Written by: April Vargo
Singing is one of the most challenging instruments to master. As a singer there are no keys to push, no slide to move in and out, and nothing to physically hold or manipulate. Everything is internal, and subject to the elements you are exposed to, how you are feeling, and what stage of life you are currently going through. As an instrumentalist and a singer, the mental piece of singing is so much more intense then when I have an instrument in my hand.
I work with a plethora of female singers, some males, but a majority of my students are female. The recent topic of conversation has been about vocal changes. They went to bed having this amazing range, singing with ease, and woke up feeling like they lost a portion of their voice, or simply don't like what they sound like. Many express a feeling of frustration, complete confusion, and have started to doubt themselves.
This is completely normal, especially for their age group. The lovely part of life is approaching....yay puberty! All of us adults remember that time of feeling achy, our bodies are so awkward and foreign, all of a sudden we notice pockets of fat we didn't know we had, our faces are oily and the one thing no one thinks about....our voices actually start to change.
Everyone always thinks about men and their vocal changes. It's easier to notice, they have a high pitch voice one day, go away for a summer, come back and have a manly, deep voice. Many people don't talk or even think about how the female voice actually changes. Our voices actually deepen as well. Not to the extent that a man's voice does, but it deepens none-the-less.
An article by Leslie Leedberg, entitled, "The Female Changing Voice," states that it can take up to four years for a female's voice to fully change. During these four years singers can experience a loss of range, cracking, inability to support sound, and sometimes a breathy or airy sound. This is, unfortunately, natural. It's incredibly frustrating when you're going through it, but it happens to all of us.
It doesn't mean you can't sing during this time, it simply means that you have to learn how to sing with your new voice, and understand that what you're experiencing will continue to progress and change. A solid foundation of singing technique, strong breath support, and continued practice will help to get you through this phase. It's important to embrace your sound at every phrase of your life, and realize that it doesn't sound "horrible" like you think it does. Many singers will say they sound terrible, they hate it, and will withdraw. It doesn't sound terrible, it sounds different, and will take some time getting used to, but it's absolutely not terrible. In many ways it's maturing and growing.
In addition to your puberty years, every women's voice is affected by their periods. Who doesn't love that special time of month (insert eye roll). It's uncomfortable, you don't feel like yourself, and it absolutely affects your voice.
My high school voice teacher used to live and work overseas. She told me that they used to get a week off during their periods because it affected their sound and singing abilities.
It makes sense when you think about it. Your body bloats, your emotions are all over, you feel heavy and tired, and for some, it can be an incredibly painful time. All of this together absolutely affects the sound that you are able to create. Your vocal cords at this time also change and bloat in their own way. Sometimes the struggle you feel vocally, is absolutely physical and not just all in your head.
Our bodies in general are also constantly changing and growing. Think about who you were as a child and who you are as an adult, the physical and hormonal changes you have been through. This helps to change your voice and the overall sound. When I turned 30 I noticed a huge shift in my vocal range, ability to support, and style. It was a completely new learning experience for me. I had to re-learn what my voice could do, how to work with my new sound, and how to strengthen areas that were weakened. Since then, I'm absolutely loving the sound I am producing, and feel more confident then ever....it definitely took a while to get there.
I also think as females, the voice improves and strengthens with acceptance of our bodies, how we look, what we can do, and its changes. Women tend to be incredibly critical about their physique. This is ingrained through others, society, what we believe we have to look like to be "beautiful." Women should celebrate their appearance, start to realize that they rock at any size, and at all stages of life. When that acceptance happens the singing voice follows suits.
It's a very emotional and physical instrument, one that takes years to master and develop. Many singers are constantly working to perfect and hone their sound. Whatever stage of life you are at, celebrate it. Instead of running from your new sound, it's time embrace it and learn how to make it shine!