When I read this article today about British singer-songwriter Kate Bush’s recent live performance, one phrase stood out to me:
“In her skyscraper voice, which has inevitably lost some top end…”
As a Kate Bush fan, that made me a bit sad to read since her ethereal, almost super-human voice–with the ability to reach those unbelievably high notes–is one of the things I love most about her.
But, difficulty reaching high notes is simply a natural part of aging. In fact, when I recently saw Patty Smyth in a live show, the 50-something American new wave singer explained that she had to munch a slice of raw apple before each song to be able to hit her own high notes.
Like most things I think about, thinking about how vocal abilities change over the years led me to ponder how our hormones affect our voice over the course of our monthly menstrual cycle.
That’s when I remembered this intriguing 1993 study in the Journal of Voice that found premenopausal women (we gals who still get our periods regularly) find it easier to hit high notes during Week 2 of our cycle (the week leading up to ovulation) and struggle to reach high notes during our premenstrual Week 4.
And another study in the Journal of Voice from 2001 found that our voice also gets a bit shaky in our premenstrual week.
And yet another study–a 2011 report in the journal PLOS ONE shows that our voice is a bit deeper and rougher during our period week.
All this makes sense since Week 2’s high estrogen helps lubricate vocal chords while at the same time reduces bloating that can put pressure on the throat, making your voice sound hoarser.
What’s this mean for you?
Well, if you’re looking to make a demo tape for a singing competition, introduce a new song to your audience or simply wow a pal with your vocal prowess, definitely schedule it for Week 2 of your cycle (which starts 8 days from the onset of your period), which is when your voice will be at its best and you’ll find it easier to reach all the high notes you want.
And if you’re singing at a time in your cycle when hormone levels are dinging your voice a bit, try overcoming this hormonal hurdle by doing more vocal warm-up exercises, lubricating your vocal chords with warm tea, honey or a slice of raw apple like Patty Smyth and reduce your intake of salty foods to reduce hoarseness-triggering water retention.
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