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A Strong Perspective about Adolescent Male Changing/Transforming Voices »

Here are copies of two ChoralNet site-wide Forum posts, the title of which was Vocal Pedagogy Books.  The writer's Q was on books that had info on male changing voices.  My reply expresses a strong, but reasoned, bias that I have on that subject. Thought that members of this Community might be interested
Date:November 29, 2010
I have read several articles and some research on the male voice change. I have read James C. McKinney's book and he briefly addresses the voice change. Are there any other pedagogy books that address the voice change to a greater extent?
Leon Thurman on November 30, 2010 8:44
Good on you for asking this question.  From my considered perspective, there is only one author to ever consider reading on the subject of male adolescent voice change:  John Cooksey, Ed.D..  I respect other authors for being the caring human beings that they are, and for always doing the best they know how to do when addressing the subject, but....
John's guidelines for changing voice classification and choral part assignment are the ONLY work that has been substantiated through the use of the scientific method of fine-tuned delimitations to personal human bias and the use of objective scientific data-gathering instruments (as opposed to the very subjective and easily 'biasable' data-gathering instrument we call the human brain).  Here are the only published sources that have been authored by him:
Cooksey, John (most recent edition). Working with the Adolescent Voice.  St. Louis, MO: Concordia Press.
Cooksey, J. (2000). Voice transformation in male adolescents. In L. Thurman & G. Welch (Eds.), Bodymind and Voice: Foundations of Voice Education (Rev. Ed., pp. 718-744). Collegeville, MN: The VoiceCare Network & the National Center for Voice and Speech. [presents the science]
Cooksey, J. (2000). Male adolescent transforming voices: Voice classification, voice skill development, and music literature selection. In L. Thurman & G. Welch (Eds.), Bodymind and Voice: Foundations of Voice Education (Rev. Ed., pp. 821-841). Collegeville, MN: The VoiceCare Network & the National Center for Voice and Speech. [presents the practicalities of applying John's guidelines in the real world of male adolescents.]
Information and ordering information about the latter two references can only be obtained at  Before completing his 3-year longitudinal study with two voice scientists (see later reference), John published his theory about voice change in four issues of Choral Journal (see later references).  The data he gathered prompted only one half-step pitch range change in his pre-research theory.
From October, 1978, through June, 1980, John and his research team followed 86 boys through their voice change.  The study's subjects were 12- through 13-year-old boys who were enrolled in grades 7 - 8 of the public schools in Orange County, California, and most of them (45) were vocally inexperienced and had never sung in a school choir (John wanted subjects who were like the inexperienced singers that music/choral educators actually work with). During the three years of the study, each month from October through June(nine times each year), 22 data points were taken of each individual boy, and recordings were made of their voices performing specific vocal tasks that were relevant to voice change.
After the data-gathering, all of the collected data were analyzed to detect patterns within.  For example, over 6,500 sonagrams were made from the recordings that were made of the boys in the course of the study, and those data were then computer analyzed to detect patterns of acoustic change in the output of each boy's voice. A massive amount of data were gathered, obviously, and the still-unpublished report was huge.  Right now, there is only one published source that has printed a summary of the research findings, plus some other studies that John completed over the years since.
Just so you know, Brad, I've heard choral music educators complain that John's voice classification system is "too complex" for them to use in a real-world junior high or middle school setting, and they opt for a watered-down version of John's system or another system altogether.  That's their perception, of course, and in my opinion, they choose an 'easy way out' to the detriment of some of the boys they lead. All I can tell you is that the choral educators who have learned John's system and put it into 'delightful' practice have had spectacular results because ALL of the boys become successful in-tune singers and a large percentage of them choose to continue singing through their later school years and beyond.
That's my perspective, Brad, and here are some more bibliographical sources that may or may not be of interest to you and others.
Cooksey, J.M. (1977a, 1977b, 1977c, 1978). The development of a contemporary eclectic theory for the training and cultivation of the junior high school male adolescent changing voice, Pt. I: Existing theories; Pt. II: scientific and empirical findings: Some tentative solutions; Pt III: Developing an integrated approach to yjr care and training of the junior high school male changing voice; Pt IV: Selecting music for the junior high school male changing voice. Choral Journal, 18(2), 5-14; 18(3), 5-16; 18(4), 5-15; 18(5), 5-18.
Cooksey, J.M. (1985).Vocal-Acoustical measures of prototypical patterns related to voice maturation in the adolescent male. In V.L. Lawerence (Ed.), Transcripts of the Thirteenth Symposium, Care of the Professional Voice, Part II: Vocal Therapeutics and Medicine (pp. 469-480). New York: The Voice Foundation.
[In 1984, I organized a group of voice-informed music/choral educators to give presentations on voice education in school settings at that New York symposium, and John was one of them, of course. In a subsequent panel discussion, one of the members, Dr. Friedrich Brodnitz (considered the 'dean' of ENT docs at the time), had pointedly written and spoken his strong recommendation that boys should not sing at all during their adolescent years. Dr. Robert Sataloff was also on the panel, and the founder of the Voice Foundation, Dr. James Gould, was the moderator. Yikes!! We were on pins and needles, as the saying goes, big time.  Dr. Brodnitz was directly asked if John's presentation had influenced his recommendation of no singing for adolescent males.  We were horrified and held our breath for a while.  Dear, friendly Dr. Brodnitz said, with his famous sense of humor injected, that if adolescent boys were led by people who used Dr. Cooksey's approach to singing, that singing would be just fine and safe for them to do. Wheeww!!!!!]
