The Adolescent Male Voice – Keys to Successfully Navigating the Change

There is a rite of passage adolescent boys must travel known as the “male voice change”. It’s a strange and sometimes embarrassing time for them. What should they do vocally during this awkward time and how can they be helped? Here is some insight.

Adolescent voices of boys begin to change around ages 12-13, finally stabilizing about 15-18 years old. It is my experience as a vocal coach working with boys in these ages that un-strained singing and wise vocal training can help boys develop steadier, coordinated voices, as well as better senses of rhythm and pitch. This gives them a head start with their vocal abilities as adults.

The biggest issue I find with young boys is vocal strain! They try to “MAKE” their voices work, screaming through the hard places. I teach boys with unchanged voices to sing as high as they can without strain, and I take them as low as they can go without sounding “hooty” or dropping the larynx.

My awesome little student Ike Hawkersmith landed a professional role as “Amahl” in “Amahl and the Night Visitors” this way. I coached him to sing with a confident, talking style, which helped him even out his tone and intensity. I taught him never to lean his head forward to hit a note. Not only could he sing clear, floating high notes, he could also get the lower notes of his part without loosing volume and tone. Like all my students of all ages, he learned to “pull” instead of “push” his words in all parts of his range. This way he kept consistent, lively tone production throughout this range – and he experienced no strain in practice, performance, or recording.

The older boys and young men I’ve worked with after their voices have changed have different issues. They are sometimes afraid of their upper register. I teach them not only to sing in the new-found lower register, but also to vocalize in head voice, Pulling their words in all registers instead of Pushing any note.

Though I am careful not to fatigue this young male voice in the passagio, or “land between the voices” range, I DO have them sing comfortable exercises crossing voices. This helps them develop the all important “mixed” voice. Grown men I’ve taught sometimes didn’t even know they HAD head voices! They learn that singing in both head voice and falsetto (a lighter head resonance vibrating less of the vocal cords) adds richer resonance to their lower register and lifts the ceiling off their vocal ranges. After they get over the shock, they like it, and some use a bit of new found “falsetto” in their professional careers!

The adolescent voice should grow with no harm into full male vocal ability if care is applied at the male voice change, and the young man keeps singing.

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