Jump to content

Head and Chest, the classical definitions and its Spawns.

Rate this topic


Felipe Carvalho
 Share

Recommended Posts

Despite all the desambiguation conversations present around here, either the confusion persists or oversimplifications happens.

I will try to clarify the meanning of these two words, as they originally were intended to be used.

First of all, when they began to be used, larynx registration was NOT known. Nobody knew how the voice registers worked, all they had to follow was sensations and the voice character.

So these terms refer to sensations and execution. Using the same terms to define other stuff makes no sense, because it will not correlate to the original definition. You cant try to “explain” what head is more than you can explain what “chi” or “chakra” is.

CHEST AND HEAD DO NOT EXIST, they are NOT PHYSICAL THINGS. They are references, guidelines, definitions of precedures.

You see, even me, the medieval guy who teaches vocal technique inside a cave, know that. Just because I use it, it does not mean I do not understand it or that I believe that I have vocal folds behind my soft palate.

Now, if you try to understand what each of these DO to the voice when used, it can be explained in this more general line:

Chest voice is the one that most closely resambles the low spoken language. But its not low, the vowels are all altered to be placed higher, all centered around forward placement and focus. Pulling a correctly executed chest voice has the only downside of losing dynamic range control and demanding too much of support, you will scream VERY loud but still safely.

Head voice is a specialized posture, that uses several strategies to reduce stress on the emission and allow control of dynamic range on the upper part of both modal voice and the register that follows it (call it as you would like, on man, I know it as falsetto). It DEPENDS on support, covering, the cricoid tilt, a well ajusted emission and a correctly placed chest voice.

Covering is the most perceived of these qualities when executing it. Its a vowel, a very strange vowel, a crude way to describe it is “an attempt to sound nasal while closing the nasal passage and enlarging the back of the vocal tract while provide some occlusion with the tongue” (or a certain part of a yawn, if you will). And its not larynx depression.

Now, what does this mean?

This mean that since its just vowels, it does not have necessarily a direct relationship with the registration. At the same time, it has a very important role on the modal register of male singers, because it allows use of full voice above passagio, without change of registers. By just shifting this resonance strategy you can use it with total control for almost a whole octave above the limit of comfort of chest voice.

What is the use for pop singers? Well, it allows use of the voice without the brake you guys seek so much to “eliminate”. And it becomes plain and simply easy to do it. With all kinds of vowels, choosing a colour or a “mode” if you will. You can for example let go of most of the covering and by using support and a certain mouth posture, bring the larynx up a bit and sound more open, or chesty, if its what you want.

Things that all this implicate and that I consider important:

1 – Modal voice is not CHEST. Chest is not a physical thing, its a descriptor of postures;

2 – Breaking from modal voice is not HEAD. Head is not a physical thing, its a descriptor of postures;

3 – Registration of the larynx has no in-betweens without nasty tensions popping out;

4 – Head is used on the male voices for the use of modal register in the upper part of the tessitura, beginning where chest ceases being comfortable and under control;

5 – Head use on classical singing is not limited to modal voice, on many fachs, its used on overlaps of modal and the same register known as falsetto on male voices; Woman does not have falsetto, falsetto is ALSO not a descriptor of a larynx register, but of how the register change is perceived on male voices (a false voice, an attempt to impersonate a woman), for trainning purposes on male voices, any brake from modal register is considered falsetto;

6 – There is nothing wrong with falsetto, its capable of power and control;

7 – All these words, have meanning ONLY within the classical technique. You take one of them out of this scope and it becomes a mess.

8 – All these require support, if you are using your voice without support, then all of these terms are meaningless, you are doing something else;

9 – Neither Chest OR Head as originally defined are usefull on pop singing. Placement of both is too high to be used, a lower placement is used on both, to allow a more natural sounding and less physically demanding posture with the sacrifice of dynamic range (you dont need to go so loud anyways).

10 – Interpretation problems may exist, but only on those who does not have trainning and really have no use for the terms. Head, chest, sbrubles or whatever will be whatever your imagination want it to.

Because of its importance on the use of modal voice, it is trainned as if it were a register. In fact, its much easier to train the registration from modal to falsetto if you do it all within head posture. The work of registration is done exactly to achieve the head posture

Some modern authors use the term mixed voice to define the male upper part of the tessitura, in an attempt to desambiguate the definitions of head on woman and head on man, (maybe directed for pop application?). Both authors I know that uses this approach, which are Frisell and Richard Muller, use the head posture in falsetto BEFORE applying full voice on it. I have no experience with the results of such but it should/must be the same. The descriptions of the trainning procedures Ive read from both match perfectly what I know, I dont think the name is a very wise choice, but anyways, the content is great despite of it.

