Singing Through Menopause? Why not?!

“While the vocal apparatus does change as we grow older, researchers have found that voice training may help maintain the voice as we age.”  (Butler, 2001).

The Female Voice undergoes changes throughout the lifetime. Her habitual voice pitch descends from age 4 to 50 years, & finally settles in her 80s. Adolescent girls must navigate voice changes when the larynx experiences a growth spurt in which the vocal folds experience a 3 to 4 millimeter total increase in the length (Kahane, 1975).

Female singers face additional challenges with the onset of menopause that have a direct effect on the vocal mechanism. Estrogen deprivation causes substantial changes in the mucous membranes that line the vocal tract. As estrogen levels decrease, laryngeal tissues begin to absorb water causing the vocal folds to swell, blood vessels to become enlarged, and vocal fold mass to increase (Emerich, Hoover.  Sataloff, 1996). Changes in hormone levels have been associated with decreased fundamental frequency (pitch) hoarseness, decreased vocal range, and difficulty with complex motor tasks (Boone, 1997; Emerich. et aI., 1996).

Estrogen therapy has been helpful in forestalling the typical voice changes that follow menopause. It has been shown that those on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) tend to have a higher habitual voice pitch than those not on HRT, (Hamden et al 2018) yet there seemed to be no significant difference in voice complaints between the two groups.


  • Atrophy of the Laryngeal Cartilages
  • Reduced volume and projection of the voice (thin sound)
  • Reduced vocal endurance & fatigue
  • Reduced efficiency in muscle coordination causing pitch inaccuracies
  • Rough or hoarse vocal sound
  • Tremor or shakiness in the voice
  • Hearing Loss
  • Vocal cord atrophy (bowing) causing breathy tone
  • For women: Laryngeal atrophy, edema, and increased presence of deep, narrow furrows or grooves in the vocal fold (vocal fold sulci). Changes in the vocal folds may include edema and thickening of the superficial layer of the lamina propria [the thin vascular layer of connective tissue beneath the epithelium]


  • Cartilages naturally ossify (turn to bone) by age 65 causing less flexibility & resiliency in the vocal mechanism.
  • Muscles and ligaments lose elasticity and collagenous fibers making them thin and stiff.
  • The outer layers of vocal folds deteriorate, creating less protection for the vocal muscles underneath.
  • The vocal fold edges can become ragged resulting in a “roughness” to the voice quality.
  • Folds may exhibit a gap or “bowing” in the middle third causing a “breathy” tone.
  • Decline in respiratory function beginning around age 40 with a 40% loss between the ages of 40 and 80.
  • Adverse health conditions natural to aging can affect the respiratory and cardiovascular system.
  • Many medications affect the salivary glands, and mucous-secreting membranes of the respiratory tract, reducing and thickening mucosal secretions, resulting in minimal lubrication of that area. The resulting dry cough may eventually damage the vocal folds.
  • Sedative effect of some meds slow response time of the laryngeal muscles.
  • Regular use of aspirin predisposes singers to hemorrhage especially in unconditioned singers.


Cecilia Bartoli ~

Loretta Lynn ~

Aretha Franklin ~


  • Warm up the muscles connected directly or indirectly to the vocal mechanism: groups of muscles in the face, neck, shoulders, arms, upper chest, abdomen, sides of the torso, and upper/lower back.
  • Stature: Maintain upright, buoyant, balanced.
  • Inhalation & Exhalation Exercises: Pant, Sing Staccato Vowels, Puff, Hiss, Shh, etc., Hum gently, gradually letting the sound swell.
  • Relax & Stretch the Vocal Tract: Lip & Tongue Trills: Bbb, Prr, Trr, Hrr, Motor Boat Sounds & Sirens. Drop your mouth open downward as far as you can with ease & say “ta, ta, ta, ta” while gently feeling the jaw motion with your hand: breathe out as you say the syllables & sing as many as you can.
  • Resonators: Nasal “wicked witch” to “cowardly lion” voice to stretch the larynx, pharynx & soft palate muscle groups.
  • Articulators: 5-note up & down scale exercises for the 1. Jaw (ya, ya, ya), 2. Lips (ba, ba , ba), 3. Teeth (ta, ta, ta), 4. Tongue (la, la, la), 5. Soft Palate (nga, nga, nga), 6. Throat (ha, ha, ha
  • Flexibility: Up & down glissandos (up to 3 octaves), Gliding on triplets.


