One common question I get asked by my students is: Do both girls and boy students go through a vocal change?
The answer is yes. I have been teaching voice lessons to both boys and girls (of all ages) for more than 15 years. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Boy voices start to change during the first stages of puberty and can progress very slowly or quickly.
- You will most often notice your voice changing when speaking first before it challenges your singing. Your speaking voice will start to sound hoarse, and your singing voice will not be far behind. In some cases, you’ll notice voice breaks or cracks, which is a good sign your voice is starting to change.
- If the progress is slow, your singing challenge will be harder. If the progress is quick, your singing challenge will be easier.
- There are normally stages of voice change for boys if the progress is slow. Stage One is around 12 to 14, Stage Two is around 14 to 16, and then your voice could settle somewhat. Stage Three can happen as late as 21-23 unless your voice settles at Stage Two for your final change.
What Can You Do?
- The best advice is to continue private vocal study all the way through your voice change. Songs will be limited and need to be transposed with your progress, but it can be disastrous for you if you stop private vocal study during your voice change.
- Your ear is greatly affected by the change and boys who stop private vocal study are more likely to stop singing due to this challenge, where boys who continue studying develop their ear to the new octaves and learn how to place the tone.
- You can study with either men or women teachers before your voice changes, but it is more beneficial for you to have a man teacher during and after the changes so he can sing in your octaves and show examples with his voice.
- Girl voices also start to change during the first stages of puberty and almost always progress slower than boy voices.
- You may not notice your voice changing in your speaking voice like young boys, but if you are a singer you will always notice this challenge.
- There are not really stages of change with your speaking or singing voice, but your challenge as a singer will normally last until the age of 16 or 17.
What Can You Do?
- The best advice is to continue private vocal study all the way through your voice change. It can be disastrous if you do not continue vocal study during your change.
- Keep in mind that you cannot belt as high as your singing voice starts to go through the change.
- It is beneficial for young girls (ages 8 to 12) to have a private teacher already teaching you how to use your chest voice, middle/bridge voice, and head voice instead of always just belting when you’re young.
- Your head voice will be airy and unsupported at first, and that’s OK. Learning the proper tone placement and breath support can make all the difference.
Nine times out of 10 you are going to feel your voice break before it actually cracks, and this is what causes you to close up or throw the tone backwards. Try your best to keep the throat open with a good balance of air when you feel this crack coming on and keep pushing the tone forward. Let it go ahead and crack during rehearsals for warm-ups and those challenging songs. The more you feel these voice breaks coming on, the more you can control them and place the tone where it needs to go. Octave slides are great for this and take you all the way through each register of your voice as you get higher.
In summary, both boys’ and girls’ voices go through changes and challenges, but it is only noticeable for boy speaking voices. Most girls only notice it if they are singers.
Just keep singing and keep up your private vocal study as your voices are changing. Don’t stop!
Angie Q. teaches singing, piano, music theory, and more in Ocala, CA. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance and a Minor in Musical Theatre from the University of Southern Mississippi. Learn more about Angie here!
Photo by PSNH