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The Voice And Ageing

The Voice & Ageing

By Sara Harris, Speech and Language Therapist specialised in Voice Disorders.

voice-and-ageing

How do we change with ageing?


Ageing is natural and affects us all. People’s voices do change with age, but the age at which these changes become noticeable is very variable, and many people weather ageing extremely well. The older voice is different from that of youth, but it also reflects the wisdom and rich experience of a lifetime.

 

Ageing and the body


Ageing changes occur throughout the body and may affect us in many ways. These general body changes can and do affect our voices adversely.

Joints and bones
Joints stiffen so that movement is restricted and often painful. The spine loses flexibility altering our posture. This can affect how the larynx is suspended from the skull and can also impact on free movement of the ribcage, making breathing more difficult.

Bones become brittle and break more easily if we fall. Breaks in the arm, wrist or hip are particularly common as we get older and take longer to heal making it hard for us to get out and about, exercise and socialise.

Muscles
Muscles weaken and lose tone, becoming thin and stringy. We notice we have less stamina and are not as strong as we once were. This loss of muscle tone may directly affect the muscles in and around the voice box (the laryngeal muscles). It also contributes to changes in general body posture. Injuries or other medical conditions may mean long periods of inactivity, which also result in loss of muscle tone.

Hearing
Our hearing deteriorates as we get older. From middle age many of us start to notice that we cannot make out what is being said against background noise. This is because the higher frequencies are lost, making sounds like “s” “sh” and “f” hard to discriminate.

If hearing is more severely affected we may find it is hard to monitor the clarity of our speech. Certain sounds may be omitted or run together making us sound slurred or muffled.

Even if our own hearing survives well, that of our nearest and dearest may not. We may have to shout to make ourselves heard and this can irritate our voices making us hoarse.

Teeth
It is important to keep up regular dental checks. Our gums tend to recede with ageing and teeth may become loose and need removing. Missing teeth or dentures that do not fit well affect the articulation of speech, making it less clear.

Breathing (the respiratory system)
The lungs lose capacity with ageing, making us more breathless. Our vocal folds rely on a steady air stream to vibrate them effectively, so speech may become effortful and we may notice we run out of breath before the ends of phrases.

The digestive system
The digestive system slows down and is less efficient. Disorders such as diverticulitis and hiatus hernia are more common in older people causing abdominal pain or increasing the risk of acid reflux. Abdominal pain can affect the way we control breathing for speech or singing, while acid reflux can irritate the throat and gullet.

Occasionally, acid from the stomach manages to spill over into the larynx causing violent coughing and irritation of the delicate membranes of the vocal folds and larynx. Even the threat of overspill is often enough to cause the larynx to rise and constrict in order to protect the airway.

The neurological system
The neurological input to our muscles changes with ageing. The overall number of nerves we have reduces and the spinal cord and brain shrink. The number of muscle motor pools is also reduced.

A motor pool consists of all the motor nerves that serve (innervate) a single muscle. The motor nerves (neurones) are the nerves that carry electrical impulses from the brain to the muscles, preparing them for movement. Every muscle fibre is innervated by a motor neurone; however, each motor neurone may innervate several muscle fibres.  As these diminish with age our fine movements, coordination and balance are likely to suffer.

This may affect swallowing, making it less coordinate so we are more likely to choke. Any food or drink that ‘goes the wrong way’ and gets into the larynx will cause paroxysmal coughing and irritation of the vocal folds.

It may also directly affect our speech in that movements of the tongue, palate and lips may slow down making speech less clear. We may also develop a tremor that affects the head, neck and voice as well as our limbs.

The brain
The brain also ages, causing it to shrink as it loses nerve cells. Most of us will notice some changes in our memories. We begin to forget things more easily, especially words and people’s names. While this is unlikely to affect our voices directly, these changes may affect our confidence in our ability to communicate easily with other. Conversation is a skill and we need to keep in practice!

 

Ageing and the voice


Normal vocal folds, closed
Normal vocal folds, closed (Photo: Tom Harris)

Bowing vocal folds with false fold recruitment
Bowing vocal folds with false fold recruitment (Photo: Nicholas Gibbins)

Bowing vocal
Bowing vocal folds in phonation (Photo: Nicholas Gibbins)

Our voices, as well as our bodies, alter over time. The most obvious change comes in boys at puberty when the larynx and vocal folds undergo a growth spurt. As the larynx grows, the vocal folds become longer and thicker and the pitch of the voice drops.

Both sexes are likely to notice some lowering of vocal pitch during middle age. Gravity causes the larynx to drop in the neck altering the distance from the vocal folds to the mouth (the vocal tract). The increase in vocal tract length alters its resonant features enhancing lower frequencies so the voice sounds lower.

