Elisabeth Pawelke

Effects of Choir Singing on Vocal Health

THE ISSUE: Frequent studies on psychic and physic health (among others by Clift &
Hancox, 2001 and 2010; Howard & Welch, 2002; Unwin et. al., 2001; Kreutz et. al., 2004;
Gridley et. al., 2014) dealt with the positive effects of choir singing. Despite being discussed
in writing, the negative effects, however, had hardly been analysed in studies so far. Choir
singers are supposed to face a higher risk of contracting voice disorders which is particularly
influenced by three factors (Hammer, 2005; Rosanowski & Eysholdt, 2008; Pezenburg,
2015): A disturbed audiophonatory control system, a limited individual trainability of the
individual voice during the warm up, as well as a wrong vocal range classification (Hammer,
2005). This treatise examines whether choir singing has also negative effects on the vocal
well-being besides the known positive ones. Furthermore, focus is laid on the examination of
a possible coherence between the three influential variables and vocal health and what kind
of possible effects such influential variables may have on individual vocal parameters.

DESIGN: 301 choir singers in 13 choirs with different musical and professional backgrounds
had been interviewed for this study. A questionnaire for quantitative and qualitative data
collection had been compiled to identify and classify possible vocal problems by generally
applied vocal diagnostic valuation methods in the form of a voice score.

RESULTS: The results reveal that, compared to the other influential factors, the disturbed
audiophonatory control gained the highest value in the voice score whereas the classification
scheme showed no vocal limitations after choir singing in the middle value. However, the
middle value in the category of minor limitations after choir singing came close while showing
more extreme values with individuals. Moreover, highly significant coherences could be
proved between each of these three variables and vocal health in form of the voice score. It
revealed that each variable of the whole sample had a significant and different effect on the
voice score as well as on each single symptom. This effect was most distinct where the
quality and duration of the warm up were concerned thus emphasizing the paramount
importance of this voice training.

Elisabeth Pawelke studied music pedagogy and musicology at the universities of Munich and Basle on a scholarship, graduating with a Master of Arts degree in 2013. She studied voice and performance practise at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis
(University of Early Music) in Basle and at the University of Music in Trossingen from which she graduated with a Master of Music degree (2014). In 2017 she also earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in voice-speech therapy at the University of Munich with a final thesis about the effects of choir singing on vocal health. She is currently working as a voice teacher at a music school and as a voice therapist at the Research Centre for Voice and Speech Dr. Iris Eicher at the University of Munich.