Does a small body frame (meaning small bones and possibly small organs) or low weight affect the "power" of a singing voice?? Does a higher weight creates some sort of "pressure" or something that makes the voice sound more powerful? Is a person with a small body able to take as much air as others?

This came to my mind after watching some (about 20) videos of some singers, most of them were opera singers, but there were others like Mariah Carey. I noticed lot of them are on the "thick" side, and well, I wanted to know if there was some sort of science behind that or just coincidence.

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    The English is excellent, and the only thing we care about here is good questions! I'm going to edit out the extraneous parts of this, since they won't have any effect on how we answer the question. – NReilingh Sep 27 '12 at 15:06
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    Pat Benatar is a counter example to your "thick" argument. :) She's a tiny little thing with a rich, powerful voice. – JimR Oct 2 '13 at 10:56
  • @JimR Another great example of a smaller body but very large voice is professor Thomas Quasthoff. – jeppoo1 Jan 13 '20 at 6:52

On average, taller people have lower voices because of longer throat and vocal chords, just like taller people have larger hands on average.

When people get fatter or thinner, it often causes changes in their voice tone and may make a slight difference in range. The same thing is true of aerobic conditioning. Of course, vocal practice will likely make more difference than either of these.

(This is based on personal observation and not research.)


My personal opinion: In my 35 years of experience in singing, what I have observed is that every individual is unique. Some quite small people sing with a huge voice, and some quite large people have small voices. On average, perhaps, there might be a correlation between the mass of the person and the size of the voice, but I think this is largely meaningless to any individual.

I suspect that the "size" of the singing voice is mostly something that one is born with and has to do with the physiology of that particular person's larynx. Beyond that it's possible to develop the character and "size" of the voice a great deal with the proper training and practice. But ultimately I believe you are either born with a big voice or you are not, and it's mostly independent of the size of your body frame or your mass.


I cannot refer to any scientific research. However I've heard tiny (short and thin) women sing with a strong powerful loud voice with a full rich timbre that would amaze most people, and I'm sure there are large people with really weak voices. So if there is a correlation between body frame size or body weight and singing voice power the correlation coefficient is probably not too large. I'd guess that internal body construction and musculature is more important than actual external size. Not to mention training.
Regarding air supply there is certainly some correlation between body height and lung size. I don't know but I don't think it is a very important factor for your singing ability.

(Regarding voice range I'm fairly certain that the size or length of the vocal folds constitutes the main factor for what singing range a person has. Although there is likely some correlation between body length and vocal folds length it's not a one to one relation. For example the bass singer Anders Jalkéus of the á capella group The Real Group I believe is at most of average height but he can sing several notes in the contra octave below C2 and that's definately below average. Further I've sung with rather tall tenors.)

I'd really like to hear about scientific research regarding this though.


Someone more knowledgeable about singing will no doubt be able to provide more detail, but in short, yes your body does very much affect the timbre of your voice - your weight, less so.

Think of your body as the body of a guitar or violin - your chest, throat and lungs are like the sound box that helps sound to resonate. So yes, you'll notice bass singers tend to have a larger frame (note: being obese doesn't really add much, they just tend to be larger than the average), as will anyone with a "big" voice.

Compare women and girls - their voice doesn't 'break' when they go through puberty like a man's does, but you can still tell the difference beteen a young girl and adult woman just by listening to the way they sound.

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    Do you have any sources for this information because I've seen many examples contradicting the body size reference. – Kristina Lopez Sep 27 '12 at 17:32
  • This thesis is interesting but you're right there isn't anything conclusive in existing data - i.e. not all Pavarotti look-a-likes are guaranteed to have deep voices. But intuitively, a larger body means a better chance of a larger vocal tract & lungs. A larger vocal tract with more air means a better chance to resonate those deeper notes when "singing from your belly". – Widor Sep 28 '12 at 9:41
  • What's odd is that Pavorati was a tenor. Samuel Ramey is a very slender man and one of the best basses in opera. Go figure! – Kristina Lopez Sep 28 '12 at 11:37

The only way that I know of that weight has to do with singing is about endurance. If you are going to sing a 3 hour opera, you had better have some extra weight on you at the start, because you are going to lose multiple kilos of weight during your performance. Just like boxers and other athletes. The kind of singing that is done in opera is very, very athletic.

