One of my students is going through his big voice change as a young teen. His voice lowers a few notes each week. Every lesson it's like he is starting over when it comes to singing. His mother wrote me this email:
.."I think [my son] has lost a little confidence because of his voice change. I know he can sing in a higher register (not necessarily falsetto) but I think he is hesitating just because of how deep his voice sounds naturally now. I just share that with you because I have noticed as he’s singing around the house that he is trying to drop things an octave when he doesn’t need to and my sense is it is just self consciousness."
What my student is going through is very common. In all voices, not just those who are going to drop several octaves. Some young people have huge vocal growth and changes. As this is happening they can lose some confidence in their sound. My goal is to remind them that this is a normal process and to be proud of and excited for what is happening. You are growing up and that's a big deal. And extremely normal. Everybody does it. Most important thing to remember as you go through this; if you keep working on the tools to strengthen not only your voice but the body that supports your voice, your voice will be healthy and strong when it settles.
We as parents and mentors have one job. Love them up during this process. Watch your words to not make any young person feel less confident because they aren't sounding the way you want or expect. Truth is they don't sound the way they want to or how they use to and they are frustrated. Last thing they need is to feel pressure from us to "be better" when they can't control what each day will bring.
Here was my response:
"With his high notes, I 100% hear you. In the last few lessons he naturally changes to a lower register/octave when he should be singing the higher. Last 2 lessons I noticed it more than in other lessons.
During young vocal growth I hear voices naturally go into their comfort range. For example, when singing a melody, one day they switch to singing this melody an octave down and they don't even realize it.
When their voice begins to change they can sound and feel like a completely different person overnight and all the ways we used to sing don’t work anymore. This can mean that every week we need to learn new ways to sing melodies that used to be easier. It can be a long process of not understanding who we are vocally some days. So you are correct, building and reinforcing confidence is the key!
If you feel he would be ok with you pointing out the times when he switches octaves to keeping him thinking about it as he is practicing, that might be helpful. He is a teen, so I understand how this might take some patience and word smithing to communicate this :)
Note that some days these high notes might feel strained as his voice has growth spurts and those are days we don’t want to push the voice to do things it’s not comfortable with. It could cause more damage than good.
We will work for sure on building his confidence singing high notes again and also being aware when his voice is making a choice to switch lower octaves.
The most important part is for us to keep building healthy habits so when his voice finally settles he has the right tools to sing in all the ranges his voice allows.
Thank you so much for this email. I will connect with him tomorrow about this and we’ll talk about the different things he might experience as his voice and body keep growing."
There is so much more to all of this and several books could be/have been written about vocal changes. The bottom line, everyone goes through this. Some have a more obvious change and it can feel frustrating until the voice settles. The only thing we can do is keep working on the things we can control like breathing techniques and proper use of vowels with opening up the sound that works that day.
Patience and practice!!