Daily Exercise, Hydration, Nutrition, Regular Rest, Enjoy Friends, Mental Agility Exercises, Preventative Health, Don’t Smoke, Support the Speaking Voice (breathe as though you are singing).


Vibrato problems are often associated with the aging voice and are either due to tongue/jaw tension or the low breath energy that can be associated with aging.

Things to try:

  • Examine posture watching out for sloped shoulders, head-poked forward  and clenched jaw.
  • Vocalize with: slack jaw, use beginning of a ‘yawn’ space, try tongue out singing.
  • “Knoll” slides, add physical gestures to encourage spinning breath while singing. Imagine 3-dimensional vowel shapes and learn to clarify an open space.
  • Experiment: Sing exercises with straight tone to vibrato.

Thin Tone is due to the folds not fully closing.

Sustain vowels on a single pitch, step-wise repeating note patterns, “ngah” brings the vocal folds together without too much squeeze, gentle staccatos on vowels, ding/ming/ning. Take care to not over-blow (blow the folds open).

Creaky Voice is due to speaking at an unnaturally low pitch and not refreshing breath.

Say, “Mm-Hmm,” as though agreeing with something. Become aware of the low-pitch voice use & investigate situations that exacerbate the habit.

 NOTE: Much of the time, hoarseness and vocal difficulties are not simply age-related change. Any change that you notice in your voice should be a warning sign that something may be wrong. See your otolaryngologist (ear, nose, throat doctor). Almost all voice problems are highly treatable.

For more questions, email Author Jamea Sale:

Continue reading Singing Through Menopause? Why not?!


What kind of warm-up do you do before your personal rehearsal time or general choral warm-up? Of course, warm-ups vary depending on the time of day you begin singing, your gender and age and what kind of singing you are about to do.

What are your default “must-do-no-matter what” warm-ups?

Here’s what our top vocal pedagogues, performers, & educators said ~

clarifications: Lip buzzes are lip trills. Penta-scales are five note scales. All of our vocal pedagogues had two exercises in common: 1) Use of lip buzzes or lip trills and slides (penta-scale to an octave + 1) and 2) slides or glissando as a semi-occluded vocal tract exercise for breathe motion, ease of use of vocal folds, and the thinning of them.

 1. Jamea Sale: Vocal Coach, Singer, Private Instructor.

  1. Yawn-sighs and puppy dog whines into descending slides on the penta-scale with neutral vowel.
  2. Ascending flex lip trills high to low [V15 exercise]. V15 Flex Trills
  3. Yoo-ah flexibility using skips and leaps [V14 exercise].V14 Yoo-ah Flexibility

2. Anonymous, Professional Baritone/ Private Instructor.

As a vocal warm up, I’m more interested in stretching other muscles, relaxing and resting my voice, and eating a meal with protein about two hours before performing. Singing with regularity doesn’t require that much time to warm up. That being said . . .

  1. I use coffee stirrers, often two at a time, one if I’m feeling bold. Singing through straws emphasizes feeling your voice rather than listening to yourself helps avoid pushing too much air. Quick scales that span an octave and a half or two octaves.
  2. Continue with the semi-occluded vocal tract idea singing voiced consonants in the mid-range. “Th” is great as in “the” because it naturally fronts the tongue. It’s important to maintain an open pharynx/stable larynx while your mouth is closed.
  3. Classic coloratura warm ups on [i-e-a-o-u] moving quickly through penta-scales and nine scales. Low range to high, aiming to sing three half-steps below and above the range I’ll need to sing during that day’s performance.

Vocal Folds stretch during octave slides:


3. Anonymous, Professional Lyric Soprano / Private Instructor

  1. Lip trills using the penta-scale ascending and descending.
  2. Repeat scales on 16th notes ascending and descending on one breath for at least 10 counts with the last note being a half note to prep air for the next repetition.
  3. Range scales with full extensions as high and as low as one can sing with agility.

