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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Behind the Scenes.

"I sit down to the piano regularly at nine-o'clock in the morning and Mesdames les Muses have learned to be on time for that rendezvous." ~
Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky

If you read here you know my little girl has a voice.  You know the kid's been singing with a vocal company for about 5 years now.  You know I spend a good bit of my life having meltdowns over transporting said child to a variety of different venues so she can sing like a canary.  You might even have picked up on the fact the child has close to a 3 octave range; a note or 2 short is all.

So imagine, as the child who has only ever wanted to sing, prepares for this year's auditions has massive trouble with her voice cracking all over the place No. Matter. What. She. Sings. Imagine, as she decides to record her voice, & all she can hear is not what she has always thought she sounded like.  Indeed, she sounds downright terrible.  And because Star is like that she says not a word to anyone about what is going through her head but quietly lives with the absolute horror of everything she has worked for disappearing up in smoke.

Because, let's face it, Star never listens to anything that doesn't interest her so naturally she has never listened to all the discourses on the physiological changes that take place during puberty.  Her mother, on the other hand, has actually paid attention!

Now those of us with brothers & sons of a certain age have experienced the phenomena of a *breaking* male voice.  What is less well known, less well documented, & far less well researched is what happens to the female voice during puberty because, while nowhere near as dramatic, the same sort of things happen to girls as to boys ~ at least so far as the voice is concerned.  The child, who at 8 was cheerfully hitting the high notes in the aria from Queen of the Night is suddenly lucky to have a 6 note range without cracking.

The voice change is generally linked to the growth spurts. What happens is the larynx grows larger & thicker.  Cavities in the sinus, nose & back of the throat enlarge allowing for greater resonance.  The glottis may not be able to close properly because of unevenness in the vocal folds, causing a weak, breathy sound.

Over about 4 years the folds in a girl's vocal chords grow about 0.4mm [compared to a boy's 0.7mm].  The flute like little girl voice that was able to switch easily between upper & lower registers begins to change just before the menarche with the voice cracking  around the G/B above middle C.  Breathiness & difficulty with the lower registers occurs. 

 After the menarche the voice takes on a husky, heavy quality & a girl's vocal range is often all of 6 notes!  You can imagine!  The lower notes are usually easier to hit.  This is a critical point as the changes are sporadic & unpredictable.

Post menarcheal there is a decrease in the inconsistencies, cracking, breathiness & a richer, fuller tone develops.  It is now some females begin to produce a natural vibrato.

The general consensus seems to be that it is important to sing through the changes.  Descending scales & the use of *sirens* are particularly helpful as they ease the transitions & exercise the whole singing range without creating undue tension.

There are few true adolescent altos ~ though alto is what Star has been singing ~ & the changes have been so dramatic even her father, not the most observant of men, has noticed. What is interesting, & what Star cannot hear ~ because she, naturally, is hearing everything she's lost ~ is what a big voice looks like emerging from the present mess.  It will be darker & richer in colour & timbre ~ altogether different I think though not unfamiliar as the changes are so gradual.

Anyway I ran my suspicions past Alison & having had them confirmed I explained to Star that her world hasn't suddenly ended.  She is just developing her adult voice & while it will take a little time for it to settle it is a very well trained voice & in a while it will revert to doing as it is told again.  It just requires a little coddling for a bit.


Ruby said...


Ruby said...

I will remember this post when we see Star's name in lights!

Ganeida said...

lol Ruby. I thought it was fascinating. And I don't know about the lights. Funny as it may seem Star actually likes doing back up vocals. NO doubt time will tell. ☺

Bonnie said...

You are such an amazing mother. I remember when this happened to me. But I quit singing then and never really started again. Maybe someday Star will share her grown-up voice with us. I would love to hear it!

Ganeida said...

Bonnie: I have shared a couple of links to where you can here the choir ~ though not Star in particular.

Last one was here:

Joyfulmum said...

You're a very clever mama! reading this and the post on 'Hungary' :)

seekingmyLord said...

I remember that time. I am not the singer that Star is but I was singing with my aunt's Christian band and I had a solid two octave range until....

The Princess wants to being singing now too. (I am not sure I can survive it.)

Ganeida said...

Rosemary: Mr Google is my friend. ☺

Linda: I remember too. Not that I hd a great voice to start with but I used to really enjoy singing but cracking all over the place does not make you user friendly! lol I am not surprised about the Princess. Music eats up everything in its path.