Speech Level Singing - The Pros and Cons
By Chris Glyde
Vocal pedagogy is a lion’s den. Everyone has their own way of doing it and everyone thinks their way is the best way. I’ve gone through many, many vocal courses and teachers in my time, so I would like to share my experience with you. I’m not going to claim one program is crap, another program is amazing and all you need, etc. What I aim to do in this article series is simply give you the pros and cons of all the strategies out there.
There is no doubt that every vocal technique will change or grow your voice in some way, but not all of them to them same extent. My personal bias leans towards bel canto based vocal styles.
I believe they deliver the best results because they are more rooted in what’s natural for the human voice. I did study speech level singing for 3 years. So in this article I’d like to discuss the benefits, whether you should look into these courses/teachers and what to expect from these courses/teachers.
Let’s begin with the positive side:
Speech Level singing is great for building awareness of the voice. I had absolutely no idea how tense my voice was while singing. A lot of Speech Level exercises allow you to really notice the tension because in order to perform these exercises you have to stop tensing the voice.
And then the relaxation of the voice becomes what’s normal and the tension you feel when singing becomes abnormal. In fact, it starts to become really uncomfortable. Most would-be vocalists use WAY too much tension, so noticing the tension is ideal in the beginning.
This, to me, is the overwhelming benefit of Speech Level singing. It teaches you how to notice tension and relieve that tension. A utility benefit of Speech Level singing is that it takes less time to work on and you can get the benefits really quickly. Generally, it takes about four months to really get the full benefit from speech level singing. This is why many claim it to be great, because it can get results fast. The bad news is that you stop getting results after those four months.
It’s a great process for developing early confidence which can help you move on to more advanced vocal styles that give better results yet take more time to deliver them.
Now for the cons:
I consider Speech Level to be a great starting point fantastic for high school vocal lessons, for example) but it fails to account for many attributes that require the voice to grow.
My first qualm with it is within the very premise of the style of voice. The objective is to avoid tension. If you’re doing anything at all then you’re contracting muscles, which involves tension. The tension in singing needs to be managed, just like in a sport or in any other physical activity. There’s no such thing as no tension. Speech Level singing relies on an impossibility. They teach you how to remove tension, not manage it. As a result, most people end up with really tiny-sounding voices. The singers’ tone will most definitely improve when the tension is no longer there, but they will need to go farther than this to become a great singer.
Speech Level singing doesn’t acknowledge proper support of the voice, which is where all the tension is managed and as such. Speech Level singers cannot consistently perform belting songs or songs that are more intense which require stretching of the chest voice. Speech Level singers also don’t study the vocal track or vowel modifications which allow you to open the mouth to get higher notes or stretch chest voice while keeping the throat relaxed.
My biggest beef with Speech Level singing comes from the fact that it ignores certain basics and ignoring those basics over the long-term can damage students’ voices beyond repair. All in all, this makes speech level singing pretty deficient in providing great vocal training and keeps its believers stuck in a land of clinging on to the benefits they got in the beginning, hoping to continue to see more.
Now, that being said, starting off with Speech Level courses can be great for beginners who have never studied voice. It can be great for anyone who doesn’t want to commit to 45 minutes to an hour a day required by bel canto-based lessons. It can be great for someone who doesn’t want to pay a fortune and just wants a decent-sounding singing voice. It depends on your goals. If you desire to sing rock, metal, or any sort of intense pop then I would tell you to only start with speech level and then move on to something more bel canto-based. If you just want to sing some really light music where you do nothing that intense with your voice, then Speech Level may give you what you want.
About the author:
Chris Glyde is a vocal coach based in Rochester, New York. He’s spent the last 9 years of his life training under several different vocal styles to figure out what works best and training many people how to become better singers. Looking for voice lessons in Rochester?