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Chest/Head voice consistency for low voices

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benny82
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I'm training for a while now with the TVS program, but there is one thing that I'm kind of wondering all the time. The question is: is it even possible to get a really nice and smooth passage from chest to head voice if you are of the really low voice types.

Personally, I'm somehwere in the field of high bass/low baritone and I'm encountering the problem that I sound really inconsistent when switching from chest to head voice.

I can do it quite okay, if I'm singing in a low-mass configuration (which basically means sweet and soft). However if I do this, I have to switch into head voice as soon as B3. It sounds quite consistent but the switch to head voice is easily hearable.

However, if I'm doing a medium-mass configuration and doing what Rob suggests, which means belting up to about D4, my breath pressure is already so high that I have to twang extremely hard to do the switch into head voice. This makes my head voice sound extremely quacky even if i lower my larynx as low as I can.

Starting at about B4 my head voice sounds almost like pure quack-mode. I basically have two choices: Either lower the larynx and remove a little bit of the twang compression, which makes me sound rounder, but gets me closer to falsetto mode, or to twang hard and sound defined, but totally lacking the timbre.

You can get a little impression of that in this video of me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JshPJhk7KUQ

At the end there is a D5, which is the highest note I can do in a "quite-ok"-sound somewhere between falsetto mode and twang mode, but it needs extremely high breath pressure to cover the fact that the vocal folds are not completely closed.

I'm wondering if its even possible for a really low voice to get a good and consistent sound above B4. Listening to some popular basses or low baritones, I didn't find a single one that could do this, there's basically three types of low voices from a technical point of view:

1. the belter: this type basically uses nothing but chest voice, which limits him to about 2 1/2 octaves of range going from about C2-F4. An example of this is the german singer Alexander Veljanov, don't know if you know him.

2. the twanger: this type twangs extremely hard even in chest voice, which kind of gives him a consistent sound but totally crushes the warm baritone timbre even on low notes. An example of this would be Axl Rose.

3. the two voice type: this is basically what i've been doing since today, which means you don't even try to smooth out the passaggio but have your chest and head voice as two seperate registers where you flip back and forth and sometimes use it as an effect that the registers sound so different. The head voice in this singing style is a little closer to falsetto mode. An example of this would be Ville Valo.

Do you know any popular basses/low baritones that can really produce well-rounded high head notes? Would be interesting to know if I'm just lacking the technique or if its basically impossible to get a sound where the switch to head voice is almost unhearable and the timbre slowly fades away instead of just being broken instantly.

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Really good tone on your low notes. :) Don't ever loose that!

Basses and Barytones should be able to get a smooth connected voice as well. Their voice just has a different quality and sits lower than tenors. Most tenors struggle with the passagio as well so you are not alone. Practice and you'll get it!

Nick

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Great Post Benny. A month ago when I joined this board, I didn't really know what twang would entail. I know I have a lot of it and am glad your description made it much clearer. I have this same issue. I have so much high frequency twang in my voice that I am more comfortable in the tenor - sopranist ranges even thought I could easily sing Bass and do. It is incredibly hard to maintain that kind of clarity and brightness and get the timbre down low. I think that scratchy hoarse voice that a lot of people use when they tend to be doing both at once is the compromise that you have to accept if you want range to go with it.

To address singers that do this well I don't think you can find better than Geoff Tate in this scenario to be honest.

Roberto Tyranti used to have a voice that would be low as thunder and could transition into piercing whistles with no kind of break in there, He's gotten much more either here-or-there over the years.

I don't know what examples you are looking for, but power and prog metal singers are IMO the most technical of anybody and sing aggressively doing it. A four octave range with a mandatory deep voice and high voice that can be used in any combination is the state of affairs for what has to be done in that kind of music, so I would look there.

What kind of music are you trying to sing? If you want a lot of control of tone it takes more effort, more power and more precision and everything has to be working right. That kind of singing doesn't lend itself well to anywhere near speech level. I'm assuming you aren't a fan of whispering low notes and blaring out high ones.

