Should We Sing Like We Speak?

In my travels I have seen many different singing techniques, from no technique at all, to singing from your hips, and more recently I saw a video clip where a vocal teacher told a student to sing from their toes – go figure.

If you want to find a good teacher so you can learn how to sing, then click on the link to read an article that i wrote that shows you 5 things to look for in a good singing teacher.

One of the more popular techniques that has been around for a while is speech level singing and its many variants.

While I am not here to criticize other singing techniques, I do want to explore this concept further in this article to understand whether singing and speaking are the same thing, or are they entirely different?

Singing Woman with Retro MicrophoneAre Singing And Speaking The Same Thing?

Let’s now explore this concept a little further.

When we sing or speak, we are bringing the vocal chords together to create sound. When we speak, the sounds are generally short and sharp and the range is very limited i.e. we generally do not need to sustain any high notes while talking.

When we sing, not only do we need to sustain notes, but the range is much larger, in other words, singing is much more strenuous on the voice than talking is, due to the very nature of the range required and the fact we need to sustain pitches.

One other difference is that with singing, we are limited by the songwriter or composer as to when we sing and when we rest, but with talking we can quite happily stay quiet until it is our time to speak within the context of a conversation with another human being.

Also – when we talk, we talk in a comfortable part of our voice where there is very little effort required to make sound, but singing requires us to sing in areas of our voice where we may not be so comfortable, especially songs whose high notes are at the top of our range.

I hope you can now see that there is considerable difference between singing and speaking, even though the way sound is created by the vocal cords is exactly the same i.e. the vocal cords are closed to produce sound while a column of air passes over them.

Should We Sing Like We Speak?

girl singing to the microphone in a studioNow that we have answered the question around whether singing and speaking are the same thing, I now want to answer the main question that this post is all about – should we sing like we speak.

If you haven’t worked it out already, the answer is a resounding NO!

If singing and speaking are not the same – then you will need to sing differently than you speak. Now when I speak, I don’t make sound correctly.

Basically, I use my swallowing muscles, and my voice will get tired or go completely if I talk in a loud venue for any period of time, or even if i talk normally for an hour or more consistently.

If we should sing differently to speaking, then how should we sing?

The answer to this question is – supporting correctly. I have covered how to improve your voice using support in another article, which I encourage you to read.

Basically, support is lifting the abdominal muscles upwards against the diaphragm while you are singing. You lift as you start singing, then sustain that lift throughout the singing line.

When you support correctly, then the vocal cords will close by reflex action and the larynx will lower and make its own adjustments according to the pitch you are singing. In other words, your voice is completely free of interference because none of the swallowing muscles in the throat are being used.

If you use your swallowing muscles to close your vocal cords, then your larynx will rise upwards towards the chin due to the fact that the swallowing muscles naturally do this to close the epiglottis so food doesn’t go down our lungs.

The swallowing muscles were never meant to be used for singing because a consistent method of closure is needed to keep the vocal cords together while singing and the swallowing muscles cannot achieve this.

They can however, be used for talking due to the more stop/start nature and the lack of sustained pitches. And let’s face it – none of us want to go around sounding like Shakespearean actors who sound like are on stage delivering a performance of Hamlet.


Well, we have come to the end of this post. I hope you enjoyed the content and found it helpful and thought provoking.

Again, I want to reiterate that the goal of this article is not to criticize other singing techniques or methods, and if you have tried speech level singing or its variants and found them helpful, then that is great.

As always –  I wish you success in all your singing endeavors.

Andy Barnes

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  • Sandra

    Reply Reply December 22, 2015

    Interesting. I’d like to suggest that if you sing more correctly than you speak, you would be wise to speak more like you sing, ie with good support and ease and resonance.
    I think there is merit in singing like you speak, because it reconnects you to the naturalness of singing and pronunciation which is so often lost through formal training. Long before the sing-like-you- speak method came into view, it became clear to me that, if I felt tension on a phrase of a song, stopping to speak the words really helped. I. was sure to notice some really weird way I was pronouncing some of the words. Returning to a natural pronunciation invariably relieved the tension, freeing me to sing much more easily and beautifully. In my experience, many things we learn to do from choir directors and voice teachers lead us to tension, poor intonation and lyrics that are difficult to understand. I have a Masters in Voice and have benefitted in many ways from my training, but I would encourage everyone to consider approaches of different teachers and techniques and try them out.

  • Meade

    Reply Reply March 23, 2016

    I don’t agree with this at all. All singing is sustained speech- made from our vowels sounds, and to a lesser degree constanants. In English, we have quite a lot more consonants than vowels. However, the speaking voice and singing voice are very closely related. The best way to get a good sound from your singing voice is to pay attention to your speaking and where you place your lips, tongue , and throat. This will create a natural resonance.

    When people try to alter their singing voice to sound “different” than how they normally speak, they end up with all kinds of trouble by manipulating sound. Especially when people try to imitate to sound exactly like other singer’s voices they admire. Some people have medicore speaking voices but great singing voices- this is because some times the act of singing opens up their resonance quite a bit more- but moreover, because they are great at “delivery”. Louis Armstrong sounded like Louis Armstrong. Singing and Speaking are done in the same manner, but used in a slightly different way.

    • Andy Barnes

      Reply Reply April 5, 2016

      Hi Meade,

      I have to completely disagree with you on all your points except the last one “Singing and speaking are done in the same manner”. This is correct, they should be done in the same manner, but the issue is that when we talk we are lazy and use our swallowing muscles rather than use the diaphragm for support…

      Basically, both singing and speaking are the result of the vocal cords closing over a stream of air in order to produce sound. There are only two ways to close the vocal cords; 1) using proper support and 2) using the swallowing muscles. The swallowing muscles are what we use to talk as we develop bad habits growing up.

      Singing naturally actually does not alter the singing voice, in fact it will produce the most natural sound as there will be no interference from any muscles that should not be involved in the sound making process at all.

      The best way to get a great singing tone is to learn how to sing correctly as other than the vocal cords coming together to produce sound, singing and speaking place different demands on the vocal apparatus.


      • Meade

        Reply Reply September 13, 2016

        Speaking is actually harder on the voice than singing. In another part you wrote that speaking is easier on the voice. Singing is actually easier on the voice because it is sustained. I guess we can agree to disagree. The best way to get a great singing voice is pay attention to your SPEAKING VOICE and listen to the nuances and learn where you place things in your mouth. Then you give it more breath support and hair and let it resonate through the sinuses.

  • David

    Reply Reply June 2, 2016

    I think it depends on the sound you want for example Billy Joe-> of Greenday kinda does the speak thing when he sings but he is not completely talking just in certain parts ones you master the techniquesu will understand

  • antonio

    Reply Reply June 19, 2016

    i would like to try it and see if it realy works for me

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