Cooksey, J.M. (1993).Do adolescent voices 'break' or do they transform? VOICE, The Journal of the Brisish Voice Association, 2(1), 15-39. [Europeans speak of adolescent boys' voices 'breaking.' John took a year-long sabbatical in London, working with our colleague, Dr. Graham Welch, and educating the UK music teachers and the public about voice change--BBC presentation and all that. The BVA journal no longer exists. It was folded into the journal Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, published in Europe]
Cooksey, J.M, Beckett, R.L., & Wiseman, R. (1985). A longitudinal investigation of selected vocal, physiological, and acoustical factors associated with voice maturation in the junior high school male adolescent.  Unpublished research report, California State University at Fullerton.  [This is the original report of the Cooksey-Beckett-Wiseman research.]
Harries, M.L.L., Griffin, M., Walker, J., & Hawkins, S. (1996). Changes in the male voice during puberty: Speaking and singing voice parameters. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, 21(2), 95-100.  [This article is a report of research that indicated John's voice classification guidelines matched with chronological data related to male pubertal changes in the field of pediatrics.  Dr. Harries is a pediatrician in the UK.]
There's more, but I'll stop here.  I'll now prepare my defenses against the slings and arrows coming my way from anyone who disagrees with my perspective on male voice change.  Or, maybe a discussion will break out.  Who knows?  Good luck, Brad, and be well.
A really short one, here:
I've heard a good number of good, passionate-about-music-and-singing music/choral educators pronounce the word LARYNX as:  lair-nicks.
Just so everyone knows:  That word is officially pronounced: lae'-rinks.
First syllable vowel is like the vowel in mare, and that syllable is the accented one.
Second syllable vowel, the unaccented syllable, is like the vowel in:  rinks).
Spread the WORD, United Pronunciationists of the World! (and let us all be kind--maybe even private--when we do)
on December 3, 2010 4:07am
Regarding a list of sources for male adolescent changing voices, I regret omitting the work of one of today's most prominent advocates for teaching male (and female) changing voices:  Dr. Patrick Freer, Associate Professor of Music Education at Georgia State University in Atlanta.  Dr. Freer (colleague and friend, Pat) is an enthusiastic advocate for the science-based work of John Cooksey and has quite a number of published articles, books, and a DVD series on this topic.  Locations of most of his published work:
Music Educators Journal (he's academic editor and chair of the Editorial Board);
Getting Started with Middle School Chorus (2nd Ed.)
TIPS: The First Weeks of Middle School Chorus (book)
Success for Adolescent Singers (DVD series)
Choral Journal
International Journal of Music Education
Journal of Music Teacher Education
Music Education Research
Music Educators Journal
Philosophy of Music Education Review
Research Studies in Music Education
Southwestern Musician
Teaching Artist Journal
UPDATE: Applications of Research in Music Educatio
Pat's interest in male changing voices was initiated by quite a few influences and was substantially influenced, prior to his graduate degree work, by attending summer courses offered by The VoiceCare Network where he first met and studied with John Cooksey.  Dr. Cooksey still presents significant sessions at VoiceCare's summer courses, generally titled: Lifespan Voice Education in the Real World, where Bodymind and Voice is the course textbook. If you are interested in finding out more info re VoiceCare, its summer courses, and Bodymind and Voice, go to
One more thing, Brad:  The woman who has done the most extensive work in researching the female adolescent changing voice is Dr. Lynne Gackle, currently Professor of Choral Music Education at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.  Her early voice work was patterned after John's research, and has been published in two sources, the most extensive of which is in Bodymind and Voice: Foundations of Voice Education:
Gackle, L. (1991).The adolescent female voice: Characteristics of change and stages of development.  Choral Journal, 31(8), 17-25.
Gackle, L. (2000). Understanding voice transformation in female adolescents. In L. Thurman & G. Welch (Eds.), Bodymind and Voice: Foundations of Voice Education (Rev. Ed., pp. 739-744). Collegeville, MN: The VoiceCare Network & the National Center for Voice and Speech. [presents the available science]
Gackle, L.(2000). Female adolescent transforming voices: Voice classification, voice skill development, and music literature selection. In L. Thurman & G. Welch (Eds.), Bodymind and Voice: Foundations of Voice Education (Rev. Ed., pp. 814-820). Collegeville, MN: The VoiceCare Network & the National Center for Voice and Speech. [presents the practicalities of applying Lynne's guidelines in the real world of female adolescents.]
Earlier this year, Lynne's first book was published.  It's about helping the whole human being-ness of girls, and the important role that their expressive voices can play in their growth toward full human development.
Gackle, L. (2010).  Finding Ophelia’s Voice, Opening Ophelia’s Heart: Nurturing the Adolescent Female Voice.  Dayton, OH: Heritage Music Press.
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