What is Speech Level Singing?


What is Speech Level Singing? This is a question many people have asked or tried to explain. There’re a lot of opinions about Speech Level Singing both good and bad.


Find out all about it inside this video.


First, I’m NOT an official spokesperson for Speech Level Singing. I’m not authorized to speak on behalf of Speech Level Singing.


I’m sharing this information about Speech Level Singing because it’s had a huge impact on my singing and my life.


I began studying the technique as a singer in late 1996. In 1997 I studied to be a teacher. Since 2009 I’ve been a full time certified teacher of the Speech Level Singing Technique.


The last 3 years between 10-20 teachers from all over the world have had the privilege of attending 10 days of training yearly with Seth Riggs in his home and studio.


Definition of Speech Level Singing – The Technique


Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 8.45.54 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-03 at 8.44.09 PM

Speech Level Singing, also known as SLS, is both a singing technique and an organization. The technique was developed by Seth Riggs. In his book, “Singing for The Stars”, he defines Speech Level Singing as:


“Generally, when you speak in a quiet, comfortable manner, the outer muscles do not interfere with the functioning of your larynx. That’s because tone is not your main concern–communication is. Therefore, your larynx is allowed to rest in a relatively stable, or what we call a speech-level position. This is the ideal vocal condition or posture with which to sing.” (Singing for the Stars pp. 93. Alfred Publishing Co., Revised Edition)


[Seth’s] …”technique is called speech-level signing, which allows you to sing with the same comfortable, easily produced voice you use or should use, when you speak. No matter if you sing high or low, loud or soft, nothing feels different in your throat or mouth. Your tone and the words you sing always feel natural to you, and sound natural to your audience.” (Ibid pp.7)


Seth Riggs Defines Speech Level Singing

Seth recently gave this simple definition. “Speech Level Singing is the refusal to reach.”


SLS trains you not to reach for high pitches which means the larynx stays at a speech level position. This allows the vocal cords to adjust as the pitches go up or down without disconnecting.


That means the cords stay connected, so you have no breaks, cracks, breathiness or falsetto no matter how high or low you sing.


There’s no interruption in the tone quality because the voice is balanced. There’s no tension or squeeze from the external (or outer) neck muscles.  


This produces great singing. The vocal cords develop their own intrinsic power because the larynx is staying down and there’s no interference from the swallowing muscles.


In recent years Seth has placed an added emphasis on breathing with the assistance of the diaphragm. This low breath creates the friendly “compression of support”.


Speech Level Singing-It's most famous student is likely Michael Jackson

The most famous student of Speech Level Singing is probably Michael Jackson. He worked with Seth for the last 25 years of his life. There are many others including, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban, Liza Minnelli, Ann Margaret and on and on.  


Definition of Speech Level Singing – The Organization


Before the organization of SLS as a company Seth trained teachers and designated them as a “Seth Riggs Associate”. This is what I did in the summer of 1997. However, I had another career at the time and would only teach occasionally. I was more involved with the technique as a student, singer and performer.


In the mid-2000’s Speech Level Singing was founded as a company with Seth as the CEO. Under Seth there’ve been several presidents of SLS. Currently the organization is without a president.


SLS as a company has trained thousands of singers, hundreds who certified as teachers of the technique. This was done by Master Teachers designated by Seth. Teachers could enter the training program as a “Pre-Cert”, meaning a pre-certified teacher who was in training. Teachers could progress through the training and advance from Pre-Cert to Level 1, then 2, on up to level 5.  


Since 2013 until currently which is July 2016, SLS has had no teacher level designations. Seth repeatedly has said, “I’m a level 1”. Meaning he’s always learning, growing and improving. (But if he’s a level 1 what am I?)


For various reasons there’s been breakups and break-offs from SLS by various groups of leaders and teachers.


