Speaking of Voice: “The Changing Voice” by Kenneth H. Phillips
Date: August 18, 2014
(Excerpted from the Choral Journal article, “The Changing Voice: An Albatross?” by Kenneth H. Phillips)
Healthy vocal production in the junior high and middle school years requires a good understanding of how vocal registers impact on vocal range. Girls who sing only the alto part often develop a one-register quality-chest voice. Some girls who sing only soprano also learn to sing in one vocal register-upper, much like boys in the English choral tradition. While this may be a safer vocal production, it results in a weak vocal quality below e1.
Adolescent girls should have a two octave range from g to g2, which is possible only when they can shift easily from lower to upper vocal registers. Phonatory exercises (e.g., pulsing the voice like a dead car battery for lower voice and imitating the wind for the upper voice) will help establish a kinesthetic feeling for lower and upper registers. Also, all girls should be given the opportunity to sing both melody and harmony parts. Junior high school is too early to limit a girl's voice to one vocal classification.
In any group of seventh- and eighth-grade boys, there will be those with unchanged, changing, and newly changed voices. If these boys are not taught to sing in the proper vocal register(s) for their stages of maturity, they will try to sing pitches that they cannot produce well, if at all, in a mismatch of vocal register and range. Boys are approaching the voice change who have not been taught to sing in the chest register below cl carry the vocal production of their boy's voice (middle-register quality) too low, thus limiting the descent of the vocal range to a weak g. Research has shown that many pubertal boys can immediately lower their vocal ranges when introduced to chest-voice quality. Pulsing the voice in imitation of a dead car battery, or barking like a big dog ("woofl"), will help these boys to locate the chest register, the voice that
most of them are using already for speech.
The boy with a quickly changing voice often loses the ability to sing in the upper range for some time. The laryngeal change occurs so fast that he can sing only in his lower chest voice. Any attempt to sing above g usually results in straining. This boy has to relearn the use of his upper voice from the top down through phonatory exercises such as descending sirens or vocal glissandi.
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