Speech Level Singing versus Estill Voice Technique

One of my goals is to share with you the similarities and differences with Speech Level Singing and Estill Voice Technique.

They are both great voice methods, and there is something to be learned from both. In its’ simplest form, SLS is one recipe among the many Estill Voice Technique possibilities.

I love SLS because it balances the voice, which I think is an important element of good singing. What I don’t like about SLS is that it doesn’t allow the commercial singer to learn how to belt or to have more “chest” in the mix. My SLS lessons strengthened the overall balance of both my registers…chest voice and head voice. But, my coach continually had me cutting back on my chest voice in my mix (near high C for instance). I could do this at his request, but it left me wondering where is the “me” in my voice. I needed to “belt” out my high C’s (and I’m in a mix!) when I wanted. I really felt the SLS method let the performer in me “down”.

With Estill voice training, you learn voice qualities….speech, sob, twang, opera, belt, and falcetto. SLS talks about a “neutral” larynx, while Estill recognizes that the larynx moves up and down and tilts according to the sound you want to make.

This is an important point. The larynx can tilt and move up and down safely, depending on the sound you wish to make. SLS leads to confusion about the larynx when they draw so much attention to it remaining “neutral”. The larynx cannot remain neutral in rock singing or musical theatre where the singers needs to give a belt sound (*note: I am not referring to the Estill version of belt here). These sounds can be done with freedom and good technique, but the larynx is slightly raised. Note: that if the larynx is too high, you will not be able to transition well into head voice, therefore, you cannot mix.

But, singers beware. Belting correctly is not easy to do, however, it is possible! ┬áLea Michele (musical theatre), Steven Tyler (rock), and Carrie Underwood (country). All these singers have something in common. They are balanced, and they are able to take their singing voice to the extreme …. called belting.

Belting well simply means a singer is using relatively thick folds, possibly has a sob quality in their voice, and their tongue may be slightly raised (this may alter the vowel sound). Belting requires optimal breath control. In other words, the ability to control the release of breath under great pressure while resonating in both the head voice and chest voice with thick folds. Belting is indeed a great “talent”.

Questions? Comments? Please leave them here.

8 thoughts on “Speech Level Singing versus Estill Voice Technique

  1. Hi there,
    It was interesting reading your comments about SLS and The Estill method of singing I studied SLS for a year with the intention of becoming certified, but decided not to go ahead with this. I have been singing for 30 years and while I find SLS very good, I found the method quite incomplete. I am going to start with the Estill method nxt year. I have been told it covers everything from belt to classical, so sounds good!!
    I live in Melbourne Australia and these methods are not very well known here. Also SLS charge a yearly fee of over $400.00 Aust dollars.

    • Hi Jennie
      Thank you for you comment. Indeed, there is soooo much to learn, and Estill will provide so much insight into the voice for you. I, like you, appreciate SLS and still base most of my teachings on what I learned from training with them. IMHO, we never stop learning, and exploring other methods and thoughts can only help us become better teachers overall. Susan

  2. It’s interesting to read some of your perspectives. I am a musical theatre degree student in scotland in the uk and have been taught the estill voice training programme for three years. In my experience estill is such a well crafted voice training system and for myself the idea of sls and a lot of the ideas posted and advocated on their website simply makes no sense and is scientifically impossible. They state that the larynx cannot rise otherwise you would be cutting off the muscles around the larynx however science has proven that the larynx rises and falls in relation to pitch and different qualities of the voice. it also states that if you allow breath to come in and separate the vocal chords then you are constricting and tensing the muscles around the larynx which is again scientifically incorrect as that would only happen is your false vocal chords were engaged.

    • Hi Kate, Thanks for your comment.
      I agree that SLS needs to update their communication and method to be taught accurately and in-keeping with known vocal science. You will find this being done at the Institute for Vocal Advancement. This is a group of singers made up of former master SLS teachers. Their approach is not called “Speech Level Singing” but the general “idea” of a well-balanced healthy voice, i.e. “mixing”, is still the main directive, I believe. You will also find this is the case with Dave Stroud, who was once a colleague of Seth Riggs (student as well as master SLS teacher).

  3. Thank you Susan for your clarification, is really helpful. But what about classical training, Italian school of singing (I guess is called) Would classical training be ok to start with and then to switch to pop when is about a 14 years old girl. She took SLS vocal training for a couple of years and I thought that was good and recently I’ve been reading the cons re. SLS and I’m really worried and disappointed so I would like to start fresh and find the best way to re-start vocal coaching with the best vocal technique. My conclusion to what I’ve been reading is that Classical training would cover many aspects of vocal training and would prepare the voice for any style, if my daughter wants to sing pop/contemporary , that should be fine. Please advise us your thoughts on this, is really confusing for someone who doesn’t have any music expertise but wants to do best for their daughter and wants to avoid future disappointments and voice damage like SLS, what a waste of time and money, that’s how I feel right now and is not just your input abut SLS, I’ve been reading a lot. Thank you !

    • Hi Kristina,

      Thank you for your comment.

      First, let me say that the experience and expertise of the teacher is much more important than the “method”. There are good teachers and bad teachers in all methods.

      The coordination to sing classical music is totally different than singing musical theatre or rock or pop music. I suggest you hire a teacher who has experience in singing classical music as well as pop/musical theatre/rock. A teacher should always be able to make the sounds they are asking their students to make.

      I highly suggest a teacher who stays up-to-date on vocal science, and the understanding of how a singer can make many different sounds without causing harm to the voice. There are many great teachers in Estill Voice technique, Speech Level Singing, Lovetri Method, and at the Institute for Vocal Advancement (John Henny), as well as classical singing teachers.

      I would be very interested to know where you learned that SLS has caused harm to the voice…..or are you referring to harm to your daughter’s voice?

      In conclusion, there is no quick path to great singing. It is a journey that needs to be nurtured and encouraged, especially in young people.

      Musically, Susie

  4. Hi Susan. I am a vocalist and have been using SLS for about 8 years and I just love it. I sing with a perfect balance of air and muscle and can mix from low to high without reaching, breaking, or breathiness. I have found, at least in my voice, that the mix voice is just as effective as belting sound wise. However instead of pulling Vocalis Muscle load (i.e. pulled chest or Belting) to “reach” higher, I can zip my cords up the higher I go. It has always worked for me.l! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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