Perceived effects of the menstrual cycle on young female singers in the Western classical tradition

Maree Ryan, Dianna T Kenny
Journal of Voice 2009, 23 (1): 99-108
This study investigated the perceived effects of the female hormonal cycle on young female classical singers. All the singers, including male controls, were tertiary singing students from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Australia, who were selected for entry into vocal study programs by competitive audition. Female participants completed a questionnaire and daily diary in the first and third months of the study. Male controls completed the diary for the first month only. The questionnaire and diary focused on singers' physical symptoms, their mood states, and vocal production. Analysis of the diaries indicated that although 81% of female singers reported regular menstrual cycles and 43% reported using an oral contraceptive, neither of these factors was related to the voice quality variables as measured on the first day of the cycle. Singers who were not taking a contraceptive pill rated their voice quality lower and their mood higher than those on the pill. There was no relationship between temperature recording in the females and day of cycle. Perceived voice quality for female singers was lower on days 1-3 compared to the remainder of the cycle and there was a trend for ratings to improve through days 1-7. The voice parameters for male singers tended to be slightly flatter over the cycle days than for females. Although voice quality in females indicated a tendency to be lower on average during days 24-4 of the cycle, voice quality for males tended to be more alike during the two phases, days 24-4 and days 5-23. Overall, reduced voice quality was associated with more negative mood experiences. The six most severely affected females completed voice recordings of specific vocal tasks on the first day of the cycle and again in midcycle. These recordings were randomly presented to both the participants and expert vocal pedagogues to ascertain whether significant differences in vocal quality were perceptually identifiable. Singers, but not pedagogues, were able to accurately identify the timing of the recordings. Although the singer recognized that greater effort is required to produce the sound during menstruation, discernible differences were not detected by expert listeners.

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