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Understanding Chest and Head Resonance

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Felipe Carvalho

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Hello there. After seeing that video from Daniel about the larynx registers, I wanted to present something about resonance and its importance, and more specifically what I mean with head resonance not being linked with the production of larynx registers but with the vocal tract setup.

I am assingning the name Head to it, because thats what the term originally meant, REGARDLESS of the larynx registration used.

For all the purposes of this video, the larynx is a black box that you dont have to worry about unless you are feeling anything happening in it, which is strain and is wrong.

And I would also like to say that this is by no means an attempt to make a physical model of how the human voice works, the examples, specially the whistle ones, are meant just to allow the concept to be understood, you will NOT learn how to register neither chest or head by watching the video, but hopefully understand.

Experimentations with the whistles appart from phonation are quite safe and I think its a very nice thing for you to try to allow a better understandment of how resonance strategies feels and affect the vocal tract.

But I dont recomend doing the phonations inside them alone, you can easily hurt yourself, specially without a very well trainned support coordination. So you were warned.

Also before saying that you cant whistle, the solution is easy, learn. Unlike singing its easy to learn how to do a basic coordination like the ones I showed.

Still, the one with the "lift", is quite tricky to find at first, and will take some time and patience. Took me two weeks, and I had head resonance coordinated already on the voice, so possibly it will pose a challenge. I insist that its a very nice way to understand the sensations and it may be an awesome reference coupled with other concepts, yet no, just learning how to whistle will not allow you to develop your voice completely and sing arias or even just use head resonance to do simple scales, its meant to allow you to understand, just that.

So dont complain if it does not solve all the problems, as it will not. But I assure you if you do what I describe in there, the concept of a resonance shift will become clear.

Here you go ;).


Some stuff that I forgot talking about on the video:

The resonance setup that can be used to track higher pitchs produces a sensation of pressure on the soft palate, and it feels on the top of the head and on the area right bellow the nose and above the front teeth. From that posture, if you ajust the larynx posture to darken the sound and find that stronger posture of classical singing, it feels on the top of the head and on the mask. The later is not desirable on pop singing, its too much. The sensations must happen BECAUSE of the resonance, not the other way around.

Feeling pressure does not mean resonance, giving room does not mean resonance, feeling higher or on the mask does not mean resonance.

Focal ajustment of resonance will not solve problems with support, emission or forward placement, so keep in mind that you will need to train all the basics first. And without it, its neither chest or head, its something else as far the original meannings of the terms are concerned, regardless of the larynx register being used.

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The best thing I got out of the video was the sound examples. I fumbled on most of the explanations. Which is not your fault, so much. English is a hard language to express in, even for me, born into speaking american English. And I doubt that even if I had a way to produce a video like you did, that I could do as well as you did.

I totally agree. Sensations are a sign of good resonance, not the cause of good resonance. And yes, the idea is to have that full note feeling and making adjustments to keep that. Though I have stated it more simply than you have, maybe. When I say "note in head," that is shorthand for making sure the resonance is happening.

And when I say motion in the abs, that's because that is where one should feel tension, if there is tension to be felt.

And nothing in throat means that production should be free and easy in the "black box" of the larynx.

That being said, I agree with you that one should have freedom to express something in various ways. So many people are caught up in trying to sing full voice all the way up and down. And that's fine for some music. But songs have various emotions at various times in them. So, yeah, sing a part soft, even falsetto, if that is what the feeling and that part of the song call for. Not because it's the only way you can do that note, but because that is what the song needs.

But I didn't really hear what the difference between chest and head resonance was. Though there maybe should not be a difference, if that was the point. I think "head" and "chest" are misnomers that no one has the guts to get rid of.

Chest resonance? I know the chest is a cavity. It is a cavity filled with vital organs surrounded by flexible bone, such as the ribcage. But when you are singing, the lungs are a wet, spongy set of bags that are decreasing in size as you sing the note. So, how can they resonate anything while decreasing in size?

People may not agree when I say it but all the resonance you get is from the bottom of the pharynx and up. You may feel sympathetic vibrations elsewhere but that is not resonance. Just like feeling the eyeballs rattle or feeling a buzz in the nose is not resonance but a sympathetic vibration cause by the power of the note being resonated.

What we are then left with is the sound quality. Which is an illusion of sorts. Of an auditory sort. "That sounded like a chesty note." Pay attention to the first half of the phrase. "That sounded like." I know that will get lost in the coming deluge of varying viewpoints and I just can't stop it.

Follow the resonance.

Of course, mine are just opinions of an amateur. I am not a teacher, I have no "system" to defend. I don't even play by the rules that others do. I make odd noises. I sing stuff out of my range and voice type, in spite of my own advice to not do that. So, I even break my own rules. :D

Of course, now, to follow your advice that we should practice or explore this best in the presence of a live person to coach us, how can we you know that you did what you did correctly?

