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Voice-Related Links

Some good information on the physiology of the voice and voice disorders can be found at:

The Voice Foundation.

Vocal fry is very common these days. Is it hurting your voice?

What about those kids on America’s Got Talent?

What things cause wear and tear on your voice, and what happens as you get older?

Alexander Technique

This is Dr. Larry Hensel’s website. Alexander practitioners are rare in this part of the country. He’s in Laramie.

Would you like to see what the vocal folds look like? – Explanation and diagrams  – Quartet scoped – Scope and no scope

I’ll bet there are some things you’ve got wrong about the Copyright law.

What can you do with a music degree?

Interesting talk about what your speaking voice conveys to the listener, regardless what you say.

Your thinking can have a lot to do with your success as a performer, perhaps especially so for singers.

Some Common Pronunciation Errors

The way we usually speak is not necessarily appropriate for singing.  What with regional dialects and general sloppiness, we put up with much inaccurate speech that we don’t even notice. When singing in English the best way to be understood is to use what’s sometimes called Elevated Standard American English. It’s what has long been equated with “correct” pronunciation. Before CNN came along, all national newscasters would have sounded like this. It was considered understandable to all Americans, with just a bit of an educated and authoritative quality.  (Note: This may not be the way to say the words of a country song, spiritual, character piece or Death Metal hit, but familiarity with proper pronunciation helps all singers make better choices.)

There are a huge number of words that are commonly mispronounced. See if you say these words correctly:

  1. Recognize – Don’t forget the G.
  2. Strong – There is no SH at the beginning.
  3. New – Should rhyme with few.
  4. Pen – In this part of the country it often rhymes with pin. Incorrect!
  5. Immediate – Does not start with uh.
  6. Dream – There’s no J at the beginning
  7. Tree – No CH at the beginning.
  8. Twenty – Eh, not uh, and there’s that second T to remember.
  9. Educate – That’s a D, not a J. Try Ed-yoo-kate
  10. I’ll – Should rhyme with aisle.

For some reason, Israel is not sung the way we say it. It is sung Iz-rah-el. That’s actually closer to the way it’s spelled.

Remember that English is hardly ever phonetic. When you learned to read, sounding out a word may have given you trouble with  nuptial, iron and thigh, along with many others. And if you compare through, though, ought, and rough, you can see that the way words are spelled can be very misleading. Singers need to be aware of the sounds of a word not the spelling.

The International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA, is used to write out the way a word sounds, and is used by singers to notate foreign words as well as correct English pronunciation.

What’s Your Voice Type?

Most people have heard of Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass. These divisions are
used in choirs in the western or European tradition, and basically just divide
high and low women and high and low men. Solo singers usually want to know their
own voice types more precisely. Classical singers have the most complex system,
which helps a singer to know what pieces suit his or her voice best. Categories
overlap and the terminology is even used differently by different people, making
it hard to be absolute about any of it, but here are the basics.
The highest voice is the coloratura. While the term can be applied to other
voices, it most commonly refers to the highest soprano, who can do fast passages
more easily than any other voices. The rest of the sopranos are called lyric or
dramatic. Lyric means a bright, younger-sounding voice and dramatic means the
darkest, heaviest and loudest soprano.A mezzo soprano can be a lyric or dramatic and often has a wide range with
nearly the same high notes as a soprano, and more sound in the middle and low
ranges. A contralto is the lowest female voice and is quite rare.

The countertenor is a man who sings in the contralto range. Usually he sings
falsetto, and is frequently heard in music written before 1750.

Tenors can be described as lyric or dramatic. Baritones, the middle men’s
voices, can also be lyric or dramatic. Basses are the lowest, with the term
basso profundo referring to the very lowest and darkest bass. Lyric and dramatic
are not generally used for contraltos or basses, although there are coloratura
basses – those who specialize in singing fast notes, like in Messiah, by G. F.

There are scores of other terms used for classical singers, but many singers
defy any categorization, or switch between categories.

If your voice seems to fit musical theater better, or if you just like to
sing it sometimes, be aware that the types are described differently here.
Usually (in the older, traditional shows) the hero and heroine are young, light
tenor and soprano voices, called legit. The mother or aunt figure is a lower
voice (maybe in the contralto range). The girl’s best friend (not quite as
innocent and pure) may be a belter. The other male parts are probably mid-range

In popular or jazz singing, the divisions are not made much of, but people do
tend to say they are low or high voices, or simply “A higher key would be better
for me.”

So what voice type are you? While some singers are pretty easily identified,
for many people it’s very hard to say before you have studied long enough to get
the voice secure and free in all its range. Having high notes doesn’t
necessarily mean soprano or tenor, while difficulty with high notes right now
doesn’t always mean you are a low voice. On top of it all, voices mature and
change, so just when you think you’ve figured it out, your voice goes through
another change. This can happen at least until you are 30 years old, and there
may be other changes for you based on improvements in your technique. In the
meantime, we’ll keep experimenting to figure out where you are most comfortable.