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How To Avoid DAMAGING your voice permanently!

You know that feeling...

when you’re singing a tough song or you’re singing in front of people at a gig & you’re nervous, your throat feels tight, you’re not sure you can hit all the notes, your voice hurts, you know you’re straining & you’re scared of seriously damaging your voice.

…It doesn’t have to be this way. That’s why in today’s blog, I’m going to write about how to sing without damaging your voice.

Trust me when I say I’ve been there!


…It doesn’t have to be this way. That’s why in today’s blog, I’m going to write about how to sing without damaging your voice.

Are we all born with the raw potential to be able to sing like Whitney Houston? 

I can’t think of anything else that’s like singing. It’s an athletic artform but unlike dance or gymnastics there’s the common belief that you were either born to sing or you weren’t. But this simply isn’t true! Are we all born with the raw potential to be able to sing like Whitney Houston? 

No of course not but the goal is to discover your own unique voice & potential, to become the best singer YOU can be. Learning how to sing without damaging your voice is a big part of that journey.

If I told you that I was an avid tennis player & naturally talented but I’d only ever had a few lessons, didn’t work with a coach, do any specific training, study technique or follow a special diet & was wondering why I wasn’t as good as Serena Williams you’d probably laugh right? And then you’d probably tell me that if I wanted to be a seriously good tennis player that I needed to find an awesome coach & do some serious training.

But singers, think nothing of comparing themselves to incredible singers like Whitey Houston, Aretha Franklin, Arianna Grande, Lady Gaga etc & expect themselves without any proper training or coaching to magically be able to sing huge songs as well as their idols can & if they can’t they usually think it’s because they just aren’t good enough or talented enough…. 

When singers come up against vocal challenges like a tough note, phrase or song, they usually ‘try harder’ & practice more but without knowing out what the exact problem is & how to overcome it, they usually start trying to force their voice so the sound gets tight, the tough notes tougher, their voice hurts & further negative beliefs build up… I’ve been in this tangled negative loop before & it’s not fun!

Practice does NOT make perfect, it makes PERMANENT! So if you’re practising in the wrong way, any vocal problems will just get worse & potentially damage your voice.

So how can you sing without risking damage to your voice? The first thing to do, is to understand that singing is a holistic activity which means that we need to work on our mindset, our soul/emotions, our whole body & not just our voice.

So grab a pen & paper because this is what I want you to do at home…

First, we’re going to work on your mindset because a positive mindset is key to singing without damaging your voice & reaching your potential as a singer. It’s also hugely overlooked.

We constantly have thoughts flying around in our heads, every minute of every day, an inner voice constantly talking. Most of the time we aren’t even aware of what those thoughts are & a lot of the time they’re very negative stemming from negative limiting beliefs that we have about ourselves. These thoughts create emotions which in turn can have a huge effect on us physically & in turn our singing. 

Let me give you an example: If I have a new song to work on & the 1st time I sing it, my voice cracks on a tough section in the chorus, I might have the thought “That was hard”. I then sing the same song again & again each time repeating the same mistakes, trying harder, the song doesn’t sound any better, my voice hurts, everything feels bad & tight. Now I feel scared of those tough notes in the chorus & think that I’m just a rubbish singer.

That initial negative thought has multiplied, reinforced existing negative beliefs that I already had & created more - like “I just can’t sing this song”, “I just can’t sing high notes”, “I’m just not good enough”, even “I hate my voice” which is a terrible affirmation! 

These negative thoughts & beliefs have now triggered fear as an emotional response which in turn triggers physical responses in my body. My heart beats a bit faster, my breathing gets faster & shallow, my body & throat tenses up, it’s harder to think clearly & everything becomes really intense & serious making my singing & body even tighter!

If you have negative beliefs like these, even if you start to improve physically as a singer, they will continue to trigger unwanted emotional & physical events, sabotage your progress & hold you back! That’s why it’s so important to work on building a positive & supportive mindset as the foundation of your singing.

