Vocal Registers

Vocal Registers

Have you ever looked inside a grand piano? The strings look similar to a harp. The strings that produce the low notes are long and thick, and they gradually get shorter and thinner, until the strings for the very top notes are quite short and thin. This demonstrates an acoustic law. The low notes are produced by strings which vibrate at slower rates per second than the strings for high notes. Every note that is produced by every instrument must vibrate at a specific number of vibrations per second in order to have the resulting pitch be in tune. In order for the voice to sing through a scale from the bottom of its range to the top, the vibrating mass must become smaller as the pitch ascends, just like in the piano or any other instrument.

The vocal folds (or vocal cords) are operated by a very complex system of musculature. Some sets of muscles cause the vocal folds come together (adduct), some muscles cause the vocal folds to stretch (like a tuning peg on a guitar), some cause the vocal folds to thin, some to shorten, and so on. Do you see how the voice is a very versatile musical instrument? With all this versatility a certain degree of expertise is needed to play this instrument well.

To sing low notes, a group of muscles must be used which cause a thick and long vibrating mass. As the scale is ascended the work load must be gradually given to a group of muscles which cause a thin and short vibrating mass. There is usually point at which an untrained singer sings up the scale using only this heavy mechanism and then suddenly must change over to the light mechanism. This results in an abrupt gear change with which we are all familiar called a register break. In the old Italian school this point in the voice was called a passaggio or passage. In SLS we refer to these passaggi as bridges. Our goal is to balance the bridges in the voice (yes, you actually have more than one bridge or passaggio point in your voice-more on this in another post). This way we have a smooth sound from the bottom of our range to the top with no apparent breaks.

The terms head voice and chest voice come from the old Italian school as well. The names are derived from the fact that each size of cord described above has a correspondent resonance in the body. Ceasari called these resonances “sound beams.” The low notes (caused by a long, thick vibrating mass in the cords) seem to come straight out of the mouth, with sympathetic resonances booming in the chest cavities. The very high notes (caused by a short, thin vibrating mass in the cords) seem to come straight out of the back of the head. So what about all the notes in the middle? We call the middle voice the mix. This is because it seems like part of the resonance is coming out of the mouth and part is coming behind the soft palate up into the head areas. It is a mixture of both resonance sensations. It is not surprising why many singers have trouble in the middle parts of their ranges. So much is going on at once. Cord configurations are changing while the different resonances are blending. While all this is happening we of course must stay in a relaxed speech level posture. Only good training and excellent vocal technique will solve all these challenges!


Voice Lessons

This blog is not owned or operated by Speech-Level-Singing International, it is owned and operated privately by Guy Babusek. The views expressed herein are strictly his own.

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