Towards the end of middle age ageing changes begin to affect men and women differently. In women, the hormonal changes associated with menopause alter the vocal folds in a number of ways. They become stiffer and slightly thickened/swollen. The number of glands producing the mucus that lubricates them reduces, causing dryness, while the quality of the mucus alters becoming thicker and more difficult to clear. These vocal fold changes will significantly lower the pitch of the voice and the vocal quality will be rougher and breathier.
Men are more likely to notice that the vocal pitch rises after middle age. The vocal folds tend to lose their bulk becoming thinner and stiffer. They may lose their straight edges, so that when they close in the midline they no longer meet. A spindle-shaped gap develops between them, through which breath can escape, making the voice sound weak and breathy. This condition is usually referred to by doctors as “presbylarynx” “bowing vocal folds” or “glottic insufficiency”. Although presbylarynx is most common in elderly men, it can also occur in women in their later years.

Presbylarynx leads to a higher, often unstable vocal pitch that may yodel into falsetto. Occasionally two notes can be heard if falsetto and the normal lower voice are produced together (diplophonia). This instability of vocal pitch is most likely to occur when the volume/loudness is increased. The weak, breathy voice is harder to maintain and is physically effortful. Speaking is more tiring and may feel uncomfortable and strained. Changes in the neurological system may result in a tremor which will make the voice sound shaky, tight and strained.

The laryngeal cartilages calcify with ageing and the cricoarytenoid joints involved in opening and closing the vocal folds become stiffer. This may make it harder to close the vocal folds at the back (posteriorly), leaving a gap between the arytenoid cartilages through which breath can escape. Loss of fat and thinning of the vocal tissues may also cause a gap to develop at the front (anteriorly). This may also cause a breathier vocal quality and higher notes to ‘cut out’ in singing.

For most of us, these changes are gradual and never become severe enough to significantly affect our ability to communicate. Some people, however, are not so lucky. For them the deterioration associated with ageing occurs early and does impact on their communication and social activities. When this happens help is needed.

 

My voice has changed, what should I do?


Unfortunately many of the vocal changes associated with ageing also occur with other medical conditions. It is therefore important to eliminate any other cause before assuming any hoarseness/vocal change is due to ageing.

In order to do this you will need to see your GP and ask for a referral to an ENT surgeon or preferably a voice clinic. The general ENT surgeon can give you a general examination of ears, nose and throat, including the vocal cords. They can organise a hearing test and, if it is required, arrange for you to have a hearing aid. They can also refer you to your local speech and language therapist. However, he/she may not have access to the specialist equipment that is needed to see small vocal fold defects, such as scars, that may be altering the voice quality. The general ENT surgeon may not have a special interest in voice or be familiar with the ways in which voice production can cause hoarseness.

Voice clinics, on the other hand, are staffed by voice specialist ENT surgeons and speech and language therapists (SLT), and may have support from other related professionals, such as singing voice coaches or voice specialist osteopaths or physiotherapists. The clinic will have specialist equipment available to rule out the presence of any small or hidden vocal fold problems and the clinic team will be able to identify any ineffective patterns of voice use.

The multidisciplinary voice clinic has a holistic approach to diagnosis and usually offers longer appointments for new patient assessments. This makes it easier to identify patients with other contributing medical conditions such as neurological conditions, chest disease or gut problems. They can then be referred to the appropriate speciality for further assessment/treatment.

 

Treatment


Bowing vocal folds following injection

Glottic incompetance following injection adduction (Photo: Nicholas Gibbins)

Often vocal changes from ageing respond well to voice therapy. The voice clinic SLT will arrange this and monitor the outcome. In some cases of presbylarynx, voice therapy alone is not enough. The ENT surgeon may then offer surgical intervention. The vocal folds can be injected with fat (or some other medically appropriate filler) to increase their bulk so they are able to meet fully in the midline again. This is usually known as a ‘vocal fold augmentation injection’ or occasionally as a ‘voice lift’. The voice is usually lower and louder following the injection and the stamina improves but it may remain a little hoarse in quality.

What can we do to keep our voices good?


It is a case of ‘use it or lose it’. We need to exercise out voices just as we would any other muscle. This can be difficult for older people who may have few social contacts. They may need to be encouraged to keep using their voices and to find new ways to socialise.

We should all make the effort to see or telephone friends and relatives regularly and to talk to people in shops or on the bus when we are out. Even talking to the dog, the cat or yourself will help!

