Singing is difficult enough for beginners, let alone adding the uncertainty of an unexpected voice crack. Voice cracking is more common than your might think, and can happen to anyone. Here you will find all the reasons why your voice might be cracking.
For information on preventing voice cracks, take a look at this article.
12 Reasons Your Voice Might Crack
Your voice will crack when your vocal cords suddenly tighten or relax. This can result in either a squeak or cracking sound. You can experience cracking, whether you are male, female, young or old.
A voice crack is caused by either too much tension on the vocal cords or a lack of control of the muscles around them. All 12 causes for voice cracking listed below fall into these two main categories.
1. Singing Across Your Vocal Break
Everyone has a point in their vocal range where their voice will break. This occurs at the transition from your modal vocal register to your falsetto register. In case you're wondering, both males and females have a falsetto register.
When singing in chest voice or head voice, your vocal cords are still touching as you sing. As you transition into falsetto, the vocal cords are forced apart by the air pressure from your lungs. This often results in a crack or disruption to your voice, known as the 'flip'.
Trained singers can exercise their voice in order to hide this transition, giving them a smooth sound throughout their vocal range. Without training, you will find your voice may crack if you are singing around this transition zone due to a lack of muscle control.
You can find more information on transitioning smoothly between chest voice and head/falsetto voice in this article.
2. Singing Beyond Your Vocal Range
Singing beyond your vocal range is simply another way of saying you have strained your voice. If you push yourself to sing too high, too low, or even too loud, the muscles controlling your vocal cords will become fatigued.
As with any other muscle, fatigue can cause these muscles to suddenly cramp or give way (tighten or loosen), which will result in a crack or disruption to your voice. Straining these muscles can also cause them to become tight, making it even harder to control them.
3. Being Nervous
Nerves can do all sorts to the body, but will mostly make the muscles in your body become tense. This tension occurs in the muscles controlling your vocal cords as well.
Unfortunately, in order for the vocal cords to operate smoothly, the muscles around them need to be able to stretch and relax easily. When they are tense from nerves, they will not.
Instead, you will find these muscles loose control and suddenly tighten or relax. This is what causes your voice to crack when you are nervous.
This is incredibly common among young singers or beginners. For tips on singing with more confidence, take a look at this article.
Both girls and boys can experience voice cracking during puberty, but it is more common in boys. Regardless of your gender, your larynx (voice box) changes shape, size and thickness during this time.
If you're in the age bracket of between 8-14 years old, this is most likely the cause of your voice cracks. The change in your hormones at this age cause the larynx to grow migrate lower in your throat. The vocal cords themselves become thicker and change size.
With all these changes to your voice box, you no longer have the same control over your vocal cords as you did before. Your muscles need to re-learn how to stretch and shorten the vocal cords smoothly, without any jerky movements (which causes the cracks).
Pregnancy creates a shift in hormone levels within a woman's body that affects her voice box. If you are pregnant, this may be why you are experiencing voice cracks.
These changes are similar to those observed during puberty, in that your larynx undergoes changes that make the vocal cords harder to control. These changes are only temporary while your hormones surge during pregnancy.
To find out more about voice cracking during pregnancy, take a look at this article.
Like pregnancy, women undergo a number of changes in their hormones when they go through menopause, or 'the change'. This will start to change the shape of your larynx, making your voice weaker and harder to control.
For more information on menopausal voice syndrome, click here.
Being sick, even with something like the common cold, can create strain and tension in your voice. You may have noticed that your voice has a distinctly different sound when you are sick.
This tension and strain will make it harder for your muscles to control the vocal cords, making you more prone to vocal cracks. However, this should go away once you have recovered.
8. Being Upset
Being upset will have the same effect on your larynx as it does on the rest of your body. You may notice your body become tense or shaky when you are in this state. The same thing happens to the muscles controlling your vocal cords.
This tension and jerky movements make it very hard to control the vocal cords smoothly, causing them to suddenly stretch or loosen when you talk or sing. As a result, you will hear that characteristic crack.
Once you have calmed down, you will find your voice returns to normal (just give yourself enough time).
Dehydration can cause your vocal cords to become dry. Vocal cords are a type of mucous membrane, meaning they are a naturally moist body tissue. This makes them very sensitive to damage when they become dry.
The small tears that occur in your vocal cords are equivalent to the painful cracks that form on dry knuckles when you bend your fingers. Without moisture, talking or singing will cause damage to the vocal cords.
This damage will cause tension in the muscles around the vocal cords and the lack of moisture will make your vocal cords less elastic (meaning they cannot stretch as they normally would). Both of these issues will lead to cracks in your voice.
On average, it takes three hours for the water you drink to reach your vocal cords. So make sure to start drinking well before you sing.
10. Eating the Wrong Foods
Unfortunately, eating the wrong types of food (mainly before you sing) can also lead to a vocal crack. This is because certain foods can either dehydrate you or can line your vocal cords with excess mucous.
Foods such as dairy, sugar and fats will all cause a build-up of mucous in your throat. The crack you hear is simply the air from your lung forcing its way through the excess mucous in your throat.
Consuming caffeine or alcohol is also not recommended as these can dehydrate you. As I mentioned earlier, dry vocal cords can lead to damage and strain, which could be the cause for voice cracking.
For more information on what foods you should avoid before singing, click here.
The word laryngitis means inflammation of the larynx (including your vocal cords). This causes your vocal cords and the surrounding muscles to become thicker and less elastic.
As I mentioned before, decreased elasticity and a change in the size of your larynx will affect the control your have over your vocal cords, leading to voice cracking.
Laryngitis can be caused by either overuse of your voice (common in singers and teachers), or by a viral infection. Either way, you should see your doctor for treatment. Normally laryngitis will heal itself with vocal rest.
12. Lesions on Your Vocal Cords
Long-term damage to your vocal cords can cause lesions to form. This damage is usually caused by over-use or repetitive strain of your voice.
In some cases, lesions may form spontaneously (without reason). They can also form as a result of another underlying problem, such as reflux, sinusitis or allergies.
Lesions on the vocal cords can include any of the following.
- Scar tissue
If you have looked through the above reasons for voice cracking and can't identify with any of them, there is a good chance that you may have one of these lesions on your vocal cords. In this case, you will need to consult your doctor and be referred to a specialist who can discuss how to remove the lesion.
Some lesions may require surgical interventions, while others may just require a prolonged period of vocal rest. Either way, strengthening your voice with exercises will not make the lesions go away.