#6  The Teen Voice

As we’re heading into the school summer break, some of us will be working with teens singing in summer productions and workshops, or some of us will be visiting or spending more time with kids or grand kids who may be singer-performers. This is a great opportunity to help them learn to be wise caretakers of their voices.

We know that teen performers often have incredible energy, enthusiasm and willingness, which sometimes translates into pushing their voices. This tendency for exploring their limits needs to be managed carefully with regards to their singing.  The maturing phase of the teen voice continues into their mid to late 20s, and in some cases, for the more dramatic operatic voices, can extend into their mid 30s.

Injuries that may occur to teen (and preteen) overused voices are generally harder to overcome than injuries which occur to adult trained singers.  The younger singer lacks a stable instrument since the young voice is in such a rapid state of growth.  A complete recovery may be difficult to achieve if the singer has a habit of misuse.    

Process versus product is the rule in working with teen voices.  According to Barbara Doscher in The Functional Unity of the Singing Voice, one doesn’t want them “to sing too long, too loudly, too softly, too high or too low”. The natural breathiness of the preteen and teen singer, which is caused by the posterior gap on the vocal folds and is known as the mutational chink, needs to be trained carefully so as not to develop too quickly the opposite musculature, which would be an over pressed phonation. 

Here’s a checklist for your teen singer’s vocal health.

Warning signs for vocal fold pathologies

Hoarse, harsh voice

Tickling or choking while singing

Inability to sing softly

Delayed onsets


Singing/speaking excessively

Speaking in noisy environments

Using hard glottal attacks in speaking or singing

Excessive coughing or throat clearing

Good Practices!

Drink lots of water

Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes

Get adequate rest


Here are a few good song anthologies for young adult or teen singers.   

The First Book of Solos Series (Soprano, Alto/Mezzo Soprano, Tenor or Bass) compiled by Joan Frey Boytim, G. Schirmer/Hal Leonard Publishing

26 Italian Songs and Arias, (medium high or medium low) editor. John Glenn Paton, Alfred Publishing

The Teen’s Musical Theater Collection, (Young Men’s or Young Women’s) compiled by Louise Lerch, Hal Leonard Publisher

These books and publications are ideal for high school seniors or college freshmen who might be interested in reading about the lifestyle track of a professional singer. 

On Studying Singing, Sergius Kagen

The Voice as an Instrument, Raymond Rizzo

The Singer’s Life, Clifton Ware

Classical Singer Magazine


Have a very fine week,






Copyright © 2010 by Sarah Oppenheim-Beggs