  • Try starting the day with a vocal warm up.
  • Singing has been shown to be effective in keeping the voice working well and improving wellbeing. Consider taking lessons or joining a choir. You can search online to find choirs in your area, and many do not require you to read music or audition for a place. If you don’t have access to a computer, ask in the local library and the librarian should be able to help you find one.
  • Make sure you exercise regularly – this helps keep you stronger, more flexible and improves your breathing and posture. Walking, swimming and cycling are great ways to exercise, or join a local Tai Chi, Yoga or Pilates class.
  • Make sure you eat a healthy and varied diet and try to keep your weight right for your height.
  • Keep well hydrated – eight glasses of water a day is usually recommended in addition to any teas/coffees you may drink. It helps to cut down on caffeine, too.
  • If you smoke, ask your GP for help to give up. Smoking is like taking sandpaper to your voice and puts you at higher risk of cancer of the lungs and airway.
  • Keep alcohol to a minimum. It is irritating to the membranes of the mouth, throat, gullet and stomach. It may contribute to acid reflux and it also has an adverse effect on your brain and neurology.
  • Keep mentally active. Reading the papers, doing crosswords, puzzles and games like Scrabble all help keep your mind active and your vocabulary from shrinking.
  • Make sure your hearing has been checked and use your hearing aid if you have one. It helps you monitor your speech so the articulation stays clear. It is frustrating to have to say things twice!

Although we cannot stop the ravages of time, we can all improve our physical and vocal health by following the simple guidelines above and improving our lifestyles. We are likely to feel fitter and happier as a result.

 

With thanks to: Kristine Carroll-Porczynski, Jackie Ellis, Sophie Harris, Tom Harris and John Rubin for their editing skills and to Nick Gibbins and Tom Harris for the photographs.

 

USEFUL REFERENCES:

  1. CELLULAR AND MOLECULAR MECHANICS OF AGEING OF THE VOCAL FOLD
    Leslie T. Malmgren. In: Professional Voice: the art and science of clinical care. Volume 1: basic science and clinical assessment. Chapter 11: P 205: Ed. Robert Thayer Sataloff, Plural Publishing, 2005
  2. THE VOICE AND AGEING
    American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Patient Health Information at: www.entnet.org/content/voice-and-aging
  3. THE EFFECT OF MUSIC THERAPY ON MOOD, SPEECH AND SINGING IN PEOPLE WITH PARKINSON’S DISEASE – A FEASIBILITY STUDY
    Elefant C, Baker FA, Lotan M Lagesen SK, Skeie GO. Journal of Music Therapy, 49(3):278-302, 2012
  4. THE INFLUENCE OF GROUP SINGING THERAPY ON THE BEHAVIOUR OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE PATIENTS
    Kristine A. Olderog Millard and Jeffrey M. Smith J Music Therapy (1989) 26 (2): 58-70
  5. CRACKING THE VOICE – WHAT REALLY HAPPENS WHEN A SINGING VOICE GETS OLD?
    Justin Davidson, New York Magazine, October 6th 2016 (see also the hard copy edition of 2nd October 2016)
  6. THIS IS A VOICE
    Jeremy Fisher and Gillyanne Kayes. The Wellcome Collection, 2016, wellcomecollection.org
  7. VOCAL WARM UP: PUT YOUR BEST VOICE FORWARD
    American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and neck surgery. Patient health information at: www.entnet.org/content/vocal-warmup-put-your-best-voice-forward

 

This information is intended for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner. 

http://www.britishvoiceassociation.org.uk/

Vocal Nodule

Vocal Nodule

A Vocal nodule develops as the result of repeated trauma to the vocal chords.  An example would be if you wear shoes too tight, they are going to rub , get sore and eventually will cause a blister or callous. With regards to your vocal chords, a small, soft swelling will develop at the site of the trauma, and this could interfere with the closure and vibration of the vocal chords causing hoarseness.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of a vocal nodule may include: the voice may become husky and less responsive over a certain pitch range, losing clarity and brightness.  The voice may be slow to warm-up and may sound deeper, weaker and more breathy, particularly in the upper range.  The voice may also start to cut out around certain notes.   Over time this may lead to the speaking voice becoming more noticeably hoarse and breathy.

A soft nodule can usually be treated successfully with vocal rest, voice therapy and good vocal care. A singing teacher or speech therapist can help you with your voice technique, and provide you with carefully targeted exercises to ensure your voice muscles are used effectively, and how you can use vocal care to prevent them from returning

If soft nodules are ignored, then more persistent damage may produce more fibrous scar tissue, which is often referred to as a hard nodule.  A Hard nodule doesn’t respond well to voice therapy and may require surgery.

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of nodules, please don’t ignore them.  The sooner you seek treatment, the better the result.  Speak to your GP about it.  The may suggest voice rest, or seek out voice exercises/technique from a singing teacher or vocal coach.  If your symptoms are more severe, then you may refer you to the local ENT department for further investigation.