Speech Level Singing-Past Associates and Leaders


Speech Level Singing Past Associate-Brett ManningScreen Shot 2016-07-28 at 4.37.43 PMSpeech Level Singing Past Master Teacher-Dean KaelinSpeech Level Singing Past President Jeffrey Skouson

Brett Manning, founder of Singing Success, was an early Seth Riggs Associate. Dave Stroud, who served as the first President of SLS, now is President of VocalizeU. International Voice Teachers of Mix (IVTOM) was founded by Dean Kaelin, who was my primary teacher and mentor for many years.


The Institute for Vocal Advancement (IVA) has Jeffrey Skouson, past president of SLS, serving as President, with many former SLS Master Teachers carrying various responsibilities in the organization, including teacher training and certification.


There are many other teachers who’ve reached very high levels of teaching with Seth that were before my time still teaching in various places in the world.


Since 2013, SLS has not been accepting new teacher applications.


Impact of Speech Level Singing on My Voice

One of the remarkable experiences I’ve had at various teacher training meetings through the years is the testimonials from the other teachers.


Almost without fail, every teacher had a major vocal problem that the Speech Level Singing Technique has solved. I’ve been inspired by their many stories of how SLS changed their lives.


Personally, I couldn’t sing past the E above middle C. And singing the E was marginal to mediocre. I stumbled onto SLS when I attended a workshop with Seth Riggs in November 1996 and began studying with his associate at the time, Debra Bonner.


Within 6 weeks I was singing notes I never dreamed I could sing, with vibrato, which I’d never had. The amazing thing for me was learning how to bridge, to sing from my chest voice through the middle, and into head voice without having to go into falsetto or extreme strain!


Speech Level Singing as a singing technique and a training organization has been an amazing experience that continues to bless my life.


In an upcoming video, I’ll share more about Seth.


Speech Level Singing and Vocal Types

Vocal type is one of the many things I’ve learned that’s helped me understand my voice and the voices of students I teach.


In order to really focus on what helps students improve quickly it’s vital to understand their vocal type.


Do you know your vocal type? I’m not referring to your vocal classification of soprano, alto, tenor or bass.


Your vocal type is what you tend to do when you sing. Visit PowerToSing.com and take the vocal test, which I call the PowerTest. Take the quiz and discover your vocal type.


Then visit the Knowledge Center and watch all the videos about your vocal type. Download the free exercises and start working on your voice. The exercises for your vocal type are designed to help you progress rapidly.


I’m Chuck Gilmore with Power To Sing. You can sing higher with beauty, confidence and power.


I’ll see you inside the next video.


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Chuck Gilmore

Chuck Gilmore

If you want to do more with your singing voice it is possible. This is the first and most important message. It is possible to achieve your dreams to sing better, to sing higher, and to add beauty, confidence and power to your voice!

I know this because I’ve experienced a real change in my voice. I am reaching my dreams to sing and perform. You can find happiness and fulfillment with your singing too!!


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  1. Hi Sam. Unfortunately I haven’t kept track of the other groups adequately to give accurate feedback on their programs. I would guess that of all you mentioned, because SLS is not taking new teachers at this time, IVA (Institute for Vocal Advancement) has a large group of master teachers/founders I highly respect and I imagine have kept as much of SLS as possible. I think they have great leadership and community. Many teachers I respect joined them and I think you would not be disappointed with this group. Definitely I would check them out if I were you.

  2. Hi I found this very insightful thank you for posting! I am currently researching teacher training programs and have come across the ones you have mentioned. In your opinion which ones are the better ones. From Brett Manning to Vocalize U to IVTOM, institute for vocal advancement etc there are a couple of others that vocalize u recommends on their website. how do they differ from sls? have some of these programs added additional info that doesn’t jive with sls? which ones promote belting and/or broadening the vowel to achieve a chestier sound? And finally why isnt SLS accepting any new teacher applicants?? I was hoping to do that one. I would love to get your insight and help on choosing a teacher training program. I would like to stay as close to sls as possible but in reading some of the information on these programs it seems like they have added ideas that move further away from SLS. please advise. and greatly appreciate your help.

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