Singing with an “Aging” Voice
A question that pops up now and then (especially around audition time) is how to cope with a “mature” or, shall we just say it, an “aging” voice. It’s a challenging issue, for no one enjoys admitting that he can’t manipulate his voice as easily as he once did. The good news is that we can continue singing with a relatively good tone well into our retirement years, and for many of us, that’s when our schedules finally allow a lot of singing! Still, we need to accept some “adjustments” to our vocal production.
First, we need to understand that our range will probably diminish as we age. This phenomenon is usually experienced more by sopranos and tenors, and they may discover the need to move from 1st to 2nd or even to the alto or baritone part. Breathing and breath support also become an issue, and the older singer may find herself taking more frequent breaths than in the past. There’s nothing wrong with breathing more often (hey, it keeps us alive!), and low, diaphragmatic breathing, combined with good support, is a wonderful physical exercise for the older adult. Excess vibrato can also become a problem in the aging voice and it is often related to the breath support just mentioned. The singer can “correct” much of the vibrato issue by concentrating on singing as straight a tone as possible. It’s amazing the role our minds play in singing, and the mature singer can use his well developed mind to “imagine” the beautiful tone he wants to produce. The older singer should also be careful about the volume at which she sings. I often tell my singers to never sing louder than their own “personal” beautiful tone. With the older voice, we usually discover that for a tone to be beautiful and controlled, we may need to sing with a somewhat softer sound than we did twenty years earlier! The key to success, no matter what our age, is to come to rehearsal prepared, and ready to concentrate and work to be the best singer possible.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, there is good news for the older singer. It is great to know that almost all choral singers can find a way to participate in some choral ensemble for as long as they live, and when you think about it, a lifetime of singing is pretty good!