Boiling frogs and tipping points: which sung pitch range is best for boys during voice change?

Jenevora Williams, British Voice Association, National Association of Teachers of Singing

Issue One | Page 33 | May 2020


This paper reviews briefly the current state of knowledge on male adolescent growth and voice change. It is suggested that perceived level of comfort is not a suitable method of assessing the best sung pitch range for a boy whose voice is changing. More objective means are available. Discussion of the relationship between growth, physical stress and anxiety levels is introduced with a focus upon the catastrophe model of performance. This is offered as an explanation for why a boy whose voice is changing may appear fine in rehearsal but then suffer a humiliating breakdown during performance. A model of best practice suggests that the teenage boy may not be fully aware of what is happening to his voice. The safe duration of any extended period of higher-pitched singing during conditions of cognitive anxiety should be a matter for expert judgement. Choral foundations are urged to ensure that this is available.

Key words boys, growth, voice change, health, efficiency, stress, anxiety, performance, voice loss, catastrophe

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