In the past surgical outcome for vocal nodules was poor giving nodules the reputation of being the end of your career. However, surgical techniques have changed considerably recently, allowing most vocal nodules to be removed safely and effectively.

Vocal nodule (s) are a nuisance, but don’t beat yourself up about it.  If diagnosed early, then you can work at what caused them and how you can prevent them coming back:

Some self-help techniques to help prevent developing a nodule:

Avoid shouting and whispering

Try not to cough or persistently clear your throat

Keep your body well hydrated and avoid irritants such as smoke

Inhaling steam can help soothe irritated chords.

If you are singer, always warm-up  your voice before you start singing, and don’t sing too loud or too quiet for any length of time.

Listen to your voice.  If it starts sounding croaky, or begins to feel tired or sore, then you are probably overdoing it, so take a break.

Rest your voice whenever possible.

This information is intended for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.

Singing Tips

Top Singing Tips

Man Singing with Passion

Man Singing with Passion

Improve your singing with Successful Singing and our free singing tips and resources.
Whether you are a professional singer, sing in a band or community choir. Perhaps you join in at your  local on the karaoke, or just sing in the shower, there’s something here for everyone.     Why not pick up a few singing and performing tips from our free guides, or browse the above tabs to see our large range of backing tracks, sheet music, song books, equipment and accessories.

The human voice is one of the most fragile instruments, and is incredibly difficult to master. If you want to learn how to sing well, it’s going to be a long battle, but here are some great singing tips to help you avoid some common pitfalls.

1. Breath from the diaphragm. You really need to control the air that you’re expelling when you sing, and breathing from the diaphragm gives you more control to do this.  Breath in  so that you feel your stomach moving gently outwards when you inhale.

2. Practice your scales.  Yes they  can be boring, but they really will exercise your singing muscles and help strengthen your voice and extend your range.  They will also help your sense of pitch.

3. Don’t strain your voice.  Warm up before you start and don’t try to sing too loud or too high as you might damage your vocal cords. Take it slow and steady and you’ll sing well in no time. Keep your practice time to an hour or so a day, then move up if you feel like it. If you ever feel like your voice is straining, or if you feel soreness or pain, stop right away.

4. Seek out people’s opinion. Learning to sing well takes a long time, and during this time you may hear people’s comments about your voice. Use their comments constructively and if there is something you can improve on, try to work on the problem.

5. Make recordings of yourself. This is the best way to hear your problems, because you can separate yourself from your voice and listen to what other people hear. You may not like the sound of your voice at first, but keep at it; you’ll improve vastly, and you’ll start to notice stuff you like about your voice and really expand on those things.

6. Talk to established singers. Most of them will be happy to give you some tips and exercises that helped them out, and any time you need to ask for directions, the best idea is to ask the person that’s already at your destination.

7. Eat and drink well. Eat healthy and drink plenty of water. Don’t do anything that’ will affect your  voice and prevent you from singing well. Caffeine isn’t particularly good for you,  as is anything that causes mucous build-up like dairy products (drinking milk before singing is a  particular bad choice). Don’t smoke or drink too much alcohol as this can really affect your singing voice.

8. Sing for the style. If you’re singing country, listen to country singers. If you’re singing rock, listen to rock singers, etc. Notice things that are the same in each style and emulate those. Be careful, however, to keep your voice unique, and not to simply copy another singer’s voice. Allow your personality and your voice to come out in your music.

9. Experiment with different sounds. Play around with different sounds. If  you sang something with a nasal sound or perhaps a growl, would it improve what you are trying to convey in your song.  Have fun too singing your songs in a different genre ,or in the style of a different singer.

10.  Stay positive! If you’ve had a bad session, that doesn’t mean your voice is going to be bad forevermore. Have a break, address the problem and try again another day. Don’t get down on yourself, and don’t think that your voice is bad,  Mindset is definitely a big part of singing, and you need to be positive. If you don’t think you sound good, neither will anyone else.

 

Singing Techniques

Singing when done with correct singing techniques will help improve your singing voice.

Are you singing through your nose? Sing an open vowel sound such as AH whilst pinching your nose.  Listen to how your tone sounds. Does it sound normal.  If it doesn’t or is difficult to do, then you are singing through your nose.

Open your mouth  Cradle your face in your hands and gently pull down so that your jaw opens more than usual.  Now try singing with your mouth in this position and see how much easier it feels to sing.

Lip Trills This is where you blow air through your lips as if you were mimicking a horse or an engine noise with a gentle sound coming from your throat..Brass players also use this technique to play their instruments.   It sounds a bit  like you are blowing bubbles underwater.  It might take a bit of practice at first to get used to it, and if you smile, you’ll lose it.   Yes I know  you feel stupid and that it tickles your nose, but it’s a fantastic way of keeping your larynx down and not straining your voice when practicing scales or even songs.

