Talk Better, Sing Better

Doctor with an actor
Reap vocal benefits by applying technique to your talking – says Dr. Jahn

Dear Doctor Jahn,

I don’t want to seem like I’m paranoid but I’ve been wondering about how my talking affects my singing voice – specifically how I might change my talking throughout the day to improve my singing? If I talk in a higher/lower pitch can I improve my singing range?


Dear Geoff,

What a terrific question! Not many singers consider that their speaking voice and their singing voice both originate from the same source, the larynx. Not that it isn’t obvious, but for some reason, many singers think of their singing voice as “the instrument”, and consider voice rest as simply not singing. 

Since all voice comes from the larynx, what we do vocally when speaking on the phone, arguing at a noisy restaurant or bar, when yelling, laughing and crying, definitely puts more miles on those vocal folds than actual singing. Even more important, most of us do not speak using our schooled, “professional” voice, but just blurt things out, come what may. And yet, if you were to apply good vocal technique to your speaking voice, you can reap benefits when you sing. 

You should ideally speak in a well-supported and well-projected voice. Speaking in head voice, although it sounds a little odd, is much less stressful to your larynx than in high chest voice. 

You should also modify your environment to decrease vocal stress: try to avoid speaking in a noisy environment if possible. The worst example is a loud restaurant, with music throbbing, everyone yelling, and you, dis-inhibited and dehydrated from alcohol, pushing the voice to rise above the din. The Lombard Effect is a tendency to speak about 35 dB above background noise. We do this unawares, and if the ambient sound level is 70 dB, you can easily be putting out 105 dB of voice, only to pay the price later. In general, speak as mindfully as you sing. 

Think about abdominal support, open throat resonance and projection. Stay well hydrated, minimize loud conversation in a noisy milieu, and consider speaking in head voice if possible.

-Anthony F. Jahn, MD, FACS, FRCS(C)

This discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice that you should obtain from your own physician.

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