Am I Too Old To Sing?
As a voice teacher in Austin, TX, I have the pleasure of teaching students of different ages, genders and backgrounds. One of my favorite groups of students to work with are older people who sing. But many older students are skeptical and think “am I too old to sing?” or worse, too old to even learn something as nuanced as singing.
They think “Can I really learn to sing at 50 (or 60, or 70)?” Or “I’m too old to be a singer”.
Naturally, the body changes with age and many students wonder how singing voices change with age. Some singers even lose their voice when they get older.
So I thought I’d devote some time to the question and see if I can change any minds and hearts out there, in the hopes of inspiring those who are older than 50 that they can learn to sing and even have a career in music.
How the Voice Changes with Age
Let’s start off by addressing the obvious. Yes, the human voice changes with age. But how? And when?
Much like during puberty, the voice changes in later life due to hormones and a variety of other physiological processes including the hardening of cartilages into bone (ossification), the thinning of the vocal folds (vocal cords) and the loss of elastic fibers in the larynx (voice box).
These factors affect the voice directly, but there are lots of other changes you can expect to see past 50 which also affect singing such as atrophy of muscle and nerve tissues and changes in the chemicals responsible for nerve transmission.
Now, while all of this reads like a list of crappy side-effects you read on a prescription bottle, the good news is that it’s possible to keep all these functions working better than normal provided that there is some regular maintenance of the vocal mechanisms.
Some studies have even suggested that in the vast majority of cases, voice changes in old age are more closely related to disease than to the physiological processes of aging.
So taking good care of your body’s health could be instrumental in maintaining a great voice as you age.
3 Activities To Keep Your Voice Young
Now that we’ve (hopefully) answered the question “Am I too old to sing?”, the question is what are you going to do about it.
When we talk about how singing voices change with age, the old saying “If you don’t use it, you lose it” applies.
We’ve seen that regular use of the voice in a healthy way can help ward off some of the most common issues associated with the aging voice, but if you’re new to singing, where do you start?
I’ve compiled a list of 3 activities that can keep your voice young and your body healthy.
1. Sing in the shower/car/karaoke room
For those who are a bit shy about singing or learning to sing, ANYTHING is better than nothing. So, any low-pressure place where you can sing along with music is great.
Be listening for what your voice sounds like. How does it feel to sing in your own voice? If singing doesn’t feel good and sounds hoarse or flat, consider having a professional listen. Part of becoming a great singer is understanding your instrument, so you’ll be glad to get more information about your voice.
2. Join a choir
Choirs are a phenomenal group activity renowned for their ability to get large groups of people to enjoy singing and create music together.
I can’t speak highly enough of my experiences learning to sing music with so many people who have a deep appreciation for music.
If you’re ambitious, of course, you can always find a choir that sings in different languages and reads music. I highly recommend this route for those who want to learn more about how singing fits into the huge world of music.
3. Take singing lessons
Whether you’re trying to start a singing career or just have some fun, there is no quicker and easier way to learn to sing that taking singing lessons with a qualified teacher.
During my lessons with students, we work on exercises that are designed to develop your breathing, strengthen your voice and maintain vocal agility. Then we work with the songs that you love, always putting our goal of vocal balance and health first.
It can be a heck of a lot of fun and there’s a strong case this can extend the quality of your voice as you age. Consider booking a trial free voice lesson to get started.
Am I Too Old to Take Singing Lessons?
Look around you, there are tons of amazing older singers that are still out there performing.
Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon are all over 70! And many of them are performing at a very high level.
I can hear the protests now: “But I’m too old to sing. Paul Simon and Barbra Streisand have been singing for YEARS!”
While this is true, there is a lot more to singing than just performing. Singing is actually very healthy for you also.
There are lots of studies showing that music lessons and singing in old age can be healthy for both physical and psychological reasons.
During singing, you’re working the aerobic and muscular systems in your body resulting in improved circulation for vital organ function. Singing is also a very effective de-stressor and ups your doses of the natural “feel-good” endorphins dopamine and serotonin.
So even if you’re not planning a multi-city tour, maybe you’ll consider singing for your health. Voice lessons can be a really great activity for later in life, keeping the mind focused on a developing skill set where you can take pride in instantaneous results.
You’re Not Too Old to Sing
One of the most important things to understand about the aging voice is the importance of setting expectations.
While I believe that it’s very important that everyone find a way to enjoy singing (whether it’s an arena performance or just in the shower), it may be unreasonable to expect your voice to behave like it did when you were 20. So don’t expect to be able to hit a high C like you could in college.
The reality is the aging voice does change and those changes will not always have a positive effect on your singing. However, by continuously exercising the instrument, your singing voice will get better with practice and you’ll have a great time doing it!