Tongue Trills This is where your tongue rolls and vibrates against the back of your teeth, as if you were saying Brrrrrr on a cold day.   It may not come naturally to some people, and may take a bit of practice to get used to.  Its another gentle way of exercising your voice along higher notes without straining your voice.

Tongue Tension Does your tongue have too much tension?    Press your thumb up into the flesh behind the bone of your chin when you are singing.   It should feel soft and supple.   The base of your tongue is almost attached to your larynx, so if your tongue is tense, then your voice has to work harder.  Try to relax and open your mouth more when you sing.

How much air do I need? Try humming/singing through a straw.  Try not to let any air escape through your nose either.   This will give you an idea of how much air you really need to be able to sing.

 

Problems With Your Voice

Singing Should Never Hurt.   If you try to sing a song and it hurts, you are doing something wrong.  Don’t continue as this is going to cause damage to your throat and vocal chords.  You will need to identify what you are doing that is causing you to hurt.

Did you warm-up your voice before you started singing?   You wouldn’t see an athlete tearing around the racetrack without having gone through a warm-up routine.  You should do the same for your vocal chords

Are you singing too high or to low? Maybe you should think about changing the key of the song to make it more comfortable for your range.

Is it your singing technique? Many singers have never learned good singing technique, so seek advice from a singing teacher or vocal coach.They will be able to help you to identify where you are going wrong, and point you in the right direction

If this doesn’t help then a visit to your Doctor may identify what could possibly be causing your singing voice to hurt.

 

Vocal Care

Your voice is your instrument, so always take care of your body.

Drink plenty of water.  This allows the cells around your throat and larynx to be well hydrated

Eat healthy.  Junk food is so called for a reason

Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking,

Don’t shout or whisper.  It really strains your voice

Try to give your voice a day off every week, especially if you have a busy schedule.  That means no singing or talking.

 

Top Tips For Singers

 

 

About Performing

About Performing

See our guides about singing and performing.  With helpful tips and great advice

Audition Advice Whether you wish to be the next superstar, or just want a place in a band, choir or musical production, having a successful singing audition will help you achieve your dream.

Using Backing Tracks Backing tracks are audio recordings or computer generated music files that bands/singers play/sing along to.  They may also be known as playbacks, jam tracks, instrumental practice or rehearsal tracks.

Charisma – That Elusive X-Factor  The dictionary describes Charisma as: ‘A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm’. ‘Personal magnetism or charm’. ‘A personal attractiveness that enables you to influence others’.

Worry About Forgetting Your Lyrics We’ve all forgotten our lyrics at some point or another.  You’re mind’s gone blank.  A cold sweat is quickly breaking out on your back, Your audience is looking up at you. What do you do now? Have a back up plan:

Mic Technique  This is just a basic guide into microphones.  Know how to hold a microphone. Learn some mic technique for vocals and how to get the best from your microphone.

Performance Blues What happens if you don’t you love to sing anymore?  Here’s some ideas to help you overcome it:

How To Be More Confident  Feel too nervous to get up and have a go? – You are not alone. Many professional singers suffer with nerves before they sing live!   To sing with confidence? Try the following tips…

Singing With Emotion When you need to work on emotive singing, try our free vocal exercise to to help you discover singing with different emotions.

Stage Fright You hear yourself being introduced.  Your mouth runs dry.  Your heart is pounding in your chest.  There are butterflies in your stomach and you’re ready to flee…

Glossary Of Singing Terms

glossaryofsingingterms

Successful Singing’s Glossary Of Singing Terms:

A Cappella: Singing without any form of instrumental accompaniment.

Accompaniment: The instrumentation that plays beneath the singing.

Accompanist:  A pianist who plays music beneath the singing.

Adducted: The term for vocal cords getting pulled together when you sing high up in your vocal range.

Alto:  Low Female Voice

Aria: In opera, a song, especially a solo.

Arpeggio:  A staggered scale going up and down in small intervals, most commonly on the 1st,3rd, 5th and 8th notes of an octave.

Baritone: Male voice located between bass and tenor in range and tone quality.

Ballad:  A slow tempo, sentimental or romantic song.

Bel Canto: (Beautiful Singing) Singing that focuses on beautiful sound, not on acting or emotion. It’s characterized by ornate vocal style.

Belting: Using excessive air flow and vocal cord tension in an attempt to sing louder

Adam’s Apple: Common term used to describe the part of the larynx (voice box) which protrudes from the front of the neck. More noticeable in men than women.

Blend: In solo singing, the smooth transition between the head and chest voice. Or, when more than one individual is singing, the sound combination between singers, which preferably makes it difficult to pick out one singer’s voice amid the group.

