Courtney Hadwin is a 13-year-old girl who showed an amazing performance in America's Got Talent recently. The video is available on YouTube: Courtney Hadwin: 13-Year-Old Golden Buzzer Winning Performance - America's Got Talent 2018

I am by no means an expert but in a few moments it seemed like she was forcing her voice (vocal folds) too much, seeming that she wouldn't be able to keep singing like that for more than a few minutes.

I am specifically thinking about what she does with her voice when:

  • She says the word "afraid" (at about 1:54)
  • At the last scream when she gets on her knees (at about 2:21)

Is there a name for this kind of sound?

Does that hurt the vocal folds or was it be done in a way that does not "damage the voice"?

  • It doesn't matter what happens to her voice. By the time she's 14 she'll be last year's news anyway. – user19146 Jun 27 '18 at 11:01

Over the whole performance I actually hear surprisingly little "pitch strain". She has a few high notes in between and they come out comparatively clear and effortless, belying the rough take she puts on the main delivery of the lyrics.

People appear worried about her vocal folds: those aren't actually significantly in danger from premature strain. What young voices need to be aware of is that in proximity to the vocal break (and "proximity" is measured in decades) cartilege is softer, like an arthropod after molting, and takes time to harder out. Singing high-pitched notes or other utterances putting a lot of pull on the vocal folds across the now larger larynx (infants can cry and scream all day without damage other than to the nerves of their parents, and the baroque jackhammers of singing were castrates never having gone through a vocal change) can be damaging here, but not to the vocal folds but the larynx that needs to anchor the forces put across the folds.

A rough voice like the one in this recording can be produced by forcing air through strained folds. The clear and rather relaxed high notes in between, however, suggest that she is achieving this through technique more than excessive strain.

I don't actually know how much of a vocal break is yet coming for her: it may well be that she should tread quite more lightly when her voice undergoes additional maturing, and depending on where she went until then in her life decisions, that may be hard to do then.

But the state in that recording is more of a "jury's still out on that" thing to my hearing.


Yes, she's pushing the voice pretty hard. There's lots of attitude in that performance, not much content. She's doing something not uncommon in youngsters - she's learned how to imitate the sound and mannerisms of a particular style but hasn't got beneath the surface. For instance, can you make out a word she's singing? But no-one's going to die. I doubt she cares much whether her voice is damaged beyond any hope of a classical career. If she can grab a bit of fame and money, go for it girl!

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