Female Voice Classification and the Choral Director

Audrey Helena Dillon


Voice classification presents a paradox to the choral director. In choral singing, conductors need to be able to create a well-balanced ensemble into equal sounding sections. However, students (and teachers) tend to be in a hurry to classify the voice. It should be remembered that the young voice is constantly changing and growing. According to the vocal pedagogue Clifton Ware, most singers do not reach full vocal maturity until their mid-twenties, larger voices until their mid-thirties. Therefore, singers and choral conductors should not be rushed when making a decision about permanent vocal classification.
The focus of this paper deals with the young female voice. This paper serves several purposes: to define vocal misclassification and its dangers; to lead the singer and choral director to healthy voice use through the choral ensemble; to present solutions and outcomes to eliminate the problem of vocal misclassification. Topics to be discussed include common occurrences of inappropriate voice use in choral ensembles (that is, females asked to sing outside of their voice category to fill out the other choral sections and female voices that are incorrectly classified); the changing female voice (ages 9 to 15) (that is, how choral conductors safely traverse these students through their voice change); the college singer in regards to the young voice; and possible solutions and outcomes to eliminate the problem of vocal misclassification (that is, frequent voice testing, making vocal decisions on tessitura not range, and listening to students concerns about their own voices). Through presentation of this paper, choral conductors will be educated about vocal misclassification and preventing damage to young female voices.

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