I certainly could not make it to Brasil to see this video being made. All we have is the sound quality of the video you made. If sound recordings are to be suspect and learning by video and dvd or wmv file is wrong, then wouldn't it be the same with demonstrations?

"I'm a bad man, I've done bad things. I ride the easy path to Hell"

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Daniel haha well I cant either, it was really a trouble to produce that "head whistle" if such thing even exists lol.

Doing some notes here and there is fine, a melody, no way.

ronws tnx for watching man. Well lets see. Really the focus of the whole demonstration is in the whistles, Im producing them both using the same postures used to register chest and head resonances, therefore, its really resonance alone, nothing to do with the larynx, this way people can experiment and really understand how it feels and what it takes to do ajustments of resonance, you know, the usuall F1 to H2, F2 to H3 talk people love so much :).

What do you mean by illusion rowns? And what do you mean by chesty? Are you refering to modal voice or M1, or are you refering to a resonance strategy?

To me that sounded very heady, but I am thinking of resonance. Thats in M1.

But forget that, really, what its really important to understand is the nature of the ajustments that must be made, hopefully while searching for the whistles, it will come and go, some tensions will pop and go away and so on, until its stable.

Now picture doing the same, for each and every note, on all vowels, on sirens, then on legatto scales, then on different interval jumps, first within one register, then within the other, then beginning in one, going into the other, then using consonants that have tendencies to disrupt the placement, then varying the intensity without letting anything change on the resulting quality (not perceived, resulting as in no veins popping, not changes of registrations, no problems at all), and so on.

For each step of the way, a similar ajustment is necessary, a fine tunning. The fine tunning is not a luxury, its not optional as if nitpicking details, without the fine tunning resonance does not happen, no matter how much you feel it happening. That example that I called dull, and it was dull, I was feeling my whole head filled with sound, the other example with the correct setup, I feel almost nothing on my head, just a small pressure on the soft palate, and if I place my hand on the top of my head, I feel a small vibration.

If people understand that its possible to resonate in different ways, and associate resonance to a tangible thing like a whistle, I am happy. As I said up there, nobody will learn how to register NEITHER of the resonances from this. Experimenting with myself, the "heady whistle", I found that it works to actually make it easier to find it and ajust it without so much trouble, but I never tested the idea on another person so far. hehehehe experimentations will begin soon, if the person survives it will be one more usefull tool.

I say register because this work of shifting a significative part of the phonatory process is very similar to what you have to do to negotiate larynx registration. But its not really vocal registers, its just two different ways to align a few vectors of importance in a way that suits us. If you dont treat it like a registration when trainning, meanning being able to choose each one, you lose flexibility. I dont recommend using chest resonance above passagio, but well, on a few spots, it sounds just awesome. If you dont train it like a registration, you lose the ability to shift between one and the other at will.

If the fundaments are working well, and resonance registration is solid, larynx registration becomes a matter of choice.

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Just letting you know that someonelse did watch your video. I can whistle. Even melodies.

I often wondered Why I can whistle a tune and stay on pitch when I have trouble staying on pitch sometimes when I sing.

When I am trying to figure out a melody to sing, I will whistle the melody and match the tune with my guitar and then after learning the tune on guitar match my voice to that.

I have not noticed the resonance change when whistling in a higher range. I have noticed that I need to change mouth positions. Next time I will try dropping the jaw to find the resonance space.

I have not had a chance today to try your examples, But you have told me before to whistle while creating a sung pitch to help with my resonance and placement. I can tell you that is has helped me.

I used to drive my fellow workers crazy with my constant whistling. They thought I was too happy all the time. Truth is the whistling kept my mind occupied while I did that thing that people call work.

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Really awesome video Felipe! I can basically relate to everything you said, especially the kind of stability that consistency of resonance shaping gives you even without thinking actively about support.

However, I have one question: Actually I have been using a very similar approach (at least I think so) for a long time. I learned it through something like "try to sing every vowel through a oo-shape of your mouth", but the whistling is great, too, gives you about the same feeling of resonance.

But there are basically two points in my range where "keeping the resonance" really gets difficult and I wonder if it's the same thing for you. This is also what I base my statements about my tessitura on:

The first point is around G4, where the act of "keeping the resonance in place" creates a really, really strong urge to register into twang-enhanced falsetto (or "pharyngeal" as Jens called it in another thread). I can somehow still choose M1 at that point but it requires an insane amount of support.

The second point is pretty much exactly at Bb4, where there is no way in hell for me to stay in full voice anymore. The resonant placement just completely falls apart if I try to choose full voice there. I pretty much am forced to register into twang-enhanced falsetto there.