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Great advise adveser! :) however i never thought id hear Roberto tiranti and thounderous lows in the same sentance ;) where did you find those? Would be fun to hear always considered him a classical rocktenor.

and also roberto actualy doesnt do whistle he actualy just Has alot of highovertones on his head.

And are able to pull it 1-2 notes higher then the ordinary metal screamer. :)

Low voices are capable of mastering the tenorrange, it takes abit longer time as lowvoices mature alot later then highvoices :)

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I'm training for a while now with the TVS program, but there is one thing that I'm kind of wondering all the time. The question is: is it even possible to get a really nice and smooth passage from chest to head voice if you are of the really low voice types.

Personally, I'm somehwere in the field of high bass/low baritone and I'm encountering the problem that I sound really inconsistent when switching from chest to head voice.

I can do it quite okay, if I'm singing in a low-mass configuration (which basically means sweet and soft). However if I do this, I have to switch into head voice as soon as B3. It sounds quite consistent but the switch to head voice is easily hearable.

However, if I'm doing a medium-mass configuration and doing what Rob suggests, which means belting up to about D4, my breath pressure is already so high that I have to twang extremely hard to do the switch into head voice. This makes my head voice sound extremely quacky even if i lower my larynx as low as I can.

Starting at about B4 my head voice sounds almost like pure quack-mode. I basically have two choices: Either lower the larynx and remove a little bit of the twang compression, which makes me sound rounder, but gets me closer to falsetto mode, or to twang hard and sound defined, but totally lacking the timbre.

benny82: Thanks for posting the link. It was nice to see/hear your performance.

The passaggio challenges for the bass are significant, particularly getting the right amount of tradeoff of laryngeal musculature as you ascend the scale past B3. For some vowels (ee and oo), the passagio is even lower than that!

For your voice type, which is just a bit lower than mine (I am a lyric bass), I think a great deal of progress can be gained via use of voiced consonants V, Z and voiced TH. When I was a much younger man, I had a tone quality discrepancy like yours, but worse... no twang in head at all, but extending up to Ab5 very reliably. Using those consonants on sirens helped me to learn the feelings involved in passaggio phonations that were more connected to the chest, more substantial in head than previously.

I hope this is helpful.

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benny82 - yes it's definitely within your capabilities to create a "single" voice where it will sound like one continuous chest voice all the way through the tenor range and up into the soprano rangel. It takes a lot of work.

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Thanks, very helpful answers already. Maybe my question was a little confusing. I think the "sound discrepancy" that I'm referring to has mainly to do with what Rob calls "covering". The point where I'm losing my "chesty" sound quality is when I have to give up the covering.

According to Rob most men have to let go the covering at about G#4. For me, however it seems that I have to give it up at about F#4.

The link that geran89 posted is pretty much very similar to how I sound in the area above F4. While it is kind of chesty it does not have that "boomy" quality of my lower belts. For example my F4 and my G4 sound very different because of the covering going away.

EDIT: Hmm, just came to my mind that I may just be covering too much in my lower voice area. I also tend to sound a little operatic if I'm singing loud in my lower area. But I have to add to that that I just love the "musical way" of singing like in Phantom of the Opera, which seems to have a lot of covering in it. That is also basically the sound I'm looking for: high, well-rounded head-tones that sound chesty and have nothing in it that remotely reminds of "screaming" oder "yelling".

EDIT2: To be a little more concrete on the sound I'm looking for: I can sing the "opera" vocal mode quite okay up to about E4/F4. I understand that "opera" ist too chesty to transport that sound into a higher area (as a bass). So basically I want to let go of a little of that boomy opera sound to get a little bit of range at the top.

I've listened to Geoff Tate too. Awesome singer, but he has the same problem (in my ears) as Axl Rose (and Ville Valo is also developing this now that his highs get better). He sounds to "twangy" in his upper chest.

