With so many different terms out there describing vocal technique, it can sometimes be a bit confusing to distinguish what all of it really means, or to apply it to your vocal study and everyday practice.
So What is Speech Level Singing Really?
Speech Level Singing, also known as SLS, is a singing technique that emphasizes the idea that singing is just as simple as speaking. Additionally, SLS makes a point of drawing attention to vocal registration; when singers have a “break” in their registration, (for example going from chest voice to head voice or falsetto) SLS would say that this is a result of straining in joining different registers. If you think about it, when we speak, we change registers all the time and rarely have issues. So, SLS is actually a really useful tool for many different vocal styles AND speaking styles.
SLS was originally developed by singer, actor, and vocal coach Seth Riggs as a way to help teach the basic principle that “if you can talk, you can sing!” Later in this article, we will look at what vocal (and speech) styles can benefit from SLS.
Here is an easy chart to show the differences between Speech Level Singing (SLS) and something like Bel Canto, a technique for primarily classical styles that utilizes a large amount of breath for long, sustained phrases. Surprisingly, additional vocal styles that can benefit from Bel Canto studies would be Musical Theatre, Pop, Heavy Metal and Hard Rock.
SLS Vs. Bel Canto:
|Breath emphasis on centered, diaphragmatic breathing.||Breath emphasis on low and deep-diaphragmatic breathing.|
|Emphasis on connection of vocal registers as much as possible.||Emphasis on connection of vocal registers, unless there is a specific musical context where it would be helpful to have a moment of whistle tone or higher registers.|
|Emphasis on keeping the larynx low and rested always.||Larynx should be primarily low, however the occasional ‘tilt’ will occur with production.|
|Emphasis on keeping the vocal folds close together (tightly adducted, or closed.)||Emphasis on keeping the vocal folds close together (tightly adducted, or closed)|
For all the vocal pedagogy nerds out there: you might notice that there actually are more similarities than differences, and that is true! SLS and Bel Canto would be a great combination to study.
Another genre that is worth comparing to SLS would be pop or contemporary music. Here is a chart showing those differences as well:
|SLS:||Contemporary music genres:|
|Breah emphasis on centered, diaphragmatic breathing.||Breath emphasis on centered, diaphragmatic breathing.|
|Emphasis on connection of vocal registers as much as possible.||Emphasis on both clean connection of vocal registers and also an emphasis of vocal “breaks” for dramatic and vocal effects.|
|Emphasis on keeping the larynx low and rested always.||Emphasis on keeping a rested and relaxed larynx.|
|Emphasis on keeping the vocal folds close together (tightly adducted, or closed.)||Vocal folds primarily closed, except when a raspy or breathy sound is a desired effect.|
Notice that a lot of pop or contemporary music actually sometimes emphasizes vocal registration shifts. For that reason, SLS can be a helpful tool for singers to start their studies, but then finding a way to stress register shifts in a healthy way would be the most helpful.
Another Practical Use of SLS:
Another benefit to SLS study would be for voice actors or heavy voice users. Anybody who uses their voice professionally (public speakers, teachers, etc) can benefit from vocal study.
Voice actors in particular are sometimes in a difficult place, since their profession requires the use of so many different characterizations and dialects. Vocal study for all professional voice users can improve stamina, breath support, vocal dynamics and range, among other things.
Other vocal styles that would be good for SLS would be anything that does not require (or desire) much volume; for example, soft Jazz, children’s music, certain classical genres (such as Baroque or choral music) and any genre that has a lot of speaking, such as rap and R & B.
In all honesty, the possibilities are endless with SLS.
Some Vocal Exercises That Relate to SLS Techniques:
Now that we’ve explained the pedagogical method of Speech Level Singing, we can dive into a few vocal exercises that will help specifically with lowering the larynx, deep breathing, connected registration, and vocal fold closure.
|Technical consideration:||Exercise to help:|
|Deep, diaphragmatic breathing:|
|Blending the vocal registers:|
|Lowering the larynx:|
|Keeping vocal folds closed:|
Speech Level Singing can help all singers and voice users develop their registration and basic singing techniques. Finding a singing teacher that can help you discover more of your vocal potential can also help you take this to the next level. Have fun exploring!