This mixed voice is not a mix of larynx registers though... This was proven, its all just modal voice.

Its possible to enter an yodel like sound and achieve a certain control over it. Its not head voice, its not the mixed voice these authors wrote about, and it has much more stress and potential for damage than forcing chest coordination up to the end of the tessitura. If you never trainned support, chances are that if you find a coordination that sounds full and is high, its being done in this way. I strongly advice against doing such.

Some characters that give it away:

Does not respond to dynamic control;

Sounds narrow, or pointy. Like a squeezed EE;

Does not sound like your voice anymore;

It requires no pressure to be produced (no support);

Its instable, and will work only for short period of time before you get too tired to do it;

Will have good and bad days, without you having any means to properly warm it up without feeling your voice tired from the process;

Sounds very, very poor near the passagio. Its not capable of power.

Thoughts? Hate?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very wellwritten post! I completly agree, but i still think that such à description is narrowing down the diffrent things the voice can do. It's great for opera and classical who have set and clear soundideals. But as you alteady pointed out for other genres, not so much

This yodellike state sounds interesting, you dont happen to have an example?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jens, it depends a lot on how its trainned and the later application on songs. If the coach starts to work towards full application and arias... Its pretty much a one way road I think. After the placement settles its harder to let go than bad habits. Anyways is not somethig that happens overnight and nobody can force you to sing arias hehe.

Ill send the sample later. Ill also try to upload other samples on each.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thinking in terms of consistancy in the vibrations of the vocal folds has helped me. Weather it be a high note or a low note. If I think about keeping a consistant vibration I can usually pass the F4- A4 area. If I am just concentrating on going from low to high I may get to a place that It feels stuck.

Reguardless of what lts called what has to happen is a change of resonance, a tilting of the larynx (lengthening of the vocal folds)and a consistancy of vocal fold vibration.

If you are getting stuck or flipping to another mode one or more of these things are out of balance.

The resonance placing and tracking, The use of support, the use of cry and twang are all things that help or guide us to the balance of those things.

Thats just my take on the whole matter. I am not a teacher. If you disagree let me know. If I am making matters worse also let me know. I only mean to help not set anyone back in there progress.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mdew, no worries man. The beauty of this thing is that none of these are options, it either is happening, or is wrong. You see, support will not just help hehehe.

Daniel... Of course... :)

But I figure that if people insist on using the terms, then at least they should know what they are talking about. ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

nice post felipe. i just want to add that when you seek to work the chest voice musculature up high, the newer folks out there need to understand to takes a certain level of prerequisite development.

you have to work to stay connected, don't disconnect anything, don't lighten up anything, don't flip into anything.....narrow yes, but the singer doesn't need to lighten. that "lightening" idea to me is very misleading and is prone to misunderstanding.

your thoughts? you write better than i do...lol!!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i have à hate/love relationship with classical terms. I think they are quite good for the most part, but for instance the female headvoice description is (*auto edit*) up. same words used to describe diffrent things, the female headvoice(soprano) is our falsetto coordination(taking in consideration, Both are trained well).

The male headvoice described in classical is more à coloration and placement of the modalvoice. Correct me if im wrong, but this has bugged me :)

terminology is great but i hate it when they use the same name for completly diffrent sounds.

same for the Word "fullvoice" getting Thrown on everysound the voice can make, still this term i havent heard much in classical terminology.

Anyways i Will follow this thread with great intrest perhaps you can shed me some light Felipe :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

tnx Bob.

Chest musculature I will translate into full voice ok?

Now, what IS going light? Walking into falsetto will destroy your voice in this, so big fat never. When go into falsetto, then you have to break/bridge/flip. End of story.

But, if its light as in full voice at low dynamics, and not overcompressed, it is surely a very desirable result. And totally doable without compromising power when you want it. Steve Perry thing if you will.

I understand what you mean perfectly. But thing is, going light just a tiny small micro bit may be the solution in some cases. Its way too easy man, it can be mistaken with falsetto depending on the pre-conceptions you have about the difficulty of execution.

The one thing that you can be sure about is support. If support is not working, if you do not feel pressure, it can be as connected as it may seem, the break is there, you are just being clever and avoiding it.

On the other hand, if support is working, and you cant find the break, even if its waaaayyyy too easy, its full voice. It is easy, I assure you.

