Part 2 -Adolescent Voice

The Adolescent Voice ~ Part 2

Frequency Change: Speaking Pitch



The voice of males at puberty often begins with a husky quality and an unsteady pitch, oscillating one or two tones. Although the pitch fluctuates day to day the trend is generally downward.

Voice change is one of the signs of female puberty. Voice change appears to begin before menarcheal onset and to continue through it. There is increased breathiness in the voice quality compared to the relative clarity of prepubertal voice quality.  The breathiness is due in part to incomplete vocal fold adduction. (the vocal folds coming together)




During voicing, the membranous portion of the vocal folds adduct, but the cartilaginous portion does not achieve complete closure, forming a posterior glottal opening that is called mutational or glottal chink. Mutational chick is thought to result from insufficient contraction of the interarytenoid muscles. Poor speaking or singing habits may also influence the speaking pitch.

Frequency/pitch distinction between male and female begins during puberty and continues throughout adolescence. The voice changes are a result of growth of the phonatory, resonatory, and respiratory anatomy; roughly parallel the appearance and development of the secondary sex characteristics.

The pitch and quality changes that occur at puberty are more apparent in males then females due to the greater magnitude of the pitch change, which is approximately one octave in males.


The female voice change can be characterised by:

1. Lowering of mean speaking fundamental frequency by about three to four semitones.

2. Increased breathiness, huskiness, and hoarseness.

3. Voice cracking during speech.

4. Noticeable registers “breaks” during singing.

5. Decreased and inconsistent pitch range capabilities.

6. Singing that requires more effort and delay in phonation onset.

7. Breathy, “heavier,” “rougher” voice qualities.


The male adolescent voice change can be characterised by:

1. Sudden voice breaks

2. Huskiness or hoarseness to the voice quality and increased perturbations.

3. Uneven voice changes.

4. Timbral effects of the changing voice as it descends in pitch causes males in sing in new vocal registers.

5. Conversion aphonia and persistent falsetto (puberphonia) due to lack of vocal fold adduction and a reaction to psychologically events such as emotional stress.

6. Tessitura and register development occurs, speaking voice lowers and becomes stable in lower register.

7. The voice change occurs concurrently with other pubertal developments.

  8. Different voices mature at different rates