When is it too late to (learn how to) sing? Are you too old to take voice lessons? Can one improve their voice later in life? Singing with an ageing voice is something we all will deal with at some point, or are dealing with right now. Let's dive in and see what we can do about it.
Brandy is a singer, has been signing since she was 24. She is 44 now. Last time I heard Brandy was on MTV when I was a teenager (I don’t need to tell you that was a looong time ago), so I was very curious to hear if she “has still got it”? Is she still the badass, agile soulful voice I knew?
Is the older singing voice less good?
People talk all the time about how the voice worsens with age. Hormones change, we
grow/shrink, get all kinds of body issues, the entire physiological composure is different. the ageing female voice can be influenced by childbirth, menopause, the list goes on.
So there is a reality here we have to accept: when we get older our bodies change and not always for the better.
You can watch my reaction to Brandy on YT to see how her voice is, now that she's older. But what would be the case with a voice of someone who didn’t have the experience/talent that brandy had at 24?
What happens with their voice as it ages?
The older and more inexperienced you are, the older and more experienced your habits are, and
it might be harder to replace them, if they are not serving your voice.
Can I still learn to sing if I'm older?
Having said all that and explaining the hardships of the voice at an older age, at the end of the day - we all learn how to sing by acquiring better vocal habits.
And acquiring new habits is possible. At any age. Don’t believe me? Just stay tuned, I have some stories coming your way. Start with this one, Champness Jack, who started voice lessons at 58 years-old, and already have inspired others to do the same:
"Cause why not? You only live once, and only for so long"
Champness Jack, Singer/Songwriter and stage performer
How Champness became a stage animal in his 60's
In the episode above, Champness and I discussed his journey as a singer and musician. Champness began as an introverted child who struggled being bullied in school, suffered from performance anxiety and low self-confidence.
He pursued music in his youth, but due to the pressures of school and later his career at Microsoft, he put his passion for music on hold.
Champness returned to singing in his late 50s, seeking out voice lessons and working with vocal instructors, me included. He strongly advocates for the value of having a vocal instructor and credits his progress to the personalized feedback and guidance he received. He also emphasizes the importance of recording oneself to analyze and improve.
Champness has now performed in seven open mics, overcoming stage fright, and enjoying the process of singing. He believes in the power of continuous learning and is motivated to challenge ageism by showing that older individuals can excel in areas typically associated
with younger people.
His recommendations for older singers
Thinking you are too old to sing is a waste of time
For me, the feeling of being too old - is way too old. I started feeling that way when I was 14 - you might have gotten that story in one fo my emails. When you are 14 years old - it’s irrational to think it’s too late for you to do something. Right?
But when is it rational to think so? Is it too late for you to improve your singing when you are 21? Some people told me so. Others said: well, you’re not 32 yet…
So is 32 too late, then? Apparently not. I am 41 and still improving my voice as we speak. So in your 40’s - still not too late.
I would like to change the question to: How much time are you going to waste thinking it's too late for you?
Sitting here, at my voice studio, I get emails all the time from potential students and from readers and viewers. One of the most common emails I get is: I'm old now, and always wanted to sing. Now I think there might be no chance - but I am going for it anyway.
So people have spent their entire lives NOT pursuing their love of singing, only to discover they can't afford to wait anymore.
Your love of singing is not going to fade away, so don't deny yourself that passion and that joy. Because you will be emailing me in a couple of decades from now. Might as well do it now. And if you are already in your 50's or 60's or 70's - come on. It's time.
I teach singing online
Let me find your bright spot.
Can we treat the voice medically when it ages?
According to UT Southwestern Medical Center, there are some diagnostic and treatment procedures that can be performed to help if what you have is pathological. You can head over to their article and learn about - it's short and to the point.
Here is what they say the symptoms of the ageing voice are
How do you build good singing habits later in life
There is more to battle with while learning how to sing, if you have accumilated decades of bad habits. However - it's totally doable!
Here are some tips I can give you to build proper technique no matter your age:
1) Don't aim for the technique to happen automatically. Ever. Don't waste time on that. Aim for getting the new habits and knowing how to activate and use them when you need to.
2) Use my methodical practice structure on How to Practice singing
3) Concentrate foirst and formost on your physical health, do bodywork and prioritise freeing your vocal instrument
Vocal technique to combat symptoms of the aging voice
Let's tackle the symptoms given above by the medical centre and see what we can do about hose - one by one:
Please don't worry about it. What we all care about is to have a good functioning voice, a healthy voice. If it's lower - but still awesome - that's all we want, right?
Having said that, if you really want to, use vocal exercises to expand your range. then you'll get higher and lower notes again, but if your voice's comfort zone has shifted - the sooner you accept that the better.
Loss of projection and resonance:
You can develop your awareness to your resonances and use them intentionally. If you do bodywork such as yoga, pilates or Alexander technique - that will already improve your ability to open your resonances. After you have done that - go ahead and do vocal resonance exercises.
Reduced volume and endurance:
This can fall under the resonance category, or it can be a vocal support issue. If you have done the work in the above section and it's still not good enough, you should incorporate a strengthening type of bodywork (Pilates, or workout which involves stretching as well), and breath support exercises.
Not my territory - go to a doctor please!
Week or breathy voice:
The vocal cords need to learn to close properly, and if you are suffering from a breathy or hoarse/raspy voice often, or chronically - first go check it with an ENT doctor. If everything is good with the vocal cords, go ahead and use this article on Raspy singing voice, it will help you out.
Bonus: the evolution of Cyndi Lauper's voice
Including a show from 2015, when she was 61 or 62. Hint: her voice was as great as ever.
So there you have it - the answer is: No, not too late to sing and YES - you can still improve your voice when you are older. Just like Champness and some of my other older students.
Try all the advice here and let me know how it goes!
About the author
I'm an opera singer and (online) voice teacher, based in Amsterdam. It took me more than a decade to overcome my share of mental and physical issues and reach a professional level as a singer. Because of this background, and my 10+ years of teaching experience, I believe I can speed up your learning curve as a singer.
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Eye-openers, motivation and stories. Also valuable tips that I don't publish on my website.