The Role of a Speech Pathologist for Voice
Speech pathology for singers has evolved significantly over the years as pathologists recognise that speaking and singing use the same organs, muscles and tissues for production of sound. Singing uses these tissues in a more refined and sophisticated way but the physiology is the same. That said, it has been found that although the same mechanical systems are used, neurologically, singing and speaking are generated in different areas of the brain. A neurological disorder affecting speech, even with loss of function, may have a minimal effect on the ability to sing.
A speech pathologist for singers will address the scope of voice production, which makes use of several separate processes. These are respiration (inhalation and exhalation and control of those functions), phonation (the creation of sound by the vibration and relative adduction (closure) or abduction (opening) of the vocal folds), articulation (refining sound into consonants, vowels and their combinations) and resonance (the ability to amplify the voice by natural enhancement of resonating features of the body such as nasal cavities, cranium and chest).
Because of the added difficulty that singing creates in the listener to understand the words being sung, particular attention is paid to the process of articulation. The difficulty comes from pitch variation, which is infinitely greater in the singing voice even if a singer has a narrow range. Most speakers, unless professionally trained and depending on their native tongue, speak a relatively monotonic speech, whereas just about any singer, trained or not, has a range of at least one to two octaves. With professional training, that range is increased substantially. Added complexities are timbre (or colour) and vibrato, all of which, combined with pitch, make the listeners’ understanding difficult unless a singer’s articulation is refined.
Vocal improvement applied by a speech pathologist for singers will use vocalisation and breathing exercises similar to speech therapy, but will add sliding scales of pitch through the singer’s range for quality performance and to extend range. There will also be refinement of laryngeal muscle control to sustain pitch and develop and enhance vibrato. Refinement of articulation is trained such that vowel sounds become open, round, smooth and resonant and consonants are hit quickly and released, particularly if sounds need to be coordinated with other singers in a choral group.
A speech pathologist for singers provides essential training and therapy for vocal quality enhancement.