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By Selena, 14/05/2018, Category:Singing with freedom and creativity, Unlock your vocal potential
As a singer you may have heard the terms 'head voice' and 'chest voice'. Maybe you've even followed some guidance telling you how to access these.
However I never use them in my teaching because they are basically meaningless. Even the voice coaches who use these terms are hard -pressed to explain what they actually are, in any kind of language that makes sense to a layperson.
If you search for 'what is head voice' and 'what is chest voice' on the internet you will find a wildly varying range of explanations, none of which has any clarity. Which is what I did today. I wanted to tell you what other people are saying but it's a minefield.
These terms actually date back hundreds of years to when singers and singing teachers did not understand the anatomy of the voice. They said you sang in 'chest voice' when you could feel your chest vibrating. And that you sang in head voice when you could feel your head vibrating.
It's true that when you sing low you may feel your chest vibrating. But that's just a side effect, not a cause of how you make sound - it doesn't contribute anything to the sound quality. And when you sing high you may feel your head vibrating. Same story.
Now that we have a detailed scientific understanding of how the voice works, we should abandon these terms because they do not actually help us sing better. Quite the opposite, they cause confusion.
What you should know is that there is ONE VOICE and it is PRODUCED IN THE LARYNX. (The larynx is the voice box, where your vocal folds are housed in your throat, which is in the area of the 'Adams apple').
What is exciting though, is that you can develop a huge spectrum of different qualities in your voice, and this comes from understanding how to adjust your vocal folds, ( giving pitch change and register change) and how to access different areas of resonance ( giving different tone qualities).
So you have ONE VOICE with many possibilities.
Head voice and chest voice are usually used to refer to registers, which is about HOW you use your vocal folds. But in fact we have an INFINITY OF REGISTERS because your voice can adjust gradually from one type of configuration to another, giving subtle changes in sound.
Your vocal folds are a bit like a pair of rubbery stretchy toy snakes which can be made longer or shorter depending on how much you stretch them. As they get longer or shorter the thickness changes.
When you sing with the vocal folds in 'thick' mode you will get a heavier more powerful sound; and when you sing with the vocal folds in 'thin' mode you will get a lighter thinner sound. This tends to adjust gradually with pitch but you can actually change the 'mode' or thickness on any one pitch to get different sound qualities.
I say we have an infinity of registers because its all about the BALANCE between the shortener and lengthener muscles. The shortener muscles do more of the work as you go lower in pitch, and the lengthener muscles do more of the work as you go higher in pitch.
The balance in contribution to the job, of each of these sets of muscles CAN happen gradually as you sing through your range, but for many people they 'suddenly switch' from for example, 80% shortener and 20% lengthener, to say, 60 /40; and this is when you will get a noticeable 'register break' or 'crack' ; or some would say you've changed from chest voice to head voice.
The point of the shortener muscles is that the shorter your vocal folds get, the lower the pitch; and the job of the lengthener muscles is -surprise- to lengthen your vocal folds which makes them produce higher pitches.
What's great to know is that with practicing the right kinds of exercises, you can gain total control over these muscle shifts, becoming able to achieve a GRADUAL CHANGE IN BALANCE in order to have freedom of choice about what kind of tone qualities you want to produce in any given pitch; aswell as a 'seamless' voice.
So I hope that this has clarified the matter for you, and busted the myth out the water! ...and if someone ever tries to teach you using the terms head voice and chest voice, please pin them down and ask them to explain EXACTLY what they mean by that!
Just to put this all in context and bring you greater clarity, I'll give you the briefest of explanations of how the voice works:
# Your breath flowing up from your lungs provides the POWER of your voice;
# It flows through the pair of vocal folds making them vibrate together, producing the SOURCE of the sound and the pitch;
# This small sound travels up through the SPACES in your throat, mouth, pharynx, nasal cavity, and these shape and amplify the sound because they are RESONATORS, giving different tone qualities.
# Your lips and tongue ARTICULATE the sound into words.
THAT'S IT. All the core components of your voice.
If you want to gain greater control and freedom in your voice, such as, expanding your range; developing better tone; more power; or eliminating breaks, then I recommend you try my system, Vocal Synergy. It is a unique method for tuning up your vocal instrument to give you huge versatility so that you can express yourself authentically and powerfully through your singing.
I welcome you to apply for one of my Free Consultations to get started, and I look forward to helping you discover your vocal potential!
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