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Speech Level Singing

Hi everyone

I have been looking on the american vocalist site and there is a good deal about Speech Level Singing on there. One thing that is being discussed is how SLS would define belt technique and how this differs from the Estill model.

I would be most interested to know from SLS teachers how the method works for belt. I'm not interested in slamming other people's technique, it's knowledge from people who use it that I'm interested in.

Any takers?

Re: Speech Level Singing

Hi again, Emma

Well, it looks as though I will have to do an SLS course to work out how belt is described in SLS. According to one of the posters on the American site, you can belt with the larynx in a neutral position. In the Estill model, you use a high larynx. What are you doing to belt?


Re: Re: Speech Level Singing

Hi there,
I'm a certified Speech Level Singing instructor and have taught voice for over ten years, have a degree in music as well as studies in speech language pathology and vocology, so thought I'd toss in a word about singing in general, as well as try to answer any questions about SLS.
I used to be a regular on in the us, but this is the first time I've checkout the uk board. What a difference in the questions and the tone of the conversation here! Ya'll wanna sing!

As far as the "belt" method. SLS does not teach belt, nor will it ever. However, because SLS students are able to make a sound that "appears" to be belt because of the volume and strength of the sound, many often equate the SLS Mix used in Musical Theatre as the otherwise referred to Belt. They are not the same. SLS MIx, does not have any of the characteristically unhealthy qualities that a raised laryngeal position would impose on the voice. Therefore, the sound is seamless from chest to head and does not change in quality or lack in timbre, nor does it wear and tear on the voice the way a high larynx would overly stress the vocal folds.
SLS is a way of balancing the voice so that any of the the cracks, flips or breaks one often hears in singers, are trained out of the voice. This preserves the unique vocal signature of each singer while not inhibiting their range, their dynamic capability, their creativity or the development of their style, whether related to genre, or personality.

How? By correctly establishing where the bridging process should occur (passagi) the larynx is kept in a relatively stable, or neutral, (not fixed) position and the cords remain fully adducted and vibrating throughout the singers range. Singers do not have to learn certain postures to remember as they sing (ie., yawn, smile, lift, tilt), nor do they have to focus on supporting the tone, nor do they have to remember a huge list of vocal adjustments to make. The singers job is to not interfere with the pitch making process and to focus on delivering the music and the message, not the technique.

It may sound too good to be true, but the effectiveness of the technique can only be proved through it's track record. There has not been any other teacher, or institution, that has had the wide success that Seth Rigg's students have had. If one focuses on the facts, allows the voice to work the way it was designed to and gets rid of any hindrances to that process, the result you will get will be what many find in SLS.

As always, you should ask questions and find a teacher that you can connect with. THe process of singing should become simpler and easier for you as you become more and more advanced, not the other way around. The goal is to UN-learn any interfering behaviors in the voice, not learn new compensating behaviors to mask the problem.

Please feel free to send questions to me via my website,, or through this list.

Best in all your singing!
Mary Beth F.

Re: Speech Level Singing

Hi Mary Beth

Why does SLS insist that the larynx remains low? In x-rays of the larynx singing different pitches, we know that it rises.

If belt is happy yelling that is a high larynx sound. How would you describe the setup for SLS music theatre sound? I would be very interested.


Re: Speech Level Singing

Just thought i'd add my tuppence-worth. I've been diagnosed with vocal nodules and have recnetly gone for SLS tuition with Dane Chalfin at LIPA - even though i've only had a fwe lessons - I know this technique is going to work - will keep you posted on my progress!!

Re: Speech Level Singing

Nice to know LIPA is prepared to give lessens to vocalist. I've been a student there for three years and not recieved a lot from them what so ever. We were supposed to recieve lessons with dane once a month but never got them. Nice to know the place has their priorities straight

Re: Speech Level Singing

A key to this problem is one tricky solution. One of the resources that I found says that it is important to teach the larynx not to rise or lower. That is very hard and I can't do it yet.

Re: Speech Level Singing

Hi people

Here it is again. The larynx rises and falls according to the pitch of the note you sing. It's a fact. That is what the larynx does. Just put your hand around your throat and hum a rising and falling phrase. Your larynx moves.

If you depress your larynx by pushing down with your tongue, you will get a dark coloured sound and you will lose the top notes of your voice. It is however possible to have a lower larynx position than your neutral and sing with a slightly darkened tone healthily. The jury is out on the difference between a lowered larynx and a depressed larynx. It is largely a matter of whether there is undue tension in the muscles that hold the larynx down and in the root of the tongue.

If the larynx is too high, constriction of the swallowing muscles results, unless you are able to keep the constrictor muscles neutral while raising the larynx to a high enough level.

The pitch of the note is not controlled by the height of the larynx, but the larynx rising is a consequence of the higher pitch. The pitch changes are controlled by the tilting of the thyroid cartilage, occasioned by the contraction of the cricothyroid muscle, a muscle which joins the two major laryngeal cartilages and enables them to move towards each other, elongating the folds and so allowing pitch change to take place.