About beginners, given all the background needed to allow it. I dont think someone without a coach should even worry about trainning this. It simply will not happen. But for those who complimented my registers for being full before, thats the reason. Its possible, totally achievable by anyone, and quite easy after you train it.

Still learning it, even when assisted, Its kinda tricky man. I do share your feelings on the matter. Power is crucial. Still its a matter of ballance, you most surely can overdo and power will be sacrificed. Not good. More power, more weight never stress.

I cant agree on telling people to go heavy, it will just make them scream it out. There is no possible way to help someone do this using text. Im sure that if you look back to all you did to get here youll understand my reasons.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Excellent post, Felipe. Reminds me much of what I read in Lilli Lehmann's book. That the word register should disappear but that as long as we continue to use that word, it will cause problems. That, technically, there are tens of registers, one for each specific note. She would do away with it by practicing the Great Scale.

Dr. Fillebrown also said similar things. He was a doctor and surgeon who repaired deformities and injuries, often those of the palate and sinus and maxilliary sinus. And surmised that register is a remnant of misguided description based on feeling, attitude, opinion, etc. He also said something sure to cause disagreement in some. "The easy thing is often the correct thing." But we often get in our own way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for this beautiful post Felipe you know we are on this same page bro. Many singers want to train to use their MODAL voice in a higher range of pitches myself included. How do you go about training your modal voice? We both train classically, but I wanted to get your opinion on this bro.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Izz, glad it helps.

"Classically" I dont think that is the right word, in both our cases right? We are not applying technique to sing arias, but rather on pop singing, so its more of an application of the classical technique, it makes a big difference.

Dunno if it has anything so special as most here seem to believe. Its really just doing what the teacher tells you to... There is really not "one" solution for it, but rather a continuous work of refinement and polishment of the basics, and as stress and wasted effort is reduced, well, improvements happen.

The whole process can be resumed into doing less for more. MUCH more. Id rather not get too much into details as Im sure someone will read and try to apply it alone...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Izz, glad it helps.

"Classically" I dont think that is the right word, in both our cases right? We are not applying technique to sing arias, but rather on pop singing, so its more of an application of the classical technique, it makes a big difference.

Dunno if it has anything so special as most here seem to believe. Its really just doing what the teacher tells you to... There is really not "one" solution for it, but rather a continuous work of refinement and polishment of the basics, and as stress and wasted effort is reduced, well, improvements happen.

The whole process can be resumed into doing less for more. MUCH more. Id rather not get too much into details as Im sure someone will read and try to apply it alone...

I understand what you mean. Thanks for the reply.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i have à hate/love relationship with classical terms. I think they are quite good for the most part, but for instance the female headvoice description is (*auto edit*) up. same words used to describe diffrent things, the female headvoice(soprano) is our falsetto coordination(taking in consideration, Both are trained well).

The male headvoice described in classical is more à coloration and placement of the modalvoice. Correct me if im wrong, but this has bugged me :)

terminology is great but i hate it when they use the same name for completly diffrent sounds.

same for the Word "fullvoice" getting Thrown on everysound the voice can make, still this term i havent heard much in classical terminology.

Anyways i Will follow this thread with great intrest perhaps you can shed me some light Felipe :)

Jens you are still thinking in terms of larynx registration, head is not the larynx registers.

It does produces a certain colour yes, but its reason to exist is to describe the posture of the vowels, soft-palate up, room on the back, that whole thing (covering). Which results in reduction of stress, a lot of reduction of stress, to the point of making it easy (look at that pavarotti video, F#4, covered/not covered, look at his face when he does that, its like he is going to fall asleep).

Head is characterized by covering, just that. You can do the same thing on both registers (full/falsetto) :). Understand, the information on how larynx registers work came after these terms were defined, the right or wrong in terms of larynx registration was decided by the sound produced.

So if a man let go of his power, his "manly" sound, he was in falsetto. If a woman kept too much power, she was vulgar :). (if a brake was used or not, that depends on the school).

Surely limits that we dont need in our current reality. But man, I insist that understanding head voice for what it is is an enourmous part of trainning and very important for everyone. This posture was not a "sound" decision made, but something that was found and refined in practical application and trial and error over a long period of time, and that was further refined using medical information in the more modern approachs.

Why do you think that an exercise done in falsetto with a "OO", in the direction of the soprano voice, has value when trainning full voice? Because it allows you to define the posture in a less demanding way before trying to use it for real. You get the OO properly produced and then apply full voice on it, and there, upper range reference is created (as long as emission and chest voice is already ajusted so that you dont lock everything up when applying support).