4. Andrew Schmidt, Choral Conductor, Tenor.

  1. Falsetto slides, up or down using do-sol-do, or sol-do-sol to engage the crico-thyroid while making sure to move plenty of air through the instrument.
  2. Lip Buzzes descending in chain succession: Sol-Fa-Mi-Re-Do, followed by an immediate ascent by a semi-tone and then repeated. Sing 2 or 3 sets before taking a breath.
  3. [u]-scales to the 9th: While maintaining placement, breath motion, and thin vocal folds, start lower in the range (usually low G) and sing a scale that extends to the upper 9th and descends again. Move through the scale quickly working to maintain placement, flexibility via a thin/light mechanism, and resonance with a vibrato spin.

5. Christine Freeman, Choral Conductor, Soprano

  1. Descending lip trills slides on [u].
  2. [Ma Me Mi Mo Mu]  12312342345345645 4 3 2 1 for flexibility
  3. “Zip-Zip-Zip-Za” using do-mi-so-li-ti-do-so-mi-do for range

Jennifer Berroth, Choral Conductor, Alto.

  1. Lip trills on descending penta-scale.
  2. Ascending glissando penta-scale on a warm [i] vowel. Use a K or G consonant at the beginning to ensure strong closer (adduction) with vocal folds.
  3. As a vocal strengthener, use [V] to sing 1-3-5-8-5-3-1. Rest the top teeth lightly on the lower lip as you sing  [V] continuously.

Lynn Swanson, Choral Conductor, Mezzo.

  1. [Fu] descending penta-scale slides mid to low range for a gentle activation and to focus and streamline the air. V1-page-001
  2. Lip trills – ascending and descending penta-scales to full scales lip trills from mid to high range to ensure support of diaphragm. V2.Lip.Trill.Asc.Desc.-page-001
  3. [Nyu] to [Nya] or “Zing-Zing-Zing-Za” ascending and descending skips mixed with semi-tone movement for intonation and agility. It’s called The Mel after Melissa Shallberg who uses it very effectively. 1-3-5-dim.7-7-8-5-3-1.
    The Mel.

    To learn more about vocal warm ups, please visit:

Continue reading TOP 3 “GO-TO” VOCAL WARM-UPS

Seamless Passaggio Tips

There is so much conflicting information on the ‘Registers’ of the Human Voice! Be it speaking, theatrical, or singing the terminology and methodology of the vocal mechanism can be an intimidating subject to grasp.

Effective Exercises for Creating Seamless Singing or Evening Out Registers…

  • Always warm-up! Activate your bodymind by moving! Singing is a full body, contact sport that is most productive if attention is given to engaging the whole singer.
  • Activate breathing for singing. There are many ways to do this & you need to discover what works best for you. To allow the abdominal muscles to release as air flows in and out, you might try:
  • leaning against a wall with knees soft, hips and shoulders flat, head floating above
  • lying on the floor.
  • Add sound to breath. Manage the breath by adding fricative consonants in rhythmic patterns to reinforce abdominal control of the stream of air.
  • Add pitch to breath, imprecise to specific – descending first.
    • Sighs, lip trills, rolled “r”. Then sigh down & back up until transitions are smooth.
    • Start comfortably high and slide down in a five-note pattern then back up to the starting pitch. Aim for a consistent timbre throughout the exercise. When the voice feels like it wants to switch or fall into a different ‘register’ do a few more, but try to keep it smooth for a few notes below what feels comfortable.
    • Flip your slide pattern upside down starting comfortably low then ascending through your upper range.
  • Sing your normal stuff!
  • When you are done with rehearsal or practice, REVERSE THESE STEPS to cool the voice down.

Current scholarship proposes that register shifts/lifts/ breaks are simply a matter of imbalanced muscle development. These slides are similar to lifting weights to balance the strength of the muscles that change the length of the vocal folds to facilitate changes in pitch. Do these things every day and you will hear (or not hear) 🙂 a difference!

‘Til next time!

Melissa Shallberg