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Myth Busting Series Part V

This week we take on busting the vocal myth of speaking at a higher pitch.

True or false?

The healthiest way to use your speaking voice is to try to speak at a higher pitch.

The answer is...false!

This is a common misconception in the singing world, especially among singing teachers. “You need to speak higher” is a message that is frequently conveyed in the singing studio and even in online resources about vocal health. However, speaking at a higher pitch increases the frequency of vibration of the vocal folds, which increases the overall number of times the vocal folds collide per minute. Raising the pitch also stretches the vocal folds, increasing the tension on the vocal cords. Both can contribute to increased vocal “load” (impact of the vocal folds when they are vibrating). So, speaking at a higher pitch can, over time, traumatize the vocal fold tissues (Horáček et al., 2009). 

Appropriate register is key for achieving an easy, unstrained vocal quality. According to Michael (2012), this means speaking in “chest” register (sometimes called “mode 1”). When cued to “speak higher,” many singers end up speaking in their “head” register (mode 2) instead. 

Beyond the potential negative physiological impact of raising the pitch, speaking higher often just sounds weird and unnatural, and who wants a weird and unnatural sounding voice?


I think what many people mean when they say “speak higher” is feel the resonance higher. When we get our vocal tract (remember the vocal tract from VFF December 1st?) in just the right shape, it actually helps the vocal fold vibrate more efficiently. When that happens, we often feel a buzzing or vibrating sensation somewhere in the front of the face or mouth. We call this “resonant voice.” Resonant voice is definitely an important component of efficient, healthy vocalization for speaking. When speaking inefficiently, we often feel the sensation more in the throat and the sound can be gravelly or creaky. 

A great way to achieve resonant voice is to practice SOVTEs, as we discussed at length in the first VFF series. These exercises aren’t just great for singing. Practicing SOVTEs at a comfortable speaking pitch (for example, holding out one note at a time), can help you find the optimal resonance for your speaking voice. SOVTEs also help promote good breath flow, which is another important component of efficient speaking voice. So, rather than “speaking higher,” try to achieve the same resonance and breath flow that you get with SOVTEs when you speak.

As a general rule of thumb, experiment speaking around G or A below middle C for women (G-A3) or an octave lower for men. Each individual voice will vary in terms of the optimal pitch level so explore your own voice and see what feels most comfortable and natural for you.

Next time on Vocal Fitness Friday, we determine the facts about a new myth: 

True or False:
Even if you don’t have heartburn, you might have silent reflux which can harm your voice. 

Tune in next week to find the answer…

Here's to a pitch perfect weekend,
Your SonoVoice Team


Horáček, J., A.M. Laukkanen, P. Šidlof, P.Murphy,and J.G. Švec, 2009. “Comparison of Acceleration and Impact Stress as Possible Loading Factors in Phonation: A Computer Modeling Study.” Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 61(3): pp.137-145.

Michael, D., 2012. “Dispelling Vocal Myths, Part IV: ‘Talk Higher!’” Journal of Singing, 69 (2), pp. 167-172. 

Next Week: Myth Busting Part VI

You are a vocal athlete!

Athletes put superhuman demands on the human body. They practice to stay in shape, get better and prepare for the event. No athlete expects to perform at their best without working on their technique, practicing skills, and preparing for the game. 

The same goes for you as a vocal athlete. Practice will help you be prepared for your event: performance. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut! If you want to be at your best as a singer, you’ll need to establish a regular vocal exercise and practice regimen.

In our weekly Vocal Fitness Friday email, SonoVoice's team of experts in science-based voice training  will be sharing information about how the voice works, tips on keeping your voice healthy, and ideas for vocal exercises for peak vocal fitness.