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Country Vocals Lessons: Defining Vocal Register: Chest and Head Voice

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Let's talk about register.
There's lot of differences of opinion and
even controversy over how
you define the different
modes of singing, the different kinds
of voices that singers can use.
I know I have heard different
bits of information and
conflicting information from various
vocal coaches over the years and
instructors and
music directors and other singers.
A lot of information,
and not all of it jives.
So, for our purposes in this course,
I am gonna use a very specific way,
method, of defining the terms
that we're gonna be using.
And I am going to make these
definitions of vocal register
based on the physiological behavior of
vocal folds as viewed by a stroboscope.
So you've gotten that great time with Dr.
Ossoff in the vocal clinic.
You've actually seen what
vocal cords look like when
a stroboscope has the chance to
view them and watch them in action.
And depending on where in
your voice you are singing,
your vocal folds behave very differently.
Couldn't look at them, not too long ago.
This is kind of a recent development
that we are able to take a camera and
actually identify by looking.
What is happening to a great degree in
our vocal folds, in our hidden treasure.
So, that's how we're going to define
the vocal registers that singers work in.
The first one we're gonna define
we're gonna call vocal fry.
Vocal fry is the very lowest
register of a singer's voice,
the bottom, the lowest frequencies
down in the base baritone register.
Now physiologically, vocal fry is
characterized by very slack vocal folds.
They're not tight.
They're not
engaged in a stressful mode,
they're very relaxed and slack.
And [COUGH] the next part,
physiologically of a vocal fry
is that the glottis closes to
produce this kind of croaky texture.
So I'm gonna drop my voice
down into its lowest notes.
[SOUND] It's mostly air down there.
Very slow air coming through
very loose vocal cords.
We actually use our vocal fry register
more commonly in our speaking voices,
and it can be perilous to a singer.
I wanna call your attention to it so
you can start paying attention
to your own tendency.
It's kind of a trending
thing right now for
people to add this kind of
gravelly thing to their voices.
Especially at the end of phrases,
at the end of sentences.
Can you hear that little that little
purrish kind of growly thing.
In modern culture, it's actually
become a sexy sounding thing.
The Demi Moore voice,
that husky, sexy voice.
It's actually really,
really bad for your vocal folds.
It's really taxing to introduce that
glottal bumping at the end
of every sentence.
Try to be conscious when you're using it.
It's a part of your vocal register.
And what you're doing is you're
dropping really quickly down
into that little gravelly,
low-air, slack vocal chords mode.
That's vocal fry.
And you want to avoid it because
it's extremely fatiguing and
damaging to your voice if
you're using it a lot.
You wanna keep your speaking voice as
we've learned up in a clearer,
higher register.
Try to keep it from dropping down there.
So that's vocal fry.
The highest register we refer
to as the whistle register.
That's Mariah Carey, man, she has nailed,
she's got an amazing whistle register.
She has mastered that
part of her register.
Not all singers can even access
that part of their voice.
In a physiological terms when you
go into your whistle register,
the back of your vocal folds?
The anterior vocal folds
are really all that are engaged.
The front part of the folds
themselves are not touching.
The epiglottis is dropping or
lowering down over your larynx.
That creates the smallest
possible resonating chamber.
Resonance is created in a space.
It's frequency,
sound waves occupying a space.
And that's what happens
any time we vocalize.
Our head, throat, nose,
mouth even our chest cavity,
all of these parts of our mechanism
are part of our resonating chambers.
And when you're in your whistle register,
you are narrowing your
resonance chamber with your epiglottis
over your larynx to form just
the teeny tiniest little space for
those sound waves to emerge
which is what contributes to that
whistle pure, high whistle sound.
So that's the whistle register,
the highest register.
Just below the whistle register,
we refer to someone's falsetto.
Falsetto is just below
the whistle register.
Male voices have a falsetto.
It's very pronounced, we very clearly
can hear tonelly in men, the difference
between their modal voice, speaking voice,
chest voice and their falsetto.
An example would be Smokey Robinson of
the Miracles or Sam Smith, most recently.
You can hear his speaking register
in most of his singing but
then he'll pop into this high other voice
that has a markedly different tone.
Physiologically, in a falsetto register,
the vocal
folds aren't even vibrating
at the muscular level.
They've got that interior core of muscle,
and then those layers of
mucosal membrane over
the vocal fold muscles.
In a falsetto voice,
the strobe sees that only
the ligamentous edges, so the very,
very outer perimeter of the vocal folds,
is even engaged, in a falsetto,
when you're using your falsetto voice.
The fold itself, the body of
the vocal fold is relatively relaxed.
And what's happening is the outer layers
of the vocal folds those membranes,
are engaging separate
from the muscle itself.
And so that only the edges,
the fibrous edges,
of the vocal folds are actually
engaged in a falsetto voice.
Women have a falsetto voice as well,
but the tone doesn't change as much
when a woman moves into her falsetto.
It sounds very similar to what we
would refer to as her head voice.
So we don't notice it as much, but again,
the strobe sees that the action of
the vocal folds is actually different
in those two registers between
head voice and falsetto.
Most of our singing, most of our
everyday lives, our talking, and
the vast majority of our singing,
we do in our modal register.
And the modal register includes chest,
what we refer to as chest voice,
and head voice.
And that's where we're going to spend most
of our time as singers in this course.
We're going to really explore
our chest voice and head voice.
That's where our vocal folds
are engaged and vibrating at
different spots, at different points
along the length of the fold engaged
to different degrees of intensity.
But the full vocal fold is engaged.
That's our chest voice.
What causes the difference in
sound between our chest voice and
our head voice isn't a difference in the
behaviour of the vocal folds themselves
it's not a difference in
the activity of the folds.
It's actually a difference in
the resonance where we put
our sound in our resonant cavities.
We feel the buzz more in our head and
faces, when we sing in our head voice.
And that's why a lot of people refer
to it as head voice, because we feel
the presence, we feel the resonance
higher up in our resonant cavity,
up in our skull and behind our noses.
Up here in the mask,
this front of our face.
Here where we talk about our mask.
So that's where we're gonna spend
most of our time in our chest and
head voice and we're gonna dig
a little more deeply into that for
ways to control moving our
voices between those modes,
between chest and head voices,
hopefully ultimately seamlessly and
with a lot of control.