So, maybe this is just lack of training, but I tried several approaches now including very light-mass singing, but I just can't get my full voice higher than Bb4.

This is really why I always say my tessitura goes from E2 to F4, because in this area I really have full control and the jump from F4 to G4 suddenly makes everything extremely hard and demanding unless I register into M2.

So I wonder how it feels for you. You wrote your tessitura goes up to B4, so I would think that you can still do C5 and D5 in full voice. Do you also have the feeling that "keeping the resonance in place" somehow forces a registration to M2 at that point?

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Maybe I was just tired when watching the video because now I read your words, kind of an ad-hoc transcript, as it were. And I understand better and I totally agree and it is stuff I have been reading, believing, and repeating to others for a while, whether you happened to like my singing or not, my words, or not, or even me as a person.

And so your description may be stated even better than mine. As I try to simplify things which might make sense to me, and not to others.

Yes, adjustments are constantly taking place. Lilli Lehmann said as much. That if you really want to define registers for the voice, then you need a register for each note in the compass of that voice for there is a slight adjustment along the way. And so, she advocated doing away with the concept of register. For as long as you use the word and the concept, you will have registers and the problems inherent in it. So, her main exercise was what she called the Great Scale. From lowest usable acoustic note to highest and back down again. Not only to check tuning and pitch control, of course, but also as a way of treating the voice as one voice.

And if we (generically) want to say that the organs for speaking and singing are the same, and they are, then it really is one voice and the only problem or solution is where you resonate. And, for me, that is because the brain hears it and decides if it's loud enough or not. Resonated properly, the note is loud enough and the brain says, well, that's the right amount and pressure of air, then. That's the right amount of adduction. Minute adjustments you can't make. We make the large scale adjusments, as to where to resonate.

And your demonstration was perfect for rock and pop. Between you and me and the support column behind you, you did a couple of notes in there that reminded me of Bruce (Dickinson.) Awesome and beautiful. And so, yes, I agree, the example you gave of opera is more "covered" a specific sound ideal that is sought and often required in that genre of music. But that you can also have a beautiful tone in singing, regardless of genre. With the added bonus in pop music that I know that some can use noises in the dynamic range as well as the artistic range, whereas you stayed in your artistic range.

Although, even in opera, a performer might make a shriek that they are capable of only once a night and the role calls for it.

I have a low growl I can only do once in a day or so because it hurts to do it. So, I don't do it.

Also, wise idea to do this video in a room that is so very resonant. Just the right amount of room presence for practice.

As for chesty and head, well, that's in your thread title. For a long time, I have been wanting to do away with the concept of a difference between chest and head. They are as useless as the word register. There is only resonance and shift of resonance, as far as I am concerned and, so it seems, as you also state in the video.

But people will not let go of these words and concepts. And that is mental. And that is part of why I say singing is mental, even though people get the wrong idea from that word. Which is also mental, itself.

But I am not a teacher of singing, do not claim to be one, have no certification from any program that I know anything about singing or the teaching of singing. And I don't always adequately describe what it is I think or do or think I do when singing.

Other than to say that I pay attention at each moment, though in singing, it feels like time stops. It's probably like that effect in the "Matrix" movies. The slowing down of time. That is what happens to me. And in that suspended 3-D, 360 wrap-around, I make adjustments of air pressure and the aim is to keep the voice in the pocket, where ever that pocket happens to be that results in a loud, clear tone that gives me volume so that I don't over-blow the note. And the habit I work on is to have that matrix moment each and every time I sing anything. Scale, vocalise, "Priests of Syrinx," whatever. Ala Enrico Caruso. That is one of the most important things I learned from the three books I have about him, including the one he wrote. Focus is the key. I know others will say, "well, that's work." Fine, you have your dirty word, I have mine. :)

And because singing is mental, I agree, a person can really need someone else with a trained ear to listen to them to hear the tuning of the notes. Because like it or not, equipment does make a difference, especially when diagnosing. I am reminded of one teacher who would have his students use a different technique than they were accustomed to using. And the student would think it sounded weak. And the teacher secretly recorded the exercise and played it back for the student. And the student was amazed that the note sounded clear and powerful. Why amazed? Because the student "thought" the note was weak. Singing is mental. And the hardest thing to do is to change your mind. Or, in this case, change the mind of a student.

Like Tommy's example of fighter training. It's not whether the student can do 100 push-ups, it's whether the student will follow the teacher that is important. And if the student is going to "pull back and fight the rope like a burro," then he is wasting his time and money and that of the teacher.

