You may not realise it, but your whole body is involved in singing. Your weight, size and body fat percentage all play a role in your ability to perform. But the most important thing is feeling comfortable in your own skin when you’re up on stage.
It’s important to be fit and healthy as a singer and not feel pressured to look a certain way. Being overweight can affect your voice, but so can fad diets and losing too much weight. So how much does weight play a factor in affecting your singing?
Weight and body shape will affect your singing voice, and these effects differ from men to women. What we eat and drink has a big impact on singing, however, it’s not just being overweight that will impact your vocals – being underweight is just as detrimental to your performance.
Does body size affect voice?
People come in all shapes and sizes, and good singers come in many different forms too. Your entire body acts as your instrument when you sing, so body size and body type play a role in how your voice sounds and functions. But there isn’t a generic blueprint for how a singer should look – everyone is unique and common beliefs may not apply to everyone.
Weight, height, and size can all affect your voice. On average, taller people have deeper voices because they have bigger vocal folds and longer vocal cords. The general belief is that the taller a singer is, the deeper their sub-glottal resonance is (because there’s more room for vibration in their larynx) and the lower the pitch of their voice.
It’s not just your height; the size of your tongue, mouth, and bone structure all affect your singing voice too. Even the size of your neck can affect your voice; a thicker neck can increase your vibrato. Your physiology determines the timbre and tone of your voice.
Weight is another factor in how you perform, as being overweight or underweight can affect your breath control, chest expansion and lung capacity.
How weight affects male singers
Male singers also experience hormone changes if they’re overweight. Men who carry extra weight experience increased production of female hormones, and larger volumes of these get stored. The body then reacts to these and overweight men notice their voices becoming more effeminate.
Overweight men’s singing voices become lighter due to higher levels of female hormones in their body. They start to lose the ability to produce deep, gravelly tones and can’t achieve full gusto.
Men also store fat differently to women. An overweight male will store most of his excess fat on his abdomen, whereas women tend to accumulate weight on their hips. Both can be problematic but carrying excess fat on your abdomen can affect your vital organs and hinder good breath technique and stamina when singing.
How weight affects female singers
Weight can affect male and female singers differently. Being overweight can cause changes and imbalances in a female’s hormones. A higher body mass leads a woman’s body to produce more male hormones and can change a female singer’s pitch.
Even a slight increase in testosterone can affect a female’s singing voice. It can cause their voice to become masculinised and make their pitch lower. The higher body mass a female singer has, the more likely her voice is to become deeper and lower.
It’s important to note that female singers often face pressure to look a certain way, but being healthy and happy is the most important thing. There are plenty of songs and singers who promote body positivity, such as:
- Demi Lovato
- Hailee Steinfeld
- Mary Lambert
- Janelle Monáe
- Alessia Cara
Here’s a great original song by Alex Carroll with a powerful message:
Does obesity change your voice?
Obesity causes many serious health problems. It affects day-to-day life too; causing breathlessness, tiredness, and low self-esteem. All of these can wear a singer down and in turn, have a negative effect on your singing voice.
Studies indicate that too much body fat limits the performance of your voice. Vocal range, voice quality, and vocal aerodynamics all deteriorate when you carry too much weight.
Obesity doesn’t just change your voice, but it can also change how you feel about yourself. Obesity is linked to depression and low confidence. This can make it really hard to get up on stage in front of an audience, and can prevent you from getting power and gusto in your voice.
Can being overweight affect your singing voice?
Being overweight can take its toll on your body in numerous ways. Sadly, your ability to sing is one of them. You use your entire body when you sing and carrying excess weight can slow down and limit your ability to perform vital techniques. Being overweight as a singer can:
- Restrict chest expansion
- Put extra stress on your body
- Reduce your endurance
- Affect your breath control
- Cause problems with your pitch
Does your voice change when you lose weight?
You’ll notice changes in your voice if you gain or lose weight. These changes depend on how much weight you lose, and how much you weighed to start with.
If you’re overweight, shedding excess mass could potentially improve your singing voice. Carrying too much weight hinders your singing because the fat accumulates around your vital organs, making breathing laborious. Losing this excess fat means you can get better lung expansion and allows you to practice better breath control, which improves your voice’s stamina and endurance.
Overweight singers have to use more musculature to get their chests to expand while they sing. If you lose weight, your core muscles need to be conditioned properly to remain strong despite not being used so much.
Losing too much weight can have the opposite effect on your voice. If you’re underweight, your vocal system can become fragile and you become more susceptible to injury.
Can losing weight improve your singing voice?
Your singing voice is at its optimum when your body is healthy. While carrying too much weight is unhealthy, losing too much weight can be just as bad for you and your voice. You should aim to maintain a stable, healthy weight. To find out what that is for you, consult the recommended BMI guidelines.
