Want to improve your singing? How's your speaking voice?

Even for professional singers, up to 85% of their day is vocalizing for speech rather

than for singing (Chapman, 2022).

How we use our speaking voice can have quite an impact on our singing.

Those with professional speaking jobs such as school teachers, doctors, and lawyers, who are also singers or sing as a hobby, can experience challenges, particularly with negotiating the singing registers.

Speech vocal habits that can be problematic:

  • Pressed phonation

  • Glottal attacks

  • Tongue root tension

  • Lack of breath flow

  • Yelling, shouting, screaming

  • Habitual breathy voice

  • A voice pitch that is inappropriate (too high or too low)

  • Frequent vocal 'creak'

  • Muscle tension in jaw, throat, neck or shoulders.

"An overuse of pressed phonation or glottal attacks in speech can lead to difficulties negotiating the singing ‘mix’ and transitioning into ‘head’ register." Lea Baker

Poor speech habits can creep in over time and often we’re not even aware of them. They become our ‘normal’ way to talk. The sense we have of our own voice - listening to ourselves largely from the inside, is different from what we sound like to the listener. A more objective way is to record your speaking voice and listen back, ideally with headphones on. Eg start describing the suburb you live in as if someone just asked you about this. Record using your phone's voice recorder.

Observe the following in your spoken voice:

  • Clear and easy or breathy / forced / pressed or creaky sounding?

  • How often do you use hard glottal onsets? Or none?

  • Does your tone sound unusually high or low?

  • How much inflection is there (high’s / lows) ? – suitable for the context of the dialogue obviously, otherwise you just sound weird!

  • Does your voice feel easy? Or do you feel discomfort in your voice box (throat area) when speaking?

We are going for:

  • Ease ("flow" phonation), rather than pressed, forced or breathy

  • Clear sound rather than throat, crackly or creaky

  • Minimum to no glottal attacks

  • Appropriate inflections. These add more interest and give your little vocal muscles flexibility and agility.

  • Lack of muscle tension in the jaw, neck and shoulders

  • No ‘feeling’ of the voice at the level of our voice box (larynx). No discomfort.

Chapman, J. (2022) Singing and Teaching Singing (4th Edition). Plural Publishing.


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