The Ageing Voice


Elderly-Lady-SingingAs optimistic people say, “I love getting old – it beats the alternative!”.  Dealing with an ageing voice is something that hopefully we will all be dealing with at some point.  Mind you, the definition of “an aging voice” is probably going to be a bit shocking for you.  Medically speaking, we are growing, filling out and extending our bodies until we reach the ripe old age of… approximately 35.  After that, the studies tell us, it’s all a bit downhill.  Personally speaking, I peaked a good few years back, according to that!

However, the medical concept of “an ageing voice” is not what you think.  It’s not that croaky, shaky little-old-person’s voice that probably worries every singer.  The concept is that we continue to stretch and add muscle tone until we reach 35 and after that, what we have is pretty much set.  If you want to be an operatic soprano, you really ought to start before being 35, is what they are saying.

The nice, flexible cartilage in your throat that makes singing so easy when you are in your twenties will start to ossify (read: turn to bone!) the older you get – this process starts when you are a toddler and finishes when you are in your early sixties.  Reading this, a casual singer over the age of sixty is likely to think, “It’s all over!  I’ll never sing again!!!”  I can counter this is one easy, easy video.  Check out this link:

Aretha Franklin sings a tribute to Carole King

If you are a woman, past menopause and worried about your singing voice – I refer you back to this video again.  Listen to her voice.  See her *own* that stage.  She oozes sex appeal.  This lady is almost 74.  Seventy-FOUR!   She’s reduced the President of the United States to tears with the power and expressiveness of her voice.

There are a whole lot of things that you can do, regardless of age and gender, to make sure that your voice stays supple and in great shape until you are well into your nineties, at least.

  • Accept that if you are a woman you are going to lose several notes from the top of your range.  If you are a man, you are likely to lose a couple of notes from the bottom of your range.  This is to do with the downward journey of the laryngeal structure as you age, and hormones.  Those on hormone replacement therapy (including vocalists who are trans.) will probably notice less of a difference, as they will be dealing with the age related laryngeal drop, but not the hormone alterations.
  • Pay a lot of attention to your posture.  This is great advice anyway, as no-one wants to end up with a posture like a fairytale grandmother…  Stand up straight and position your head over your body, not leaning forwards or backwards (forwards is the most common).  Make sure your shoulders are back and relaxed, and your feet are located under them.  Clasp your hands in front of you and raise them over your head.  Try singing with your hands in the air and see how different it feels!
  • Concentrate on breathing from your middle.  Keep your chest and upper body as still as possible.  Sing gently, and as you use up your air, pull your tummy in.
  • Don’t let your natural vibrato slow down.  When it does, you will instantly sound at least ten years older than you really are.  Keep your singing voice as smooth as possible and when you want to use vibrato, do so with control, and do it fast!
  • Practice moving your throat and mouth by doing the “Wicked Witch vs. Sloane Ranger” exercise (“Heheheheheh” “OK, Yaaaaaaaaaah”).
  • Pay very careful attention to what you sound like.  Record yourself and listen to it.
  • Lots and lots of audiation (we’ll cover this in more depth later).  The more, the better!  (Think of it as singing along in your head…)

We’ll look at this in more detail as time goes on, but remember that the watchword is to just get your voice moving and then worry about the right notes later…

 

 

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