3 Things I Disagree With Speech Level Singing About

Speech level singing, if you haven’t heard of it, is a technique that teaches that singing should be as natural and easy as speaking. Now, I think we can all agree that speaking is a natural and easy thing to do, and while I do believe that you can sing freely and easily, there are some things about singing that differ greatly to speaking, which we will explore later on.

While speech level singing has certainly been around for a while (at least 30 years), and there is no doubt it has benefited many people, there are gaps in speech level singing itself that I would like to address in this article.

So, let’s get started…..

1) Speech Level Singing Ignores Support

speech level singing image 1If you have read any of my previous articles or posts, you will find that I harp on about support quite a lot.

This is the foundation of singing, and to truly sing freely and with an open throat, support needs to be present.

There are only two ways to close the vocal cords to make sound; 1) using correct support and 2) using the swallowing muscles. If you are not using support, then the swallowing muscles will take over to keep the vocal cords closed.

Speech level singing does not really focus on support at all, which means that the swallowing muscles are being used to close the vocal cords. This is fundamentally wrong, as these muscles were not designed to hold the vocal cords together for the sustained lengths of time that are needed for singing.

2) Speaking Is As Easy And Natural As Singing

speech level singing image 2I really can’t agree with this statement. Singing is SO much harder than speaking, especially singing difficult songs that have a large range.

Speaking is easy and natural, although for the most part, none of us really speak 100% correctly.

We all use our swallowing muscles to speak to some degree, and you can test this out by putting you finger on your larynx and saying a few words. If you feel your larynx rise, then you are using your swallowing muscles to speak.

Using our swallowing muscles when speaking is fine, for the most part, as it does not stress the vocal cords like singing does. Be careful though as talking consistently for an hour or more can strain the voice, especially you do this as a profession (e.g. school teacher).

When taking into account singing high notes and sustaining pitches etc, it is easy to see how singing is much more rigorous than speaking, and why you need to treat it differently. Plus, you need to sing loudly to be able to carry above a band (although modern sound systems will certainly help).

Singing loudly without the proper technique and support in place, especially in the middle and upper registers can most certainly lead to vocal damage. As a singer, you will need to learn how to “turn up the volume” in a way that doesn’t damage you voice.

This is where resonance comes in, which I won’t explain here, but you can check out an article I wrote entitled How To Improve Singing Power and Tone.

3) How To Mix or Bridge The Voice?

speech level singing image 3One of the core concepts of singing is achieving a consistent vocal line from the bottom to the top of your range without any cracks, breaks or “changing gear”.

In speech level singing parlance this is called mixing or bridging the voice. I refer to it as the bottleneck octave, but whatever you call it, the concept is the same.

Speech level singing is actually correct on this point, a singer needs to learn how to ascend and descend through their range with a consistent and even line with no tonal shifts.

Where it becomes somewhat murky, is how you then go on to achieve that consistent line.

I know of exercises that some practitioners teach like the meow exercise (for bridging) or the “nay nay nay” exercise sung in a very nasal way in order to try and trick the voice into resonating correctly i.e. resonating in the nasal cavities for high notes.

I am not sure that in the long run, how these would help as I know I would not want a nasal sound when I go to sing a song
(taking the “nay nay nay” example).

The secret to achieving a consistent line is keeping the soft palate down and away from the back wall of the throat, and I even teach an exercise that can help to train the soft palate to behave this way while singing.

For me, I really want simple explanations as well as clear steps forward to help me improve my voice.


My intention for this article was not to slander speech level singing or say that it is rubbish etc. I would have named the post “3 Ways That Speech Level Singing is Wrong”.

In this article, I wanted to explore the main areas that I disagree with them on, and more importantly why I disagree. There are many view points in this world, and there are most likely still some aspects to the human voice that have yet to be explored by science.

All in all, I hope you have found this article informative and please feel free to comment or like, Google+, tweet etc, if you feel so inclined.

I wish you success in all your singing endeavors.

Andy Barnes

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  • Sarah

    Reply Reply June 26, 2016

    Hi Andy

    Really interesting article. I was just wondering, from a anatomy point of view, what is it you’re referring to when you say “swallowing muscles”? Would that be the larynx?

    Many thanks


    • Andy Barnes

      Reply Reply June 28, 2016

      Hi Sarah,

      The swallowing muscles raise the larynx so the epiglottis can close to stop food from going down the trachea. The larynx itself is effected by them and they along with proper support can close the vocal cords.

      Some of these muscles are the hyoid muscles like the MyloHyoid etc.


  • Anita Houser

    Reply Reply March 17, 2017

    In the article you say near the end: “The secret to achieving a consistent line is keeping the soft palate down and away from the back wall of the throat, and I even teach an exercise that can help to train the soft palate to behave this way while singing.”

    I have always heard about lifting the soft palate instead of keeping it down. Can you elaborate on what you meant and also give the exercise you mentioned? Thank you.

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