General Question

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

Is there a physical difference in a persons throat that makes them have a good singing voice?

Asked by rpm_pseud0name (8193points) May 19th, 2010

Is there a visual difference in a persons throat that makes them a good singer? Why do some people have a great singing voice, while others don’t? Do long term vocal lessons have a physically changing effect on the throat muscles? Does a good inner ear play a bigger role in singing than the throat?

Or is singing a talent just like any other? Like being a good painter or dancer or writer? It’s not about the physical differences of the body, it’s all in the brain? Which, the brain is sort of a physical difference in all of us, but you know what I mean.

Apologies for the barrage of questions, but once I started writing out my question, a bunch of follow-ups came to mind.

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23 Answers

ninjacolin's avatar

experience alters the physical function/ability of your throat.
however, you can only build on what you were given from birth.

downtide's avatar

Good singing is mostly an accurate sense of pitch combined with power and control (which is mostly breathing techniques). I’d say that as long as you’re not clinically tone-deaf (unable to distinguish notes of different pitch) then it’s about 80% technique, skill & practise, and 20% physical differences.

Steve_A's avatar

It should be known that what you define as a “good singer” or “talented singer” can be highly subjective.

I believe what @downtide is mostly spot on. Some people will have higher or lower voices everyone is different.So ,yes physically the throat itself and the person will have an impact.The rest is ear (staying in tune and key very important) and technique.

But mostly ears if you ain’t in key, ah lord. Personally I’d take a person who has great ears singing, then someone who is going to be a show off if you will.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

Talent for singing, in general, means that the person, based on some favorable genetics, happens to be able to hit notes accurately. As for the tone of that sound, untrained singers often have the same (or similar) tone in their singing and their speaking voices. For example, people who happen to have a very nasally speaking voice often sing the same way.

Classical vocal coaching is the process of teaching your body (specifically your larynx, soft palette and your abdominal muscles) to work in certain ways that create better air support and a “larger” sound that results in the operatic voice. Opera singers are not born with physiologically different throats that made them great at singing; years and years of training and practice made that happen.

I say this from experience, because I am currently in my 3rd year of classical voice lessons. The transformation in my voice is astounding! Even my parents didn’t believe it was me singing at my last recital.

mattbrowne's avatar

The key is breathing and using the midriff.

Ame_Evil's avatar

@downtide I’m always interested when people assign percentages like this to things that cannot or haven’t been accurate measured. What are your reasoning to present these percentages?

downtide's avatar

@Ame_Evil it’a a guess based entirely on my own experience as a singer, and of people I know who are also singers.

Plone3000's avatar

There is a impact on your singing because of physical difference.
One example (though this is not true for all) is how a larger woman generaly tends to have a stronger voice as oposed to a smaller one who may have a shofter/higher voice.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@Plone3000 That may be true for untrained singers, but I think you’re making a huge generalization. Larger women, due to their size, may have more innate ability for air support versus smaller women. However, I know many women that do not conform to that stereotype. Many opera singers are petite women and have voices just as strong as larger women.

My friend and I are both classical voice students. She’s taller than me and much heavier; I’m 5’2 and average weight. When we were in high school and neither had taken voice lessons, she did have a louder, more supported voice than me. However, after 3 years of voice lessons I now have just as big a voice as her. She’s also a soprano, and I’m a mezzo (alto, lower voice). A fellow voice student, also a mezzo, is one of the tiniest girls I’ve ever seen.

It all has to do with support. Some people have better initial support, some have to teach their bodies how to work the right way to get that support. But either way a woman (or man) of any stature can have a large, beautiful voice with the correct support.

Plone3000's avatar

@ParaParaYukiko thanks for the info, but as I said “though this not true for all” and “generally” they more often do. Yes I am making a generalization I already basically said that but saying that most(but not all) do is the same for trained or untrained singers regardless. Don’t find this offensive, it’s just a matter of fact, I do not see any need to sugar coat the answer.

Don’t get me wrong you obviously know your stuff, but I am sick of Fluther users correcting me when I have a correct answer just for the sake of doing so.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@Plone3000 Oh, no, I didn’t take any offense or anything like that. I just was pointing out that it’s not just the minority of people who don’t fit this generalization. I think that we as a culture are given the idea that heavier women tend to have larger voices because of the stereotypical opera singer: quite heavy, with a Viking helmet and a gigantic voice.

It would be interesting, though, to see a scientific correlation between height/weight and the strength of their untrained singing voice. I wonder if that’s been done.

Plone3000's avatar

@ParaParaYukiko, okay true, I see your point there.

Val123's avatar

Great question. I believe some people can sing naturally and some can’t without work. My daughter has a beautiful voice…...and that child was singing nonsense words well before she could speak full sentences. With perfect pitch. The kind that gives you goosebumps.

iphigeneia's avatar

My singing teacher told me that the reason larger people tend to be able to sing louder more easily is that there is more body to vibrate. Of course, vibration = sound. Not sure how well it stands scientifically, but there’s a possible explanation.

Val123's avatar

@iphigeneia But almost all of the “popular” singers are slender.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

@Val123 , popular doesn’t always correlate with good. I can’t stand any of the ‘popular’ musicians today. I would agree a little with the fact that larger people can produce notes that skinnier singers can’t. Aretha Franklin & Carol Woods come to mind, but I can name countless others.

Val123's avatar

Fantasia! I love her! Know what the first thing Simon said when he saw her? “I hope that stage is big enough to hold her up!”

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@rpmpseudonym I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. The style of the music one sings kind of dictates what the voice sounds like (or visa versa, perhaps). The kind of music Aretha Franklin was singing was perfect for her voice; she wouldn’t do well at all singing in the style of, say, The Andrews Sisters. The same applies with pop music today; people are chosen for certain genres of music based on both their voice (almost always untrained) and their looks. This makes it very difficult to say, unbiased, that people of a certain stature are better/stronger singers than others.

Now, let’s look at the five most famous opera singers in the world: (links are photos of each singer)
Renee Fleming
Placido Domingo
Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Anna Netrebko
Anne Sofie von Otter

Now, opera is not immune to the same selectivity of body type as pop music, as opera includes acting which usually denotes some physical attractiveness, but opera singers also have the bonus of being trained, talented, real singers.

Not trying to refute that many large women like Aretha Franklin aren’t amazing musicians – they are – just saying that large voices aren’t nearly restricted to heavy people.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

@ParaParaYukiko “music one sings kind of dictates what the voice sounds like”, Agreed… after I typed my response, I knew I mistyped & that it would come off differently than intended, but it’s been a long day & I didn’t feel like editing.

Although, I think Aretha could sing the hell out of an Andrews Sisters’ song. :)

Val123's avatar

Aretha could sing the hell out of any song!!

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

Hah, you’re probably right, now that I think of it. I tried to think of an example of something really different from Aretha’s style, but she would probably be able to do a great cover of an Andrews Sisters song! I wonder how she would sound in heavy metal, though…

Val123's avatar

@ParaParaYukiko Now you got me thinkin’!!

downtide's avatar

My daughter is tiny but she has a powerful, contralto voice. People expect something high-pitched but then out comes this voice like Tracey Chapman. So there are definitely exceptions.

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