How your voice works best: techniques of Speech-Level Singing

Most singers use excessive muscular effort when they sing. Muscles the body normally uses to chew and swallow food, as well as open the (throat wider when it needs to get oxygen into the lungs quickly, are used to manipulate the larynx – forcing it up or down. This is done to accomplish a difficult pitch, increase intensity, or „improve“ the quality of one's tone. We call these muscles the outer muscles, because they are located outside the larynx.

Whenever you use your outer muscles to control your voice in any way, however, you prevent the free vibration of your vocal cords inside your larynx, and alter the relationship (and the over-all condition) of the resonance spaces above your larynx. The result is a labored and unbalanced sound.

Only when your larynx is in a relaxed, stable position can your vocal cords adjust easily with your breath flow, to create the pitch and intensity of your initial tone. And, only when your larynx is in a relaxed, stable position will your final tone contain a balance of top, middle, and bottom harmonic qualities – like a good stereo system – so you never sound „muddy“ on low notes or „splatty“ on high ones.

Yet, there's another important reason why your larynx must be kept Free of outer-muscle interference. Many of these muscles are involved in the production of speech sounds, and their interference in the tone-making process inevitably disrupts the word-making process as well. It's hard to form vowels and make consonants when the muscles controlling the movement of your tongue and jaw, for instance, are also trying to control your tone. Hence, voice production using the muscles outside your larynx is a hopeless battle in which both your tone and your words become the casualties.

Generally, when you speak in a quiet, comfortable manner, your outer muscles do not interfere with (he functioning of your larynx. That's because tone is not your primary concern – communication is. Therefore, your larynx is allowed to rest in a relatively stable, or what we call a speech-level, position. This is the ideal vocal condition or posture with which to sing.

If you can learn to initiate and maintain your tone with this comfortable speech-level posture when you sing, you can sing with the same easily produced voice you use – or should be using – when you speak. Nothing will feel any different in your throat or mouth. Both your tone and words will feel natural and sound natural.

But be careful Speech-level singing doesn't mean “sing like you speak!”

Speech-level singing is a „natural“ technique in which your voice is:

  1. Produced without effort. When you don't allow the muscles outside your larynx – your outer muscles – to interfere with your tone making process, your vocal cords are able to more easily balance with your breath flow. Also, when you free your tone-making process, you free your word-making process as well, letting you produce all your words easily and clearly.
  2. Balanced in quality. A relaxed and stable larynx results in a stable resonance system in which your voice always contains an appropriate balance of top, middle, and bottom harmonic qualities, no matter where in your range you sing.