How Singing Voices Change with Age
All voices change with age, whether you sing or not. That’s why, on the phone, you can easily tell whether you’re speaking with a younger or older person. The following list describes a few types of voice changes that may affect singing and offers tips on how to work around them.
Puberty: Letting young men who are going through puberty sing is okay. But because you really can’t predict what their voice is going to do, puberty isn’t a good time for them to make a big debut. Being in an all-male choir at that age can give the singer comfort because he knows that the rest of the guys are going through the same thing.
Allow his voice to wriggle and crack, and know that it’s going to become much more steady in time. The female voice also changes during puberty, but the change isn’t as extreme.
Menstrual cycle: One big physical aspect that affects the female voice after puberty is the menstrual cycle. Not all women experience the same symptoms during their menstrual cycle. Some experience a sluggish feeling, as if the voice is really tired or the cords are swollen. Some experience difficulty with high notes or produce low notes that feel really heavy. Other singers experience no change whatsoever.
Track your cycle so that you know the symptoms you experience right before, during, and after your cycle. You may find that knowing the timing of your cycle allows you to plan the concert or audition on just the right day of the month.
Menopause: After menopause, women may experience a little more stiffness in their singing. This stiffness is the result of a loss of elasticity in their muscles after estrogen production slows. Menopausal women may be able to keep their voices flexible with regular workouts. Continuing to practice specific exercises for different areas of the voice increases the chance of maintaining stamina in each particular area.
Aging: One common occurrence with aging is the wobble. You may have heard older singers’ voices wobble when they sing. The wobble is a result of a lack of muscle toning, specifically in the singing muscles. Working your singing muscles on a regular basis can help keep that wobble at bay.
Getting lax with your breath is another common factor that may contribute to a wobble in your singing. If your breath backs off, your voice is more likely to flounder or wobble. A steady flow of air helps keep the rate of the vibrato steady. You can also continue working on exercises that move back and forth from straight tone to vibrato, to help maintain your ability to support the vibrato.
Vibrato and a wobble aren’t the same. Vibrato is the normal undulation of pitch when you sing. You may feel the slight shaking feeling in your throat as the vibrato happens, and that’s normal. Wobble happens when the vibrato rate is much slower than normal vibrato, which is about five to eight pulses per second.