Break: The sudden change in tone between the head and chest voice, caused by vocal tension. When a singer hits his or her break, there may be a sound that is jarring and ugly. This can be avoided with good vocal technique.

Breath Support: Efficient use of the singer’s stream of breath, controlled primarily by the diaphragm.

Catch Breath: A quick, short, unobtrusive breath.

Cave: The round shape at the back of the mouth.

Centred: Everything balanced, working as one.  Getting the greatest amount of power from your voice, using the least amount of effort.

Chest Resonance: The resonance sounds it comes from the chest area.

Chest Voice: Also known as “chest register.” The lower notes of a singer’s range; in the same general range as the speaking voice. When singing in the chest voice, the vocal cords become naturally thick, and the resulting sound is generally associated with deep, warm tones.  Achieved by using resonance and voice placement.

Consonant: A speech sound produced as the result of a temporary partial or complete constriction of airflow (b d f g l etc)

Diaphragm:  The dome shaped muscle attached to the bottom of the lungs that separates your chest and stomach cavities. Its main function is to initiate inhalation.

Diction: The clear pronunciation of words. This requires attention to both consonants and vowels. Different types of music may require more or less diction; for example, in musical theatre, it’s essential that the audience understand the lyrics, but in jazz or blues, the singer may occasionally slur words on purpose in order to achieve a desired sound. Good diction helps produce good sound, however, so all singers should pay attention to it.

Dynamics: The variations of soft and loud singing in a given song.

Epiglottis:  The leaf-like cartilage that separates the functioning of your oesophagus (channel to stomach) from the functioning of your trachea (channel to the lungs).

Exercise: In singing, a device (a note or sequence of notes sung in a certain manner) used to condition and/or strengthen your vocal muscles to work with the proper airflow.

Falsetto: (False Singing)In male singers, a high register (actually, sung in the female range) similar to the head voice. However, unlike the head voice, falsetto cannot blend with the chest voice.  Female’s can also sing in a falsetto range.  It has a Minnie Mouse Sound about it

Flat:  To be under the correct pitch, not quite in tune.

Forced:  Singing that is forced may sound strained, and is accompanied by unnecessary tension in the throat.

Full Voice:  As loud as a person can sing without creating imbalance between airflow and vocal cord tension. Also refers to a tone that has a balanced resonance quality.

Hard Palate: The hard area of the roof of your mouth, just behind your teeth.

Head Resonance: The Resonance is created within the head cavity. Chest Resonance is created within the chest cavity.

Head Voice: Also known as “head register.” Singing in the higher part of the range. While singing in the head voice, the vocal folds are thin; the head voice is usually associated with light, bright sounds.  Falsetto is resonated in a head voice.

Imagery: The situations, people, or emotions a singer pictures in his or her head while they sing, in order to achieve emotion and a good level of acting in their songs. Imagery may also be used to help a singer achieve better vocal technique.

Intonation: The relation of one note to another, and the relative pitching of each note. Could mean singing in tune or not.

Karaoke:  A music entertainment where the singer sings along to a pre-recorded track and follows the lyrics on a video screen.

Larynx:  The organ at the top of your trachea (windpipe) made up of cartilages, ligaments and muscles. Inside, attached from front to back are your vocal cords. Certain muscles of your larynx affect the tension of your vocal cords as they work with air from your lungs in producing vocal sound.

Legato: Singing as though all the notes were tied together; the notes flow together smoothly.

Major Scale: A diatonic scale with notes separated by whole tones except for the 3rd, 4th, 7th and 8th.

Mask: The area around and including the eyes which is often used to create head resonance.

Metronome:  A mechanical or electrical instrument that makes repeated clicking sound at an adjustable pace.  Used fo marking rhythm in practicing music.

Middle Voice: The middle range or register of the voice when singing or speaking.  Achieved by resonance and voice placement.

Minor Scale: A diatonic scale with notes separated by whole tones except for the 2nd, 3rd, 5th & 6th.

Nasal: When the voice is focused purely around the nose and nasal area.

Nodes:  A type of polyp on the vocal cords that prohibits good singing. When vocal cords get irritated (from fatigue, poor technique, an infection, etc.), they swell. Singing repeatedly with swollen vocal cords causes nodes. The only way to know if you have or are developing nodes is to go to a throat specialist (ENT). If you have frequent hoarseness or a constant sore throat, see one immediately. Treatment is usually rest, although surgery may be required in severe cases.

Over breathing: Taking a huge breath in and then constricting the lungs, making it difficult to sustain a note.