A perfect example of the sound I'm looking for is the german singer Alexander Veljanov. His range can be heard best in this video:

It goes from F2 to F4, which basically happens to be exactly my tessitura. His sound is not as big and boomy as that of an opera singer, so I hope there is room to transport it a little bit higher into the head voice.

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Hey, Benny, I don't have too much to add. I just love the tone of your voice. I bet that when you speak, you probably sound like Phil Anselmo. He has an extremely low voice, naturally, as well, which works well with his cajun accent (he's from New Orleans, La.)

I'd listen to Steven and stick with Robert. And give yourself some time and you will get there.

And I agree with the summation that Geoff Tate is a baritone who can also sing really high, though he is not singing high as much as he used to do so. But I think that is for stylistic reasons rather than loss of range.

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benny82 - it is for sure possible for you to sing like Alexander (or way better if you want). The tone / weight he gets up at F4 sounded very "chesty" to me. A lot of TA activity and very thick folds. When you hang on to that thickness of folds there tends to be a limit to the range to where if you go higher there will be an abrupt "thinning" of the folds into a lighter head voice. When you switch from thick to thin folds abruptly it will sound like a break or a yodel - going from TA dominant (chest) to CT dominant (head). To carry that tone up another octave (without a break) is definitely possible. There will have to be a gradual thinning of the folds, and because of your voice, will probably need to start at maybe around C4 or lower. You don't really have to sacrifice any tone though. You can create a continuous "chest" sounding voice really high. You just have to learn to coordinate the TA / CT activity, along with reinforcing twang. You will morph the TA dominance to CT dominance very gradually.

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Let's put it like this: I can sound very similar to Phil Anselmo if I'm speaking with totally relaxed vocal folds and larynx. However, I have some kind of tendency to speak in a little higher larynx configuration with more twang. I think he speaks around D#2/E2, while I speak pretty much exactly at F2. However if i speak totally relaxed I also speak around D#2.

I was always of the opinion that I'm a bass-baritone or a lyric bass, but maybe that's also only because I have a tendendy to speak and sing with a higher larynx-configuration.

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benny82 - it is for sure possible for you to sing like Alexander. The tone / weight he gets up at F4 sounded very "chesty" to me. A lot of TA activity and very thick folds. When you hang on to that thickness of folds there tends to be a limit to the range to where if you go higher there will be an abrupt "thinning" of the folds into a lighter head voice. When you switch from thick to thin folds abruptly it will sound like a break or a yodel - going from TA dominant (chest) to CT dominant (head). To carry that tone up another octave (without a break) is definitely possible. There will have to be a gradual thinning of the folds, and because of your voice, will probably need to start at maybe around C4 or lower. You don't really have to sacrifice any tone though. You can create a continuous "chest" sounding voice really high. You just have to learn to coordinate the TA / CT activity, along with reinforcing twang. You will morph the TA dominance to CT dominance very gradually.

Yeah, maybe that is exactly the problem. The thing is: Currently my sound is almost exactly like that of Alexander, because he is kind of my idol. When I sing his songs people often have problems finding out if its me or him.

That probably means I use too much TA in the head area. Probably have to use more CT. I have kind of managed to remove that yodeling or breaking but it is still an abrupt switch of tone quality.

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I think you mean not enough TA. I'd say for probably 99% of the population, they don't have enough TA activity in the head voice. (head voice implying CT dominant). Either that or they aren't letting the CT become dominant in the first place and just pulling chest. Anything involving a near equal CT/TA ratio is extremely difficult and is the primary goal vocal training drives toward. To put it visually, the beginner starts with a black and white voice, chest and head. Nothing in between. Whereas as very well trained singer can consistently access nearly an infinite palette of shades of gray in between those two.

I really think that it is actually too much TA or too few TA, depending on the song. What I usually do in the lower head tones when I try to sing like Alexander Veljanov is something I would call "heady belting". So the placement is clearly in the head but breath pressure and mass is really high. I believe that is similar to what opera singers do. In fact my "intuitive technique" was pretty opera-like from the get go.

