In addressing speaking vs singing we must first define what each is. We shall begin by first defining speaking.
Speaking is something that most think is a trait that comes naturally. Evolutionists will tell you that it is an evolved mechanism. Untold amounts of money have been poured into studies that purport to show how speech evolved. Can they define what speech really is?
Most evolution scientists believe that speech was something that evolved as life evolved. Some have studied the sounds that other species of animals use. Through observation and tabulation, they have come to conclusions that may or may not be correct.
Some animals make sounds that may be categorized as warnings. According to the response of like kind, this may be correct. But can a sound that denotes warning be considered speech? A siren is a sound of warning but we do not consider it to be speech.
Still, others make sounds that seem to attract. Is a “wolf whistle” considered speech?
True speech is a much more refined mode of communication
Unlike warnings or alarms, real speech can be codified. In other words, it can be cataloged and repeated by like organisms. It can be learned and passed down to successive generations.
Real speech is recognizable sounds that carry the same meaning no matter who makes them. Typically, real speech can be recorded by written notation, such as what I am doing here. (Do you see any monkeys typing out Shakespeare’s works?) Real speech can be translated into other languages.
Speech has the ability to transfer ideas that could not otherwise be shared with other individuals. So, speech is more than sounds made by a biological being. Speech is a tool which is manipulated to build community around a philosophy or lifestyle. It is sound which carries with it meaning far more than just the sound waves that it generates.
Transfer and delivery
Another consideration of speech is how it is delivered. Is the delivery in speech in a monotone voice as effective as one delivered with drama and passion. Consider, for instance, speeches of Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and Winston Churchill. If their famous speeches had been delivered without appropriate passion, would they have been as effective? I think not!
So, as we can see, there is a very high threshold to achieve what is called “speech”. Though there is much more that could be set forth in what is effective speech, we’ll let this suffice.
From speaking to singing
So, how do we get from speaking to singing? The same biological mechanisms for speaking are used in singing. So, does that make singing the same as speaking?
Let’s take a look and see.
In speaking we use the mouth, tongue, larynx, windpipe, lungs, diaphragm, and intercostal muscles. When we say, the mouth, we are including all that goes with the mouth(teeth, hard palate, soft palate, lips, tongue). One might include the nasal passages also.
In looking at singing, we find that the same muscles and cavities are put to use. Does that make speaking a form of singing? Some might think so. (Some consider “Rap” to be singing. I am one who does not.) But, if we get a little more into the intricacies of singing, we find there are some notable differences.
Both speaking and singing use the diaphragm to inhale air to be used as the actuator.
Each use the intercostal muscles to exhale the air up through the trachea.
The sounds are produced in the larynx by the cricothyroid or thyroarytenoid muscles.
The sound produced in the larynx is amplified by the pharynx, mouth and nasal cavities.
The words are articulated by the tongue, teeth, and lips.
The vowels are defined by the available resonating chambers(pharynx, mouth, nasal cavities).
There is inhalation and exhalation in both speaking and singing. Depth of breath intake in speaking is somewhat shallow compared to singing.
In speaking, the inhalation of breath is mostly motor controlled. In singing, the inhalation is a conscious act and depth varies depending on the phrase length.
In speaking the diaphragm helps with inhalation and then has little else effect unless yelling. In singing, the diaphragm is the main instrument of inhalation. It then acts as a control mechanism to gauge the outflow of air.
In speaking, the intercostal muscles exert minimal pressure unless it is forceful speaking or yelling. In singing, these muscles exert varying degrees of pressure depending on the volume of the singing.
Whether speaking or singing, the same muscles in the larynx are utilized. But the utilization is more controlled and varies in degrees. These variations are not controlled by conscious manipulation of the muscles but through mind pictures. These terms may be terms such as “head voice”, or “chest voice”, or “keep the tone forward”. This imagery helps to bring about muscle actuation needed for developing the singing voice.
The same resonators, or amplifiers, are used in singing and speaking. However, speaking does not necessarily consciously manipulate the resonators. When singing, there is a consciousness of controlling these amplifiers. This is recognized by the use of terms such as “open the throat”, or “feel the yawn”.
In articulation, the same tools are available. But, the use of each becomes exaggerated. This is because of the extension of the vowel in much of the singing. Some consonants will need to be exaggerated, while others will not be. Each song will make its own determination.
In normal speaking, vowels are used somewhat recklessly. Most people speak using terms and nuances for their locality. That is fine for normal everyday conversation. But, when singing, one typically, should use the best translation of the vowel for the national language.
In producing the correct vowel, two things must be considered. To form the vowel one must consider the resonators. Vowels are shaped by overtones, or harmonics. The shape of resonators will determine which harmonics will be emphasized. It is hard to pronounce “i”(ee) when forming the mouth for “ah”. Adjustments to the resonator may be necessary to get the word right. Sometimes the pitch sung may determine how the vowel is approached. If sung on a high pitch it may be best just to open up the resonators and sing. Quite often it is hard to determine the vowel on high pitches. This is true especially for sopranos. Each song should be approached as a unique presentation.
Breathing for speaking and singing is of great contrast. For speaking, breath control is basically, nonexistent. Of course, the previous statement does not apply to prepared public speaking.
In typical conversation, one is seldom aware of breath control. However, in singing, one is ever aware of breath control. If there is not good and consistent breath control, there will be no good presentation of the singing voice.
Breath control is the foundation of good singing. Without it, none of the aforementioned subjects will bear fruit in the development of a good singing voice. Breath control determines the quality of the voice, the strength of the voice, and the presentation of the message of the song.
If the foundation is not good, then everything built on it will not overcome that weakness.
Elevation of singing
One of my professors in graduate school said this of singing. “When words alone cannot express what needs to be said, then music becomes the necessary tool.”
This is so true in many instances. Not all words set to music are enhanced by the music. But, there are so many which would not be the same without their music.
How singing is used
Great teachings and great traditions have been passed down through the use of singing. For example, in the church, the teachings of the Bible have been taught through beautiful hymns. Wonderful anthems and songs have enshrined Biblical truths in the hearts and minds of many people.
Learning songs and singing them is a great way to teach great truths.
Though we attribute singing to many animals, they do not really sing. In truth, one must first know speaking before one can know singing. To sing is to begin to be like our Creator. After all, He spoke all of creation into being and then the “morning stars sang together”,(Job 38:7).
Speaking vs Singing
It is not necessarily “speaking vs singing”, but rather speaking and singing together.
Singing could never exist without speaking. But speaking would never realize its full potential without singing.
So, let the singing begin. Let it affect our speaking so that we speak beautifully and with control, the Word of our Creator.
God bless you!