With opera singers specifically, there is a tradition of rich food and wine in opera culture, just like there is a tradition of marijuana in the cultures of some other musical styles. And I don’t think the opera audience or critics judge an opera singer based on their weight, which is very contrary to singers in other musical styles. In opera, it is all about bringing the goods vocally. In other styles, it can sometimes be a modeling show where some singing also goes on. So generally speaking, opera singers may be a little heavier than other singers.

Regarding the physics of the voice, you can be a very small person and have a large vocal instrument, or a very large person and have a small vocal instrument. The size of your sinus cavity has a lot to do with the resonance and size of your voice, and there are very small people with big noses and large people with small noses. When you put all the variables together, I don’t think you can make any assumptions about physical size and especially not about gender. If you were holding auditions and a tiny woman walks in, you should definitely not be surprised if she blows your hair back with her vocal power. I have seen that again and again in my own experience. Also don’t be surprised if a giant man comes in and has no power at all. Also very common.

A big part of a powerful voice is training. If you learn how to sing powerfully from the diaphragm with a relaxed and resonant vocal instrument, you will generate your maximum power. And generally speaking, that will be much more power than an untrained singer. (Keep in mind, though, some people train at church or at home — you don’t have to have gone to college to be trained.) Learning how to project the voice is a big part of generating volume and power, and the instant identifier of an untrained singer is they can’t project the voice. And then once you are trained, you have to practice regularly to keep everything in shape, just like an athlete.

So the way to judge if a person has a powerful voice is to just to hear them sing.


It doesn't, the weight, power and range of your voice are dependent on the size+ shape of your larynx plus the thickness+length of the vocal cords themselves, all determined by genetics, your body (height and weight) has little to no impact. There are plenty of large people with light voices just like there are plenty of small people with big voices, you either have powerhouse vocals or you don't.


Singers like Mariah Carey and Jennifer Hudson who have larger builds actually have small voices, both are light lyric sopranos, the smallest female voice. Jennifer Hudson sounds bigger than her voice is at times because of incorrect technique while Mariah's voice doesn't have a whole bunch of power behind it, her agility is far superior compared to her power, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion on the other hand have large voices and are vocal powerhouses, Whitney was a spinto soprano while Celine is a full lyric soprano.


I found this article if someone is able to find the full text:

Weight, Loss, and Opera: Deborah Voigt and the Little Black Dress Bernard, Hope.The Projector; Bowling Green Vol. 10, Iss. 2, (Fall 2010): 42-50.


To my experience, there are multiple sizes of people and it is difficult / impossible (& not even necessary) to say, which voice type or range a person has based on their body shape. I have also heard that taller people tend to be basses (but I have likewise seen tenors who are 2m tall). You can also look up the little person, professor Thomas Quasthoff, who is a classical singer with a large bass-baritone voice.

It is definitely true that weight loss affects your voice. You have to adjust your singing again to the new smaller body type and practice your singing until it "fits" your new body type again.

On top of that, I think dramatic operatic singers (who sing Wagner) tend to have larger bodies, because you need more endurance and vocal power in that kind of music (due to the orchestration).

I also agree that practice is the most important thing. You should find the best music for your voice and if your voice is not big, do not sing big repertoire.


If you think of the freakishly great, natural, singers, like James Brown and Little Richard, Aretha Franklin there does seem to be a link with powerful build, thick neck (male voices) suggesting athletically strong organs of breath, perhaps mostly genetic traits. Singers like Jack Bruce and Tom Jones also suggest this link with build.

Interestingly, while the child Michael Jackson also had this type of build, the adult Jackson did not. It is clear that the vocal ability of the child Jackson was superior. As an adult, Jackson appeared to struggle even with vibrato, having instead to resort to a weak tremolo technique. I don't believe this was a stylistic choice.

All this surely must depend on the style of singing. Karen Carpenter's voice did not appear to be affected by her diminishing size.

It is a puzzle, and one that is unlikely to receive much serious scientific research.

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