So, the first thing you need to do is to become aware of any negative thoughts & beliefs. Here’s an exercise to help you…

Close your eyes & imagine you’re performing a song. Take your time to set the scene, are you on a stage in a club or theatre? Do you have a band or backing track? Are you playing an instrument as you sing? Is it just you sat on a stool, standing or moving around? How many people are in the audience? Are they sat silent? Are they standing? Imagine yourself singing an easy song & then harder songs & as you do, I want you to make note of any thoughts, beliefs & feelings that come up for you. 

Once you have a list of these thoughts & beliefs, take a look at any negative statements & ask yourself if each negative belief is serving you then consciously choose to let it go, I like to use Louise Hay’s sentence, “This thought no longer serves me & I choose to let it go” then replace each negative affirmation with a positive affirmation. 

So, if you’ve written “I just can’t sing high notes”, your affirmation might be “I can sing high notes with effortless ease”

“I hate my voice” becomes “I love & appreciate my voice”

“My voice is weak” could become “My voice is getting stronger every day” or “Singing with power is fun & easy”. There is no right or wrong just go with what feels right for you.

Choose 3-5 affirmations that you really resonate with right now & repeat them often throughout the day like a mantra.

From now on, pay close attention to your thoughts when you sing & beliefs about yourself as a singer. Anytime a negative thought pops up make the decision to let it go & replace it with a positive affirmation.

When you face a note, song or phrase that’s hard & you’re not happy with how you sound, rather than criticising yourself, choose to view it as a challenge & an opportunity to grow & improve as a singer.

Now let’s talk about how to sing without damaging your voice physically.

Worrying about damaging your voice can make singing really scary & most definitely not fun! 

Now we can’t cover everything you need to know in order to develop a great safe technique in this one lesson but I can teach you a safe way to sing without damaging your voice!

Going back to what I said earlier, when you ‘try too hard’ & try to get the results you want by pushing & forcing your voice, you create unwanted restriction & tension in your body & often too much air pressure. When this happens, you’re in danger of damaging your vocal cords.

So, remember these golden rules for singing:


In order to sing to the best of your ability without damaging your voice, you need to learn how to sing with ease & an open, relaxed throat & body.

To do this, you need to bring awareness & focus to your singing, empower yourself with knowledge & ideally a coach & go back to basics!

If you’re not sure where to begin, you can start by watching yourself in the mirror as you sing a couple of scales & songs & ...

Ask yourself these questions:

  • ​Is my body aligned properly when I’m singing?
  • ​Am I breathing correctly & in the right places when I’m singing?
  • ​Can I feel tension in my body when I sing & if so where?
  • ​Does my neck, shoulders & or face tense up when I’m singing?
  • ​Do my shoulders lift when I sing?
  • ​Am I pushing my voice & forcing high notes?
  • ​Does my larynx shoot up when I sing high notes?
  • ​Do I jut my jaw out or lift my head when I sing high notes?
  • ​When I’m singing a scale, does the volume increase as the notes get higher?

Remember to practice...

Practice singing your vocal exercises & songs this week with a light low volume. Make sure you don’t get louder as you sing higher & consciously allow your voice to do what it needs to do to sing throughout your range. Don’t worry about how you sound at this point, the focus is on a relaxed open voice, how little effort you need to sing & how little effort it takes to go through your range. We want to start building your confidence & understanding, usually it’s not the pitch of the notes that are the problem but how we sing them! When you’re singing with ease like this, you WON’T damage your voice. From this point of low volume & relaxed ease you can start building your voice & technique.

I hope this lesson has been useful. If you’d like to learn more & continue exploring your voice & freeing your potential check out my 7 Days Singing Challenge Course, until next time…

About Karen

Karen is a vocal coach & 2x top 5 Billboard charting & BBC Radio play listed independent artist. 

She has played at some of the best venues in the world including The Isle Of Wight Festival, Bluebird Cafe Nashville, Hammersmith Apollo, Royal Albert Hall, supporting & working with an elite roster of the industry's finest artists, writers & producers, including Hans Zimmer, Robbie Williams, Ollie Murs, Mike & The Mechanics & Girls Aloud.

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