Phrasing:  Refers to the breaths or “stops” in-between notes. Natural phrasing will include “stops” after all periods, commas, semicolons, or colons. Additional phrasing may be necessary for the singer to take catch breaths                                    or to achieve a certain style. It’s an excellent idea for singers to sit down with sheet music in hand and                                                 mark their phrasing before they begin to sing. This helps prevent unexpected losses of breath and                                                       awkward phrasing that draws attention to itself.

Pitch:  The sound of a particular note. When pitch is referred to, it’s usually in reference to being “on” or “off” pitch. “On pitch” means the singer is singing in tune. “Off pitch” means the singer is either flat or sharp.

Placement: A singing technique that uses the sensation of vibrations in the head to achieve healthy sound that resonates and carries well. Most healthy singing is done in what is often referred to as “forward placement” (or “the mask”), with vibrations behind the teeth/lips, on the cheekbones, and sometimes the forehead and/or nose. The resulting sound is full, not nasally or thin.

Projection:  Generally, the ability to be heard by the audience. Sometimes also refers to the ability to communicate emotion to the audience, as in “she projects great sadness.”

Pure Note: A clear, sustained note with a controlled breath and without vibrato.  To create a true pure note, everything needs to be in balance.  Placement of the note and vowel, diaphragmatic control and vocal cords energized yet relaxed.

Range:  Refers to the notes that a given performer can sing comfortably.

Repertoire: The songs a singer knows and can perform well.

Resonance:  Occurs naturally when the voice is free to travel through the cavities above your vocal cords, where it is modified and amplified before leaving your mouth. It determines the final quality of your tone and makes your voice sound different from anyone else’s.

Reverb:  A termed used by musicians, and sound engineers for reverberation.  Usually created by a machine, or mixing desk, it gives the voice more colour, tone and presence. Usually used in studio’s and live performances.

Scale:  A series of notes differing in pitch according to a specific scheme (usually within an octave)

Sharp: To be above the note (often the result of oversinging) when you can’t hear yourself properly, so you are not in tune.

Sight Singing: The ability to look at sheet music and read sing it with near-perfection. Most professional singers can read music and sight read with at least some accuracy.

Siren Sound: Making a sound like an old-fashioned war siren.

Soft Palate: The fleshy part at the back of the mouth.

Solar Plexus: Located at the centre and base of the ribs, the soft part just above the stomach. The centre of diaphragmatic power.

Soprano:  High Female Voice

Staccato: The opposite of Legato. Each note is separate from the one before and after it.

Swallowing the Note: Pushing down too far on the larynx, strangling the vocal cords.

Tenor: Highest male voice

Tone: The quality of your voice that results from the resonance reinforcement of the tone initially produced in your larynx.

Transpose: To change the key of a song; to lower or raise the notes of a song or a portion of a song.

Vibrato:  A slight, but regular fluctuation in your tone. Caused by the normal relaxation and contraction of the vocal muscles as they are activated by alternating nerve impulses. Gives and “energy” to the tone during the vibration process.

Vocal Cords: Two muscular folds that connect from the inside front to the inside back of your larynx. Their change in thickness and vibrating length, due to adjustment in tension, affects the pitch and intensity of your tone.  Also called “Vocal Folds.”

Vowel:  A specific resonance structure through which a tone is sustained. Produced primarily by altering the size and shape of the mouth cavity and changing the position of the tongue, which determines how the resonance cavities will reinforce certain frequencies of the initial cord tone. The result of each alteration is a recognizable sound – Ah Oh Eh Ee Oo.

Warm-up:  Anything that helps the singer prepare for a rehearsal or performance. Typically, a warm up consists of vocal exercises, such as running scales.

 

clarity trio summer

Audition Advice

Audition Advice

Whether you wish to be the next superstar, or just want a place in a band, choir or musical production, having a successful singing audition will help you achieve your dream.   So many people turn up for auditions totally unprepared and are just setting themselves up for failure, yet with a little bit of homework, you could greatly increase your chances of being selected.

 Know what you are committing to

Some groups/shows/competitions require more than others.  For example a local choir probably meets one evening a week, and if you could put in some extra practice now and again, that’s great.  A TV talent show on the other hand could tie you up for several months.  Eg. Lets say you get through all the selection process and you get to appear on the live shows,  you will spend lots of time away from home/work in rehearsals as well as the shows.  Can you commit yourself to that?

You will greatly improve your chances if you are available, as a director is going to want someone reliable, as often the rehearsal couldn’t go ahead without all the team being available.

Select the right song

Choosing an audition song is difficult.  It needs to show off your voice and your singing abilities, suit the genre of what you are auditioning for, and possibly it needs to stand out from the crowd.

Your song shouldn’t be too easy, but also don’t pick something so difficult, that you struggle to sing it.

Also have a back up song, just incase you are asked to sing something else as well.

