The Male Changing Voice

The male adolescent voice is a topic chosen for research much more frequently than the female changing voice. This is largely due to the more drastic and prominent changes in the male voice. Males go through puberty and the awkwardness that is associated with it. Limbs grow faster than their torso, feet are tripped over, and voices squeak sporadically. Some researchers even think that the size of the male is linked to the amount of voice change. Careful choosing of repertoire is important for teachers to pay attention to, as is assigning males to specific voice parts.

Many researchers attempted to establish a basis for determining norms of both males’ and females’ vocal ranges through measurement of height, weight, and hip and shoulder breadth. There was not enough concrete evidence to back up these claims, except the general conclusion that the tallest boys had the lowest voices out of the adolescent subjects. This is possible because of the correlation between growth spurts and size increase of the larynx. "There is a rapid growth and hardening of cartilage throughout the body. As the larynx, which is cartilaginous, increases rapidly in size and alters in shape, the vocal bands increase correspondingly in length and thickness. The result is a radical drop in vocal pitch, anywhere from 1 to 2.5 octaves."

The male voice goes through changes usually between the ages of 12 to 15. There are many stages of development that are used to classify male voice changes and some researchers go into more detail than others. The following is a classification used by Don L. Collins in his book The Cambiata Concept.

The first is the male treble voice, which is the unchanged voice. This sound is full, rich, and soprano-like. This is the stage males are in until approximately the age of 11 or 12. Males in this age usually sing soprano in choirs.
treble range

The cambiata voice is the first stage of change. Cambiata comes from the Italian verb "cambiare," which means to change. It is known for having a "wooly" quality and the range is more limited. Even though the voice may sound more like an unchanged voice, the lower tones will begin to be stronger.
cambiata range

The baritone range is the second stage of change, and is difficult for males to control. Males experience cracking between registers and loss of mid-range. Sometimes the extreme highs and lows of the male's total range will sound, but there will be a middle section of the voice that will not phonate. While some may experience this blank spot in their range, others may have trouble accessing their falsetto range easily.
baritone range

In John Marion Cooksey’s book Working With Adolescent Voices, he separates the cambiata stage into three stages: Midvoice I, Midvoice II, and Midvoice IIA.

Midvoice I Lasts from 1 to 5 months, and sometimes up to 12 months. Higher pitches are lost and the singing range decreases by about four half-steps. The sound is breathy and not as rich.
Midvoice II Lasts for about 12-13 months and begins closer to the age of 13. Higher notes become more unstable and distinct register changes emerge between chest and falsetto voices.
Midvoice IIA May last anywhere from one month to ten months and the majority of boys in this stage are in eighth grade, ages 13-14. The quality is huskier and there is a loss of agility.

Throughout stages of development, males go through a process of adding low notes to their existing unchanged range and losing some of the top range. Little by little, a greater low range will begin to develop as the top range is lost. Cooksey compared this to a slinky toy. As the slinky moves down a step, more bottom notes are added to the male's range, but then the slinky flips over and descends further down the stairs, just as the male looses top-range notes and adds lower notes.

The last stage is called the Developing Baritone/Emerging Adult Voice that gradually moves towards vocal maturity. Characteristics in this stage are still not full adult, but qualities such as expansion of range and more vocal consistency are beginning to appear.

Researchers, including Betty Hughes, have studied the changing voice in Caucasian and non-Caucasian males. Results of a study done by Hollien and Malcik (1962) showed that ten year old non-Caucasian boys had a range of almost 2 whole steps lower than ten year old Caucasian boys. 14 year old non-Caucasian voices were near median frequency level of adult male voices. The fact that laryngeal sizes were larger in non-Caucasians shows us that size impacts the pitch.