If you’re overweight, losing weight can improve your overall health and invigorate your voice, too. Singers shouldn’t follow strict diets in order to lose unnecessary weight – this will only tire out your body and deplete your endurance.
Losing weight in an unhealthy way or too quickly can make your voice less powerful. Following fad diets can deprive your body of nutrients and lead to hormone imbalances, which can stop your body and voice from functioning properly.
What body types are there?
You’re probably familiar with the colloquial names for body types: the apple, the pear, and the hourglass. But in scientific terms, there are actually three main body types:
1) The Ectomorph – this body type tends to be thin, lean and struggles to gain weight (as muscle or fat). They may appear smaller in size but can still be just as strong as the other body types.
2) The Mesomorph – people in this category have greater than average muscle development. They have broad shoulders, fast metabolisms, and responsive muscle cells. They tend to be well-built, muscular, and lean.
3) The Endomorph – someone with this body type will put on weight easily and struggle to get it off again. They often have a “pear” body shape, with wide hips and short limbs. Endomorphs can still be as fit and healthy as the other body types, but they have to train harder to stay in shape.
You might not fall completely into one category and it’s common to have characteristics from across a couple of the body types. You may not stay the same body type for your whole life, either.
Best body type for singing
There isn’t a prototype for how a singer should look; people of any size and shape have the potential to be a good singer. Musical ability boils down to much more than body type. But according to a recent study, your body type can determine what your natural breathing technique is.
- Ectomorphs – lean singers breathe higher up in their thoracic system and tend to fall into a pan-costal breathing technique (shallow breathing). They breathe more with their rib cages than their chest. A diaphragmatic breathing technique, where you draw deeper breaths, is thought to be better for singing.
- Mesomorph – this group uses their side and back muscles a lot when they sing, to help their ribcages expand. They tend to use the costal breathing technique, which is used a lot in Pilates. Mesomorphs have to be careful to not over-engage their abdominal muscles while they sing because this can reduce breath control.
- Endomorphs – singers with more body fat breathe lower in their thoracic region (further down their spine) than the other body types. They use an appoggio breathing technique; aligning their head, neck, and rib cage so their ribs can expand and their diaphragm can move down. Endomorphs tire easily when singing.
Does anorexia make your voice higher?
Vocal impairments are common with bulimia patients and can also happen to those with anorexia. Eating disorders cause the body to become malnourished and this can affect the organs and hormones, which can have a knock-on effect on the voice.
In studies, anorexia patients reported that their voices felt weak and when they sang, they experienced a “puffing” sensation. Anorexia is likely to change your singing voice because hormone dysfunction from malnourishment causes structural and functional changes to the voice.
Anorexia can also lead to dysphagia (trouble swallowing) which can lead to serious health implications. Difficulty swallowing can affect a singer because it causes hoarseness and drooling which can reduce the quality and strength of their vocals.
Can playing music help you lose weight?
Singing burns calories – especially if you incorporate dancing and cardio moves into your performance. What’s more surprising, is that simply listening to music can also play a role in weight loss too. Studies suggest that:
- Listening to music while you eat or shop affects your food choices
- Loud music while eating/shopping can lead people to make unhealthier food choices
- Music can reduce anxiety which helps prevent emotional eating and overeating
- Fast-paced music can enhance your endurance and motivate you during workouts
- Stress can cause your body to store fat, but music reduces stress and increases your serotonin levels
Vocal weight is completely unrelated to body weight. The term vocal weight refers to how light or heavy your voice sounds and isn’t connected to your body mass.
A light voice will sometimes be referred to as a “lyric” and sounds almost flute-like. This type of voice is high in pitch and sounds flexible and agile. A heavy voice will be deeper and more powerful, and singers with heavy voices often have richer tones and more overtones.
Vocal weight doesn’t affect your vocal range – it just affects your tone. Light voices often sound more feminine and heavy voices are usually masculine. Songs often feature different parts that are sung in different weights.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I know if I need to lose weight?
You should only ever lose weight for your own benefit and to get healthier. You can calculate your BMI online to assess whether you’re a healthy weight based on your height and age.
Sometimes there are small tell-tale signs that you might be carrying excess weight, like your joints hurting and your clothes becoming tighter than usual. If you find you get tired easily while you’re on stage and you don’t have any stamina or endurance, introducing more cardio exercise into your lifestyle can help keep you fit and energised.
- How do I feel confident about my weight?
Focusing too much on your weight can lead to negative body image. If you have confidence in yourself it will show when you sing, so take little steps to teach yourself self-love.
Find three different things you like about yourself every day and say them to yourself the mirror. Turning your negative inner voice to a positive one will make the world of difference.
Express yourself through fashion and wear clothes you love – don’t hide behind baggy outfits if that’s not really your thing. Focus on what makes you happy and let yourself be you; you’re more than a number on the scales! Don’t spend time comparing yourself to others and try to avoid social media because it only fuels self-doubt.