The Therapeutic Singing Voice
If you were to walk into Kensington Park on any day, you’d most likely see one of our residents doing a lot of singing with their music therapist. In fact, singing is our most commonly used intervention. It’s not just singing, however; music therapists implement what is called the “therapeutic singing voice.” The therapeutic singing voice is a working definition that includes the essential characteristics of what a music therapist’s voice should be.
In a recent study by Martina Bingham, DMA, at the University of Hawaii, she sought to explore exactly what those essential characteristics are. Based on her research, she found that using the voice therapeutically involves a certain flexibility, manipulation and diversity vocal performers don’t necessarily utilize. Confused? I’ll explain.
Music therapists use their voices & accompanying instrument to drive an outcome. In order to do so, their voices must have flexibility in energy levels, breathing methods, posture, and dynamics to elicit the response we desire from the client. Additionally, there must be a diversity in our voices because different musical genres require different kinds of sound. From the bright, thin voice of Teresa Brewer to the dark, thick resonance of Johnny Cash, it’s our job to recreate the song with the stylistic integrity of the artist. Music therapists must be able to explore their range, resonance and phonation with comfortability. The participants of this study also reported that they often used improvisational singing in sessions. We frequently sing in response to our clients—their mood, verbalizations, vocalizations or breathing. This is often seen in hospice sessions or with non-speaking clients.
So, if you see a music therapist singing with your loved one, take notice of it. Chances are, there is some serious technique happening behind that beautiful sound!