Also my high head voice doesn't sound anywhere near falsetto, when I sing heavier. It is rather the fact that it sounds too metallic and intense. The video link I posted is actually a bad example for that, because in that video I am singing with a very "light-mass" onset.

But in general it really seems to be a problem of balance. I either have too much CT (like in that video) or too much TA (what typically happens if I do a heavier-mass onset). I just can't get that medium-mass onset going correctly ;)

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From what I understand, the secret is as you guys are stating, balancing the CT/TA dominance through the passaggio...I would just like to mention that, even though it sort of goes without saying, Appoggio, breath management is key I believe! I practice/train my muscle memory by doing small slideing scales around my first passaggio...sometimes I find it difficult to balance it, so start in head voice and go down to chest, then back up and it usually clicks! Practice on all the vowels! :)

All the best!

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Also, just like to add...singing White Christmas by Bing Crosby is a total joy...he uses light breath pressure...was one of the first to take advantage of the new microphone technology I believe!...which makes it much easier, definitely start warm ups at low breath pressure to enjoy the practice, then challenge yourself with more!

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To make my point a little more clear, my issue is not bridging, my issue is "sounding seamless".

Let's put it this way: If you hear me singing a G3 you could clearly notice that I am a low voice type. My timbre is darker and warmer than that of a tenor singing G3 for example.

However, if you hear me singing a G4, you will not be able to tell that I am a low voice type. I'm kind of losing my special "characteristic", that my voice is dark and warm.

I can keep up that darker sound if I'm using more TA. However that only goes well up to around F4, I just can't transport that sort of timbre to the higher area.

I can only sound "consistent" over chest and head if I start removing my characteristic feature even in the low area of my voice, which is really not what I want.

Currently I think that what I do is basically what opera singers do, which means transporting a lot of mass to the head area to get a fuller and warmer sound. However the effect is also the same effect that opera singers suffer from, which means the range is limited to the lower head voice (where F4 is quite typical for a bass in classical terms).

I'm just hoping there is another way to transport that full and warm sound to the head are without having to use the mass of an opera singer.

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Yea I think probably the way to ensure it sounds seamless is to keep the resonance tract as relaxed and consistent within the two registers, or at least ensure gradual changes. I look forward to an expert opinion on this. One question though...how does your support feel when you sing and play guitar at the same time? I know this sounds silly, but when I'm not playing guitar as well as singing, I can concentrate more on consistant breath control easier than when I'm playing at the same time.

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I can only sound "consistent" over chest and head if I start removing my characteristic feature even in the low area of my voice, which is really not what I want.

Currently I think that what I do is basically what opera singers do, which means transporting a lot of mass to the head area to get a fuller and warmer sound. However the effect is also the same effect that opera singers suffer from, which means the range is limited to the lower head voice (where F4 is quite typical for a bass in classical terms).

I'm just hoping there is another way to transport that full and warm sound to the head are without having to use the mass of an opera singer.

AH! I am on the same page. So, I too sing with a classical configuration. IDK if we are doing the same thing, impossible to tell.... but if we are, I have recently discovered a sort of way to get higher.... When I sang and sang for hours on end, I eventually started to only be able to reach a certain note FULLY (full voice, the only way I can sing) then I would get a crack or break, that wouldn't be in a normal falsettto nor head voice, but some strange area of the voice...

I've been developing this, and it can sound much better when sort of layered with the normal style. It's like taking the weight off that we carry up naturally, and getting an almost 'thinner' sound, or rather, not as 'pushed' as you eventually become when singing outside your classical range.

Really, I only sound best within the classical range off low bass - baritone, and when i get to tenor it sounds... well.... like theres too much weight to carry up.

