Voice Work

I understand that employees of ELC can access cut-price podiatry. Is there similar access to voice care? Why is this on my mind? Am I suffering from problems at either end? Not as far as I know, but I’ve just been listening to a review of Voice Work: Art and Science in Changing Voices by speech and language therapist Christina Shewell.

Some interesting statistics emerged:

  • 1/3 of us use the voice at work
  • 14.9 million people in the UK are unhappy with their voice
  • open voices appear to be universally pleasing and nasal voices off-putting
  • the average female voice frequency is 220 Hz i.e. vocal cords opening and closing 220 times per second – so 5 hours of talking over a day result in the vocal cords opening and closing more than 4 million times
  • it was stated that men average half of this – I’m not sure if this meant 110 Hz or half the inclination to chat for 5 hours
  • as an example of the contrast between singing and speech it was pointed out that a top C requires the vocal chords to open and close 1046 times per second
  • the average pitch of the female voice is dropping in America but not in, say, Sweden
  • when it comes to control, effective vocal vibrato requires that the modulations in pitch fall between 5.5 and 7.5 times per second – lower than 5.5 results in a creaky sound – higher than 7.5 results in a tremor

The author pointed out that while a literacy hour exists in school, there is no equivalent for oral skills – and that these skills can affect employability. She also referred to the bilaterally psychosomatic nature of the voice. A person’s voice gives away more about them than they might intend to convey. It also affects the body and mind of the listener – at the most basic level in their disposition to continue listening. Moreover, singers who develop vocal problems are loathe to seek help as they intuitively feel the ensuing investigations to intrude upon their sense of self.

Having listened to the interview and book review, I was left with the feeling that we know very little about the major tool for delivery of our practice. One always feels guilty suggesting further spending in an economic crisis. However, I feel that one centrally held copy of this book (or one per cluster) might be a case of prevention being better – and cheaper – than cure. And there’s always In Service….