The effectiveness of voice training.

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


It seems obvious that the voices of actors and radio students are trained, as these professional voice users are dependent on their voices in the performance of their jobs (Koufman and Isaacson, 1999). Yet, there is no study providing the outcome of voice training in this population. Moreover, there is no scientifically based vocal profile of (future) professional voice users. This study tried to fill both gaps. The students of the Rits and the Royal Conservatory of Brussels - both departments of the Erasmus Institute Brussels- co-operated in this research.
The history of speech training and the specific situation in Flanders shows that the difference between diction and speech and voice training is often misinterpreted. From 1930 until 1970 Ast Fonteyne, a Dutch speech trainer, influenced the role of voice and speech. Fonteyne stated that the Flemish youth was unable to speak and think properly (Anthonissen et al, 1999). He drilled his students rigorously and ordered them to copy his own speech and voice technique. The rebellion against this kind of speech and voice training in Flanders grew strong in 1970 and is still present. Moreover, the future and younger actors believe that the prevailing standards obstruct their individuality and that their acting loses authenticity.
The conclusion is that intelligible speech is essential in theatre since the "communication" between the actor and his/her audience must not be disturbed just by an inappropriate speech and voice technique. Moreover - and this is very important - voice training can prevent future voice problems.

The next part of this study focussed on the vocal characteristics of the future voice professionals in order to compose a vocal profile of this population. The multidimensional voice assessment protocol as proposed by the European Laryngological Society (ELS- Dejonckere et al, 2001) was used for every co-operating student. The Voice Handicap Index (VHI-Jacobson, 1997) and the Dysphonia Severity Index (DSI-Wuyts et al, 2000) were used as supplementary tools. A questionnaire on daily habits was presented in order to inspect vocal hygiene. The conclusion is that the voice of the future professional voice user is not superior. The results of the VHI reveal that the future voice professionals are more concerned about their voices and referring to the DSI scores, they have reason to be concerned. Next to this, they do not take the necessary precautions for the care of the voice: they smoke a lot and report vocal abuse. It is clear that the voices of these future professional voice users are not in good shape and that voice training is absolutely necessary to prevent occupational voice problems.

A substantial part of this study deals with the effectiveness of nine and eighteen months of voice training. Next to this, vocal hygiene is questioned. In the beginning of the study and after eighteen months, students responded to a questionnaire on daily habits such as smoking, vocal abuse, late meals and the influence of stress on the voice.
The Rits population is excellent for performing this efficiency study as a part of the students (the trained group) received voice training during nine months, and the other part (the untrained group) received no voice training as such. The ELS-battery is applied for every co-operating student and the results are compared.
The conclusion is that voice training, as conceived in this study, is effective. The voice quality of the trained group ameliorates significantly whereas the voice quality of the untrained group improves slightly. The results of the VHI are unexpected: the trained group remains worried even after nine months of voice training, indicating that the students experience their voices as a problem. Surprisingly, the same conclusion is drawn for the untrained group, as they also indicate their voices to be a problem.

The effect of eighteen months of voice training confirms the results after nine months of voice training. The objectively measured voice quality improves slightly and no relapse is found. After eighteen months, the perceptual evaluation improves significantly. Given the bad conditions of their vocal cords and their bad habits, it seems that the training improves the voice quality even more The self-assessment ameliorates but remains high: the training seems to have no long-term effect on the VHI scores. The bad daily habits, smoking, late meals, vocal abuse and stress, aggravate. Knowing that their voices are in bad shape, they ignore the rules of vocal hygiene and the consequences for the voice.

The conclusion of the previous studies was that bad habits such as smoking, late meals, vocal abuse and stress, aggravate. The authors wondered if this behaviour was characteristic for the young age of the students, as we can expect that professional voice users take care of their voices. A comparison was made between radio professionals and radio students. For each group, different phenomena occur and we found that the radio professionals are not taking more or better care of their voices. Special attention should be given to these topics. It is important to offer alternatives: how can one handle stress, what is a good alternative to coffee, when is reflux a real problem and how to manage it.
In the last chapter, the results of 23 remaining students were analysed. These 23 students received voice training during two school years and their voices were assessed three times. The comparison of the results of the three assessments, reveal significant improvements for the first training period. The DSI score ameliorates significantly (p=0.005) after nine months only; the improvement after eighteen months is of lesser importance (p=0.2). The perceptual evaluation confirms the positive evolution of the DSI, though the significant perceptual betterment is scored after eighteen months only. The VHI scores and the subscores improve step by step but remain high. Only the VHI E score improved significantly. This could mean that students are less worried after two years of voice training. In spite of this, they neglect the rules of vocal hygiene. Students report a lot of smoking and vocal abuse. Stress affecting the voice increases dramatically and the frequency of late meals augments.

The overall conclusion is that professional voice users are a breed unto themselves. They have a specific vocal profile, remain uncertain on their voice performance and surprisingly, they underestimate the necessity of voice care. We are convinced that it is not enough to just explain why vocal hygiene is important; a more active approach in coaching vocal care is necessary. The results prove that the voice training is effective. The improvement is perceptually judged and objectively measured.
Date of Award15 Dec 2003
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPaul Van De Heyning (Promotor), Marc De Bodt (Co-promotor) & Floris Wuyts (Co-promotor)


  • voice training
  • professional voice users

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