Out of context, this info becomes just junk. Head depends on trainning to exist, its a gathering of specialized procedures and postures. So someone untrainned does not have a "head voice". Its like picking a random person on the street, giving him a racket and asking him to play tennis and serve, using an open posture on the racket and top-spin for more precision. 99% of the persons will not be able to even toss the ball properly. Does this mean that such thing does not exist?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Administrator

Good post Felipe...

Bob, about the time you have spent four hours with a beginner that wont stop constricting... you'll be willing to reach for 'lift up / pull back" to shut down some problems...

Too often, explanations and arguments on this forum ignore day to day application to beginning students that don't walk in the studio with amazing physiology already to go...

Yes, in my own singing and my own techniques... more and more, we are taking modal voice higher, more musculature and more of a belty sound... it takes work, but its a good path... we find that both 'early' and 'late' bridging are useful and have merit... its just a choice on how you want your tone to be... more heady, or more belty... I say, master both of them. Sometimes you want to sing like Steve Perry, sometimes you want to sing like Jeff Scott Soto... we now cover and discuss, 'late' bridging in "The Four Pillars of Singing"... its advantages and its risks.

I will say this about it, and I make this point in my book... we have been lead to believe that there is something called 'late' bridging... but I think it may have little to do with the timing.

"Late" bridging translates to, more M1 musculature inside your M2 environment. It means training, controlled 'chest pulls', TA & Interarytenoids and all that we have discussed before on this forum. So as I dig deeper and deeper into this topic in my studio and training, it doesn't look like 'timing' to me... it looks like musculature. "Bridging Late" just becomes a metaphor for , bridging with more M1 musculature... or as I think Felipe is hitting at... extending your 'modal' voice.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Covering is the most perceived of these qualities when executing it. Its a vowel, a very strange vowel, a crude way to describe it is “an attempt to sound nasal while closing the nasal passage and enlarging the back of the vocal tract while provide some occlusion with the tongue” (or a certain part of a yawn, if you will). And its not larynx depression.

The presence of nasal component is not undesirable, but it must remain under control. The reason to give room on the back and lift the soft palate is exactly to counter ballance the tendency of nasality. If you dont rise the soft-palate, the covering becomes just a nasal sound. If you close it completely during passagio and even bellow it, it becomes too easy to not allow the resonance to rise, or even producing a brake.

Its not trainned from the perspective of nasality though, voice on the mask is in fact a way to enforce more nasal component without letting it dominate the sound. Its too much for pop, its used in a lesser degree.

You can cover too much and you will end up pulling chest just the same, sounding as if you are inside a tube.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A sample of what I mean, samples are always better to talk about this:

https://www.box.com/s/2bjvyxwudgac8to2bo3g

Besides the nasal component, I think its nice to understand that it FEELs a bit like going nasal, but with the whole pack of space/soft-palate/support together.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thats the thing with this kind of technical literature, it needs samples so that we understand exactly what he is talking about.

Totally closed and toally open is clearly not the solution. If you close completely, you create tension and you have to froce your voice up. Totally open requires you to go into chest voice to keep nasal quality from taking over.

So, lets say that his exercises had a tendency of producing nasality. Its only natural that he would state that you should close VPO, or rise soft palate, isnt it?

I do too. Specially because it feels like that. But my coach had me doing the opposite exactly because I came from a "soft palate" up all the way improper application. So it depends on what the student needs and what he needs to hear!

Oh and btw, it depends also on how it was measured. The VPO openning has control of nasality over a posture of the vocal tract. The more horizontal mouth openning and the lower the back of the tongue is, the less it matters. When you rise the back of the tongue, the ballance changes.

So if you are measuring the overall sound level of nasal component to deduce it, it most surelly is a result of the tongue posture, the overall internal space and the VPO openning, which Im sure you will find to be more closed than in chest voice, even if the nasal component is lower :).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was going to ask how does one measure nasality but I see that Rachsing beat me to it. When I think of too much nasality, I think of Chef Paula Deen from Georgia (USA.) She talks almost entirely through her nose. In fact, she cannot say "oil." She says "awl" when meaning cooking oil.

But there is another direction of nasality. The one that Sylvester Stallone used for the character, Rocky, in his movies. The closed off sinus, presumably a malady for a boxer who has suffered a broken nose a few times from the "sweet science" of boxing.

"Yo! Adrienne. It's me, Rocky! I did it."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Covering goes into that direction rowns, but keeping oral quality the predominant and not closing it completely. Its a ballance... You must feel it but it cant be apparent.

;) much easier to execute than to describe it.

I agree. Kind of a "wax on, wax off" sort of thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...