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Lower the larynx, keep the jaw medium open, and tune the 1st formant to 2nd harmonic, think geoff tate or rob lunte, they are doing that without increasing mass. It's a belty overtone inside a light heady muscular configuration. You will be most successful with it on the vowels eh, uh, and oh. This head voice musculature + belty resonance combo is the trick to sounding like a baritone singing really high rather than sounding like you converted to a leggioro tenor for the high notes lol

This is pretty much what I'm doing (though I don't know if I'm doing it correctly). However I can only get that "belty" formant configuration if I can cover the note (this is easier on eh, uh and oh as you said). But I have to let go of the covering pretty much at G4, at F#4 it largely depends on the vowel, at F4 I can cover basically any vowel if I just do a slight vowel modification.

So my theory is, that the point where you have to let go of the covering is earlier for lower voice types and roughly corresponds to your highest note in "opera style".

Rob says he lets go of the covering at about A4, which is kind of fitting considering that he is a little higher than me (a medium baritone I would guess).

That said, at least in my ears, even Rob's sound changes quite drastically when he stops covering the note, it sounds much "headier". However, the effect is not as dramatic as it is for me (considered myself to be a bass-baritone, but people keep saying that I'm rather a standard bass).

@purelythemusic: support feels quite different for me when I'm playing guitar. That's why I often support less while doing it and go to more of a falsetto type sound in my head voice. I also bridge earlier when singing while playing guitar. In that video I posted I'm singing D4 in M2, which I would usually sing in M1.

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@benny82: Yea, thats the same sort of thing that I used to do, I've decreased it after working on it for a while. I think you will find that if you can maintain good support, you will naturally find the larynx staying more stable rather than rise when singing through the passaggio. To correspond with the larynx sitting comfortable, you should be able to maintain the raised pharynx, covering well and keeping the tone more even.

I haven't got to the stages of modifying the sound so that it sounds more belty, but I have had success with the above method.

I used to belt everything, had no low range so presumed I was a high voice type, it was only when I opened up the vocal tract that I found my lower range, when I discovered proper support I started working on the passaggio, which for me is low! Now, A3 is where I find I have to increase breath compression to stop the chords coming apart uncontrollably (break). So I start blending at around G3! I haven't seen which note my covering needs to blend into full head voice, but I'm betting it's my second passaggio.

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Robert describes covering from D#4 to G#4 basically here, starting at about 4:30

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGcZr3l3Bw0

At around 7:00 you can hear the sound difference I'm talking about, he demonstrates a covered G#4 and an uncovered A4. The difference is bigger for me than for him, but even when Robert does it the difference is hearable, the A4 sounds a more "heady".

However, for me it seems like I have to "open" just about 1 note earlier than him. I can basically "force" the covering on G4 if I increase breath pressure and support but this feels a little bit like "pulling chest" and the high breath pressure makes it much harder to smoothly go on to G#4 or A4.

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Covering as used in the classical italian school is the procedure of altering the vowels slightly to favor a resonance posture that suits the pitchs above a certain area of your voice, where the stress of the folds ammount to a point that it becomes impossbile to sustain phonation and control.

In practice, it consists of: changing the intention of sound production to allow more nasal component, countering the resulting nasality by a direct lift the soft palate, maintenence of the forward placement on this resulting vowel and support pressure + a strong control to enforce stability on passagio. The passagio is therefore a change of resonance strategy. For this to work, chest voice must be accordingly trainned, to allow some important qualities to happen and improve the fundamental efficiency of the whole vocal production.

The voice must remain the same, or else you will break when you do this. Its what you were calling chest, the emission quality. This is not belting, because you dont sacrifice comfort, control or anything for it, just a small bit of the vowel definition. You dont have to go as far as sounding like an opera singer, nor you have to add that ammount of lowering on the larynx. For trainning, its nice to cover more, because it demands more pressure and will make you work more for it in a very healthy way. To sing, you can back off from covering and achieve a "belted" quality sacrificing a bit of volume for it, although it becomes more comfortable, the error margin becomes much narrower.