The vocal tract tunes itself to the pitches made in the larynx, and makes itself smaller for higher pitches (like a piccolo is smaller than a flute). For a lovely description of vocal processes, have a look at the chapter by Dinah Harris in The Voice Clinic Handbook.


Re: Speech Level Singing

Hi Emma, Richard, Agnes et al.

Regarding LIPA: I have no idea how they run their program or schedule students, but can obviously relate to the frustration one person was having in getting a voice lesson.

Richard: don't overfocus on what your larynx is, or isn't doing when you are beginning to retrain. Just focus on the exact sound that Dane gives you and try to replicate that sound throughout the scale, without distorting the word, pushing the volume, distorting your face or body etc. Dane's job is to worry about what's going on on the inside of your voice right now, and your job is to worry about not interfering with that. As the exercises begin to retrain your behaviors, you will find that your own behaviors will slowly change from the outside to the inside. Meaning, the extrinsic muscles of the larynx are usually the last thing to stabilize, even after you have achieved a balanced connection. They're greedy little buggers and are more than happy to jump in and "help."

I apologize for not addressing your questions earlier, and I'm afraid my answer will still be inadequate today. I'll briefly address some of your statements, and would be more than happy to go indepth into things through personal e-mail. I think it's great to discuss our differing undersstandings and try to come to some sort of consensus, but I want to make sure that we don't end up arguing over cartilege functions instead of focusing on our love of singing!


Stable larynx: I prefer to call it a neutral larynx. The stable larynx referred to in SLS does not mean that the larynx is static, or fixed, but that the extrinsic muscles of the larynx do not interfere with the intrinsic co-ordination of the pitchmaking process and therefore the normally large rising and falling of the larynx that you see in many singers is not evidenced in most SLS trained singers. This is due to the manner in which we train the pitchmaking, and registration process to happen. It alleviates the need for much of the extrinsic muscle action. However, if you registrate differently, then you would logically observe your larynx rising or falling as your process would be different than mine, and the laryngeal movement is a natural extension of your training.

Belt/Musical Theatre/Happy Yelling:
This is not what SLS teaches, yet many think that we do because the SLS Mix Used in singing Hard Musical Theatre sounds as strong as the belted chest sound taught by most. However the difference is that the happy yelling sound is a function of the voice where the TA and vocalis muscle are taxed to the extreme of their function by adding a lot of breathe pressure.

In SLS those same notes are sung in a co-ordination that is a blend from a predominantly TA function to a predominantly CT function. This allows the chest color of the tone to be present while allowing for the pitch to change in a healthier environmnet. This sort of function can be found in everyday speech. If one says, "What do you want?" in their upper register with a slight whine, or nastiness, to the tone, you will most likely find a function similar to the Mix. I would try that expression around a d5/e5. (disclaimer: it's dangerous to recommend an exercise over the internet, because you can't hear me, and I can't hear you)

Overall, there are many theories and techniques and ideas about what goes on in the voice and what is the best choice. The amazing thing about the voice is that it CAN produce the same pitch in an amazing array of functions, volumes, and tonal colors. Therefore, many people's research is accurate in their observation of their technique, because the voice is capable of producing those tones in the particular way they are advocating. However, it may not always be the best function, or the healthiest function, or vice versa.

The way I view all the research is by running it through my own list of vocal priorities:
1)Does it make the singing process easier or more difficult for the vocalist?
2)Does it allow the individual unique sound of the vocalist to remain?
3)Does it encourage the health of the voice, or tax the voice?
4) Can I understand what the singer is saying in this sort of production?
5)Does it give the singer the maximal amount of possibility for stylistic choices, or does it limit them to one area?

Hope this is of some help, although I realize how inadequate it can be to discuss function and application over the e-mail.

Mary Beth

Re: Speech Level Singing

Easier or more difficult? That is the question!
Many people will say that it depends on the person which it does. Some people will find it easier but those who do are very lucky. Anyway in speech level singing it is about singing as loud as you speak so power isnt a necessity.

Re: Speech Level Singing

Cam anyone give me advice about teaching singing. I am 39 yrs old & have been singing for over 30 years. I began lessons at 9 and for the next 30 years I have had singing lessons from over 8 teachers - 4 of them experts/professors in their field. I have learned about twang, belt, speeech quality, breathy quality etc and recently I have been looking into SLS (Seth Riggs). I graduated with a 2:1 in Music in 2002. (my 12,000 word thesis was about the Jo Estill method of singing).
I have worked as a pro singer for 20 years & have a wealth of experience as a performer & also play piano, sax & clarinet.
I would like to teach singing to others (so far I have taught my neice an 8 year old - she is doing great!) but don't have any 'formal' teaching qualification. (I only have a grade 5 (distinction) in classical singing when I was 16 - but I'm really not into classicalat all)
Could anyone suggest what I could do to get a 'teaching qualification' - I would like to teach contemporary singing - particularly pop & musical theatre.
Joanne Wright