in mind that tension in your voice can result from stress or the inability to “speak up” for what you want or need.  Psychological tension can result in physical constriction and tension in this area. Talking things out with a trusted friend or therapist can be helpful. A physical therapist or acupuncturist can also help alleviate tension in these areas. Energy work on the chakras is another approach for those of you who are open to alternative methods.

Your throat is the center of your self-expression. Let it relax so you can fully express yourself!

6 thoughts on “Throat Tightness

  1. This is so helpful. Have a chronically sore throat, raspy from trying to sing!
    This feels like a great way to tackle the problem and it’s reassuring to understand what is happening.
    Thank you!

  2. Very timely help, Ellen. This has begun to occur more often than in the past, so I appreciate the specific remedies you offer–they make sense.

  3. You will not believe what just happened? Since march 2019 I was suffering from a throat tightness, went to doctors and ENT, and Pulmonologists even I ended up taking psychiatric therapies, everyone said you have Anxiety Anxiety Anxiety.

    Until today I was surfing and decided to surf my throat tightness, just read the exercise and voila! The tightness is like disappeared? I dont believe this, so all this time I had nerves issues not anxiety? how come the doctors are so full of …..t these days?!! Thank you so much ellen

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