Using covering properly, you can go way past the tessitura on fullvoice, without doing the larynx registration. My tessitura ends in B4, I train the fullvoice up to C#5, because some material I am trainning requires it, and because thats what make the tessitura really solid, to have a margin above it. I know some lighter voices that go much higher than that without sacrificing any emission quality.

As extreme as it may seems, its actually healthier and easier to keep it the same, the emission pattern does not come from strenght, but coordination and balance. Using larynx registration bellow that is possible, but you will sacrifice versatility, as in some repertoires it really does not fit at all. On the other hand, full voice is capable of dynamic control on this area, so the freedom you have to ajust it as you see fit is much greater.

Above the tessitura, M2 becomes much more solid and capable, and the registering can be done almost without a noticeable change. Range becomes quite large.

The problematic area to be solved is exactly from D4 up to A4. Where the resonance strategy must change and where almost all voices will find difficulty to coordinate a full emission pattern. It must be not only full, but comfortable and easy to use with all vowels. If you are not using covering in the way I described, and if you are doing larynx registration on this area, then there is room for improvement, a lot.

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Covering as used in the classical italian school is the procedure of altering the vowels slightly to favor a resonance posture that suits the pitchs above a certain area of your voice, where the stress of the folds ammount to a point that it becomes impossbile to sustain phonation and control.

In practice, it consists of: changing the intention of sound production to allow more nasal component, countering the resulting nasality by a direct lift the soft palate, maintenence of the forward placement on this resulting vowel and support pressure + a strong control to enforce stability on passagio. The passagio is therefore a change of resonance strategy. For this to work, chest voice must be accordingly trainned, to allow some important qualities to happen and improve the fundamental efficiency of the whole vocal production.

The voice must remain the same, or else you will break when you do this. Its what you were calling chest, the emission quality. This is not belting, because you dont sacrifice comfort, control or anything for it, just a small bit of the vowel definition. You dont have to go as far as sounding like an opera singer, nor you have to add that ammount of lowering on the larynx. For trainning, its nice to cover more, because it demands more pressure and will make you work more for it in a very healthy way. To sing, you can back off from covering and achieve a "belted" quality sacrificing a bit of volume for it, although it becomes more comfortable, the error margin becomes much narrower.

Using covering properly, you can go way past the tessitura on fullvoice, without doing the larynx registration. My tessitura ends in B4, I train the fullvoice up to C#5, because some material I am trainning requires it, and because thats what make the tessitura really solid, to have a margin above it. I know some lighter voices that go much higher than that without sacrificing any emission quality.

As extreme as it may seems, its actually healthier and easier to keep it the same, the emission pattern does not come from strenght, but coordination and balance. Using larynx registration bellow that is possible, but you will sacrifice versatility, as in some repertoires it really does not fit at all. On the other hand, full voice is capable of dynamic control on this area, so the freedom you have to ajust it as you see fit is much greater.

Above the tessitura, M2 becomes much more solid and capable, and the registering can be done almost without a noticeable change. Range becomes quite large.

The problematic area to be solved is exactly from D4 up to A4. Where the resonance strategy must change and where almost all voices will find difficulty to coordinate a full emission pattern. It must be not only full, but comfortable and easy to use with all vowels. If you are not using covering in the way I described, and if you are doing larynx registration on this area, then there is room for improvement, a lot.

Thanks, really nice description. Seems that my understanding of covering was just a little bit off. I think I'm doing what you describe. It is a little bit like changing the vocal placement a little bit backwards and up creating a feeling that there is actually no sound emission out of your mouth anymore.

I think I will do a recording to make more clear what that "sound change" is. Also, I'm quite not sure where I actually switch from M1 to M2 when singing louder. There are two points for me where the "feeling for the singing process" changes somehow. The first is going from D4 to E4. However the even bigger change of feeling is when going from F4 to G4, and that's also where the sound seems to change more. Perhaps I'm not doing that resonance strategy in the correct way.

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