I'm a guitar player and although I enjoy singing when I play, I am not what you may consider a stage performer. I used to sing out loud everyday in my car (not yelling) on the way to work, but after a couple of minutes of doing that, my throat would get itchy to a point that I wouldn't be able to sing anymore and I would just keep coughing for a minute of two. Now, I asked the singer from my old band about it and he told me that just means that my throat is actually 'making itself stronger' when it does that. I wasn't sure if he was serious or not. I just want to know if the itching part is something that everyone has to go through and wait til it just goes away? ..or is it one of those things that I must stop immediately because I'm damaging something in my throat. I apologize if this turns out to be an 'answered' question, but I really do appreciate any answer that could shed some light about that. Thank you.
I've experienced this and from what I've read, I'm pretty sure it's actually your vocal cords touching each other, which tickles/itches and can cause uncontrollable coughing for a bit.
I suspect it's not good for your voice, but if it's like what happens to me, it doesn't matter if it's good or bad, I have to avoid it because I can't sing for a few minutes when it happens, and that won't work for gigs.
Here's my advice:
- Find a voice teacher. Be wary of "vocal coaches" as they are more often people who taught themselves to sing and have unfounded opinions and advice, rather than training. Your voice is an instrument you can't replace with a new one. A competent voice teacher who knows how to sing properly for life will help you make sure you have a voice later on when you might want it even more than you do now.
- Get and stay hydrated. Hydrate with water only, and try to keep hydrated every day. You can't hydrate in a short amount of time, so if you want to be ready to sing at a gig on Friday, you pretty much have to be getting well hydrated by Wednesday. Assuming band practice is some other day of the week, and you're practicing on your own in between, you want your voice to be always available. Cut back on alcohol and caffeine (I know, I know - decide how important singing is, the more important, the less other things - it's a tradeoff) and drink water throughout the day. Become one of those annoying hipsters with their fancy water bottles walking around always sipping water every half hour. React to people's eye-rolling by recalling that recent gig where you hit the high notes and sexy underwear was thrown at you.
- Warmup before you sing. Avoid singing for fun without warmup between actual practice sessions. Yeah, this one is just as bad as giving up caffeine and alcohol, right? Alternately, warm up before singing for fun. Excuse yourself to the bathroom if you have to (I like to sing in the car, so that is usually ok for me). Once you feel the difference a good warmup makes, you'll get it, and you'll kick yourself after 30 seconds of singing without warming up. Here's a warmup program created by doctors that works really well for me: http://www.entnet.org/content/vocal-warmup-put-your-best-voice-forward
- Sing karaoke in front of a bar, not in those little private rooms. It's really good stage fright practice and focused singing practice, and it will really help you get a feel for singing without worrying about the guitar at the same time. My stage presence as a guitarist improved a whole lot when I started doing karaoke, even when I wasn't singing as a guitarist.
As a guitar player who reluctantly learned to sing for school, and then later volunteered to fill in until the band got a real singer, and then still later offered to sing backups, and finally ended up singing backups on almost every song and leads for some covers in my last band, I've recommended learning to sing to every student I've ever taught. I used to think the best feeling in the world was hitting that big chord with the whole band and the bass and the kick drum and crash symbol and the singing going "YEAHHH!!!!" and all that, and that's a damn good feeling. Now I know the real best feeling is hitting that big chord and harmonizing with the singing and getting the harmony just right so it feels like the sound is all filling up your lungs and your whole body is resonating with the music and you're playing and singing and it is amazing and the universe is the best thing ever and you love everyone everywhere.
Ok, point is, develop your singing and take care of your voice, because you don't even know yet what amazing things you'll end up doing with it some day.
In my limited knowledge, Todd's answer pretty much says it, and Mathew's initial comment is also relevant. I would just add that RELAXATION of throat and larynx is of the utmost importance, both to the extension of your vocal range (get those high notes) and to minimize throat tiredness.
In my experience, this relaxation, if you don't have it naturally, is counter intuitive and something rather difficult (impossible, for me) to achieve without the coaching of a good teacher, no matter how many books, tutorial videos and e-courses you go through. You need to have the observation and feedback of someone knowledgeable to help you find out what you're doing wrong, look for the right sensations you need to feel in order to properly relax the larynx while pressing the abdomen at the same time, etc. So, back to Todd's number 1 advice...:-)