When you’re a singer, it can be frustrating when your voice keeps cracking. If it happens every now and then, you can learn to live with it, but what if it happens regularly? What causes voice cracks to happen, and is there anything you can do to stop them? Most of these answers are fairly simple, but let’s first dive into what a voice crack is so that you can understand it a little better.
What Is a Voice Crack?
Understanding what a voice crack is can help you decide what to do about it, and the explanation is simple. When you speak or sing, several things happen, including:
- Air rushes from your lungs.
- The vocal cords, also known as vocal folds, vibrate. These folds consist of two parallel pieces of tissue.
- The muscles in and around your larynx, also called your voice box, move.
If you’re speaking or singing and you change the volume or pitch of your voice, the muscles in the larynx open and close and the vocal folds either tighten or loosen. If your voice gets higher, the vocal folds push closer together and tighten up. If your voice gets lower, these folds are pulled apart and loosened up a bit. When the muscles stretch, shorten, or tighten suddenly, the voice can crack.
The thing is, there are many things that cause these things to happen and can cause your voice to crack. Once you know what a few of these reasons are, you’ll be able to do something about it.
Five Reasons Why Your Voice Cracks During Singing. Is it Normal?
Voice cracks during puberty are completely normal, not only in boys but also in girls to a lesser extent. It happens in part because hormone production is increased quite a bit to help new features to develop. These features include growing hair under your arms and in your groin, as well as the development of testicles and breasts. But puberty also affects the voice box in the following ways:
- The larynx moves down in your throat.
- The muscles and ligaments found around the larynx grow.
- The mucus membranes around the vocal cords separate into new layers.
- The vocal cords get thicker and bigger.
Because the changes in shape, thickness, and overall size happen so suddenly, the movements made by the vocal cords are destabilized whenever you talk or sing. Because of this, the muscles are much more likely to tighten or lose control suddenly, which results in a voice crack.
2. Lesions on the Vocal Cords
Whenever you talk, sing, or raise your voice for long periods of time, your vocal cords can become irritated and the tissues themselves can become damaged. These damages are called lesions, and it’s always necessary for them to heal before your vocal cords get back to normal. The thing is, while they’re healing, the vocal tissues can harden, and this results in nodules, which are essentially calloused areas within the vocal cords.
Of course, you can also get lesions due to allergies, sinus infections, and even acid reflux. Regardless of how you get them, lesions and nodules directly affect the size and flexibility of your vocal cords, which often leads to cracks and squeaks since the cords now have a hard time producing sounds that are normal. It is just a natural reaction, in other words, to damaged vocal cords.
Dehydration is bad for everyone, but especially for singers and public speakers. Simply put, your vocal cords have to be moist to move properly and do their job. When you become dehydrated, which happens quicker than you think, your vocal cords can’t move as smoothly as they normally do and can even change their size or shape whenever you sing or speak.
Dehydration also occurs when you drink too much alcohol and caffeine. Both of these are diuretics, which means they make you urinate more frequently. It is a lot harder to stay hydrated because you’re urinating frequently. This can also happen when you sweat a lot and do not drink enough water to replace the fluids that you’re losing through the sweat.
As a result, your voice can crack, become raspy, or suffer with hoarseness. The best recourse, naturally, is to drink a lot of water throughout the day. Once you feel thirsty, your body is already starting to dehydrate, so never feeling thirsty should be your goal.
4. Making Your Voice Go Higher or Lower
The cricothyroid (CT) muscle is directly affected by the pitch of your voice. It’s just like any other muscle in the body, which means it works best when you use it slowly and carefully. If the CT muscle is used too abruptly or when you haven’t warmed it up properly, it can become tight and therefore very difficult to move.
In other words, you cannot aggressively increase or decrease the pitch of your voice unless you perform some warmup exercises first. The same thing happens when you suddenly raise or lower the volume you’re using. In these instances, the muscles in and around the larynx can loosen or tighten, shrink or expand far too quickly, resulting in voice cracks.
To avoid these types of voice cracks, simply warm up the vocal cords before you change the sound of your voice.
When you get nervous or anxious, all of the muscles in your body can tense up, and this includes the ones in and around your larynx. If the muscles are tight, they won’t move like they’re supposed to, which restricts the movement of your vocal cords. This, in turn, often results in cracks or strains because the vocal cords are working hard to move as the volume and pitch of your voice changes.
Five Ways to Prevent Voice Cracking When Singing
If you’re going through puberty, just relax because your voice will eventually change to where it’s supposed to be. But if your voice cracking is due to anything else, here are some tips for preventing at least some of those cracks from happening:
- Drink lots of water. Drinking a minimum of eight glasses of water a day, preferably more, can keep your vocal cords nice and moist. Drink the water at room temperature for the best results.
- Always warm up with vocal exercises before you sing. Not just before you sing, but before you speak in public or even talk for long periods of time.
- Reduce stress or anxiety. Take a yoga class, listen to soft music regularly, or do anything else that you consider relaxing so that you eliminate as much stress as possible.
- Try not to change the volume in your voice too suddenly. Even going from an “inside voice” to an “outside voice” quickly can cause your voice to crack.
- Work with a speech therapist or voice coach if the problem continues. It is possible that you need some type of professional assistance to get rid of the problem.