Unhealthy High Notes? (for young tenors)
  • What should a young tenor of 14 or 15 years of age have for their highest note? Is it unhealthy for them to be singing Gs and As?

    Just curious. I've heard conflicting opinions on this.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,836
    14 or 15 might be a little early to even be able to determine if the boy is, indeed, a tenor, although it's not impossible. I would say that if he's not forcing the voice, and using breath properly, he would be fine singing however high he can. The problem is that when the respiratory muscles aren't sufficiently strong and trained, the tenor will resort to forcing or "throating" out the high notes, complete with raised larynx and all. That is the primary set of conditions which causes vocal damage in the case of singing high notes. I see no problem with allowing a young tenor to switch to head register for his high notes until he has mastered and strengthened his breathing muscles. @Irishtenor might be able to give more insight, because he is a trained tenor himself.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,204
    I will be following this thread closely as I have a 16 year old boy who is probably a baritone, with a fabulous head tone, who I force to sing tenor because we need help in that section. He likes to complain (like any normal 16 year old), so I usually ignore him. However, I don't want to create problems in the future so I am keen to know more.
  • If indeed you are 'forcing him' to sing tenor, you should probably stop, and that soon!
    It would be a shame were what is convenient and seemingly harmless now to result in ruin down the road.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 793
    What @ClergetKubicz said is pretty much spot-on. When I was 14 or 15, I couldn't hope to sing Gs and As on a consistent basis. This was a technique problem for me, and over the years, I had good training and was able to access my full range. If this young man is singing in a healthy way and has access to Gs and As, then -- by all means! -- let him keep doing it. If the technique that he's using to squeak out those notes is not a solid one, then it's probably doing more harm than good. Let him sing those notes that he can sing confidently and competently with good technique, eschewing those extremes of range where the technique breaks down, until he is able to add notes on either end of the range.

    Regarding "head tone," @canadash, what exactly do you mean? Are you talking about straight-up falsetto (vocal folds vibrating only at the edges), some sort of a "mix" (to use a musical theater term), or a true voce piena in testa? Or something else? I'd be glad to help if we can better define, or hone in, on what exactly he's doing now.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,023
    "who I force to sing tenor because we need help in that section."

    That practice does no one any favors in the long run. It's a terrible, albeit nearly always rationalized, practice.

    The distribution of voices is such that mezzos and baritones are by far the most common women's and men's voices - and forcing those voices into SATB parts will face limits with many (though not all) such voices. One of the realities choral directors have to forthrightly confront (but in my experience typically are in denial about - especially if they are primarily keyboardists and only secondarily vocalists...) is that SATB singing relies on having a supply of voices that are typically the least common. If you don't have those voices in good supply, it's probably better to do more three- or two-part singing where part-singing is desired/needed.
  • Assuming the voice is properly placed and not forced, I see no issue. Being 17 years old myself, I have relatively secure high notes and roughly the same range I had 3 years prior (although certainly more usable), and your case doesn't seem unique in this regard.
  • Thanks for all the input. Does anyone here think that such notes are "teachable" where exceptional voice development is present?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 6,787
    Questions like these deserve to be discussed by people with in-depth knowledge in the field. Not many of us have, for example, graduate degrees in vocal pedagogy -- though I think forum user incantu is one.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 793
    FWIW, both Mary Ann Carr Wilson and I do, too. Don't know about others.
    Thanked by 1chonak
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 149
    I agree that if he can reach the notes clearly, confidently and isn't screaching or falsetto then by all means continue letting him sing. The last thing you want to do though is break your instrument.
  • canadash did say 'who I force to sing tenor' (emphasis added).
    If forcing is indeed the case I should think it cause for apprehension.
    On the other hand, perhaps this was just an innocent figure of speech?
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,023
    It should be noted that Canadash was not the OP, but that many of the comments here (including mine) were directed to that part of her comment. So they don't necessarily apply to the OP's query.