Something else to mention here about choosing audition songs.  If there are several rounds to your audition, then reserve one of your better songs for later in the selection process.  It will help pace yourself, and you know you can pull an Ace out of the bag when you need it most.

Make sure you know your song (s) off by heart, inside out and back-to-front.  Auditions are nerve-racking situations, don’t make it worse for yourself by forgetting your place or your lyrics

Be Prepared

An audition is not just about choosing the right song.  Do yourself a few favours and research what you are auditioning for.  Use the internet, to research about the group/competition, listen to the songs, watch video clips and possibly buy the sheet music to learn if it’s available.

Practice looking confident.  It will help you when your nerves kick in during the audition.  Walk tall and with purpose. Practice a few smiles and poses in front of a mirror. Learn to make eye contact, it will make you look sincere. If you practice enough, it will become second nature to you.

If you are using sheet music or backing tracks for your audition. Make sure they have your name on it, and that they are clearly labeled.  If you are using a musical score, make sure the accompanist can clearly see where you want to come in, and where you want to end (usually 16 bars).

If there is a dance element to your audition, make sure you have your dance kit packed ready, and don’t forget your shoes.  Also don’t forget a hairbrush and makeup if you wear it, etc to do some touch ups before your audition.

Auditions can be long days.  Make sure you take something to eat and drink.  There’s not always facilities to buy something when you get there.

Try to have a good night’s sleep the night before your audition, so that you are feeling your best, rather than having a night on the tiles.

Plan your journey so that you arrive in plenty of time for your audition.  There’s nothing worse than being late and completely missing your slot.

Make sure you have some warm-up scales on your mp3 player, to that you can warm-up your voice before you go in for your audition.  Some auditions have a place available for this, otherwise opt for the next best thing – the toilets seem to be a good a place as any, as many TV auditions seem to show.  By warming up your voice, it will help prevent your voice from cracking and croaking, it will also help calm your nerves and give you something to focus on.

Be presentable

Your appearance does make a difference and how you present yourself will show the auditioner(s) how seriously you want to be taken. Make sure what you are wearing is comfortable and allows you to move (and breathe in some cases!) to give your best performance.  Don’t wear killer heels unless you can walk or perform in them confidently.  You don’t want to be the one remembered for falling over.

Make an effort to look nice, but don’t go overboard.  Unless there is a dress code, smart casual usually works, a bit of makeup if you wear it, clean shoes, neat hair, and cover up too much flesh.  The auditioner want to see you, and what you can do, not how expensive your revealing dress is.  Also don’t use gimmicks like fancy dress costumes.  They will just make you stick out, and look like you’re not taking the audition seriously.  Also – you not going to get the part just because you own part of the wardrobe.

Be personable

Your audition can possibly start from the time you arrive at the venue, especially so in the case of TV talent shows.  You are being assessed by researchers, who are out looking for who/what they want long before you even get to sing.  You should always be pleasant, friendly and eager to be there.  Try to be approachable at all times.

When you are eventually called in for your audition, smile, look at them and say hello.  You will be guided as to where you need to stand and when to start.   Sing to your auditioner, make a little eye contact, but don’t stare them out so they feel threatened or uncomfortable.

The auditioner may well interrupt you before you have finished.   It is usually because they’ve heard what they need to hear.  They may or may not ask you for a second song if they’re not quite sure about you.  This will show them how much you’ve prepared for this audition.

When you have finished, they may give you some feedback there and then as to how you done, or what you could do to increase your chance for next time.  Listen to what they have to say and take it on board.  Don’t be rude or defensive.  They are only trying to help. Also don’t forget to thank them for their time.  It’s a long day for them too.

Aim high and work harder

Be prepared to work harder and longer at what you want to achieve.

Get some vocal coaching to help you with your singing and your audition technique.

Spend time in front of a mirror practicing moves and facial expressions.  The more you practice, the easier and more natural it becomes.

Listen to any comments or feedback about your audition, and take them onboard, if you made a mistake, learn from it.

Don’t make any excuses for your lack of preparation when being auditioned eg, I’m sorry I don’t know how this bit goes, or sorry I haven’t had time to practice.  It is only going to show you up as someone who couldn’t be bothered, and if you can’t be bothered, then why should the auditioner.

If you are genuinely ill, don’t make excuses for it. The auditioner will see you are suffering and is more likely to view you in a more positive way for not moaning about it.

Remember you may only have one chance to make that impression. From the moment you walk onto the stage you are being assessed.  If you come across as a positive, fun and friendly person, who has done their homework, you will greatly improve your chances of being selected as a team member.  However, if you fail to get selected this time, it doesn’t always mean you didn’t sing well. Often it is down to you are not what the auditioner was looking for this time.  Please don’t give up. Keep at it. Try, try again and one day you will succeed.

© Successful Singing