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A Resource for the Aspiring Vocalist

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Thoughts on Voice Break

As a singer we learn to access vocal registers to build our vocal range. But switching from one register to another may be connected with audible shortcomings for many aspiring singers. These problems are based on a lack of control, that interestingly also has been experienced during the phase of puberty, especially evident in young men. Among other terms the unintentional or uncontrolled switching of vocal registers is called voice break.

Just like the transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly, our human voice transforms during the final development of vocal folds, larynx, and resonators.

Just like the transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly, our human voice transforms during the final development of vocal folds, larynx, and resonators.

Voice change

In young years when we develop our vocal folds and larynx during puberty at an age of about 11 to 14 and a half, we go through a phase called voice change. While girls voices only drop to up a third of an octave, the change to boys voices is more dramatic with a drop of about a full octave. At that time we have to relearn how to access pitch. The whole process of voice change may last up to a full year, and finding the new singing voice may even take longer.

Many of us who have been singing at a younger age will understand the voice change as a disruption due to the challenge accessing a changing instrument, and may have taken a break or discontinued the art of singing altogether. This may as well be a possible cause of why aspiring singers have difficulty to seamlessly access the different vocal registers at a later point in time. Those singers lack a certain control over their laryngeal muscles, breath, and/or vowel modification.

Overcoming voice break

Singers address this problem by first expanding the range for each vocal register separately through exercises, so that a greater range of notes overlap and as a result a greater choice of how to produce a certain pitch is granted. In a second step these singers then learn to choose the "correct" support system for every pitch to gain an optimal sound and tone for their singing performance. The optimal choice can be made by paying attention to the volume of the performed note. If the vocalist can effortlessly reach a high volume for a note, the choice was most likely correct.

More background information

What exactly is a vocal register? Professionals in the field of vocal pedagogy and speech pathology have developed different concepts of how the range of the voice can be divided. In literature we come over different terminologies, which we seek to explain in our background article. We also take a deeper look into the topic of voice change and vocal break.

Continue reading about this topic in our article "Voice Break and Switching Vocal Registers" at