What is Sprechstimme?

What is Sprechstimme?

Let's listen to examples of the interesting vocal technique called sprechstimme. This cross between singing and speaking was used by many Expressionist composers. It was most famously used in Schoenberg's set of songs called Pierrot Lunaire. 

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To tell a singer to use sprechstimme, the composer add small "x"'s to the music notes. Look at this example from the score for Pierrot Lunaire. The notes give the singer a general guide to follow, but she can be creative with how she speak/sings the notes. 

Example of Sprechstimme in Pierrot Lunaire

Why does sprechstimme matter?

To most listeners, this style of music sounds rather strange. It's certainly not the type of singing we are used to! The exciting thing about sprechstimme, though, is that it was just one of the many ways modern composers began to explore what sounds, techniques, and styles we could use in our music. Today, artists use these ideas in ways we appreciate and love! 

Here are a few famous artists who use a mix of speaking and singing in their music: 

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