But that is also the flip side of the coin. How do you know if the teacher is good, especially if you don't know of these concepts? Caveat emptor, to borrow from the latin. Buyer beware. See, you and I are now describing things in a similar way and it would seem obvious to say, well, you need to hire Felipe as your coach. But what of a student who does not yet understand some of the basics as even I might understand them? They are at the mercy of the wind and whoever has the slickest production. And there are some good programs with slick production. But it is kind of like fighter training. You can train in a fancy expensive gym or you can train in a basement with a 100 lb bag hanging from the framing.

And, I could also express the opinion that just because you want something doesn't mean that you should have it. I was certainly raised that way. Sometimes, the best answer for you is "no." For example, if I was a teacher and a student wanted to learn screamo, I would remind them where the front door is. I can't do it, I can't teach it, don't want to learn it, don't want to teach it. Call me an old man, a stick in the mud, behind the times, whatever, there's the front door. Adios, vaya con Dio, watch your nachos ...

Anyway, now I understand you better, Felipe and I agree with the points you made. Not that I am an expert. Just agreeing with you.

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@Felipe is the resonance from the whistling (when applied to a phonation) feel like sound resonating inside your head? I feel like there is a stereo inside my head when I go from a resonant whistle to an Oo sound then to other vowels.

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@Felipe is the resonance from the whistling (when applied to a phonation) feel like sound resonating inside your head? I feel like there is a stereo inside my head when I go from a resonant whistle to an Oo sound then to other vowels.

JayMC: As an experiment, whistle into an FFT application, and notice where the peak is. Then, sing a low note with the very same mouth configuration. You will get a formant, which will be F2, on the same frequency.

This is because the dimensions 'mouth' section of the vocal tract is the what is acting as the resonator for each. Increasing the dimensions of the mouth (lowering the tongue while keeping the mouth opening the same) will lower the whistle frequency.

Another fun experiment is to think various vowels while whistling, such that your tongue positions for them.

I hope this is helpful.

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Tnx for the words guys :)

@mdew very cool man, although for the experimentation to work, you really need to use the "lifted" thing on the "high whistle", Im aware you can actually make some effort and bring that low one higher, keep the muscles of the face relaxed, let it become airy because of the pitch, and well, search a bit. If its the same you do, then play around and notice the small ajustment your tongue must make, and how you are not even thinking about it really, it just happens, to sing it should work in the same way.

@benny well I will restate that playing around with the whistling in the way I proposed there allows a better understandment man, problems at G4 is what we all go through, F4/G4/A4, solve that and the rest is relatively speaking, easy. Still I insist that you should use more care ajusting emission first, support, making everything stable. Its nearly impossible to go at it and trying to make EVERYTHING work for you at the same time. And until everything is working at least to certain degree, these notes, the middle of your voice, will expose the problems.

@jay That depends too much man... Ive read on the other thread you are having difficulties with an airy vocal production, if you do it with air on your voice, not well ajusted and supported, it will probably fill your head like you describe, and also will feel very awfull and uncomfortable. I dont advice that you try using the postures to phonate. Try to understand what I mean first, its perfectly possible with the whistles alone.

I feel almost no audible feedback, just a the slight shift of the focal point a bit higher, and pressure on the soft palate. Pressure not as in "buzzing" or "sound" or "voice". Pressure as simply if there was something pressing against it, slightly. But, again, these sensations vary from person to person too much.

@ronws I think I understand you, a few points here:

Im not really trying to reinvent the wheel or something, its just a way that I personaly find more "tangible" to understand the concept before having the trainning needed to actually apply it to the voice. And without this concept well understood, you can very well fall for marketing or any clever maneuver done in a video to demonstrate. It bugs me man, because this should be EASY to execute when trainned, the trainning itself is not easy of course. But I see so many videos of people saying "this is head voice" and alot of strain comes along, with a very poorly ajusted voice, no resonance at all, just a very poorly executed mimic of what they believe is a sound ideal...

A person that does not understand this idea, that there is a "shift" of resonance strategy, that it should change in there, with no compromises whatsoever to quality or delivery, will not believe that there is a way to actually do it. You see its easier to hand it over to genetics and say "Ahhh his voice is just much higher than mine". Unfortunately there is no way for me to place in the video how that "feels" when I do and how it "felt" before I did it in this way. Which is the really important information to convey.

Hopefully if the concept is understood, and I repeat that it is very, very similar to what happens on the passagio, it will be easier to spot these cases. As Daniel said so many times in here, as well as I did, there is no need for any kind of strain, veins poping or whatever. Its really very comfortable, as long everything is working from ballance.

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I just watched your video and I'm trying to grasp the idea of the whistle. Is it the idea that people can experiment how the the movement of the tongue can change the resonance? Also when you mention the "lift" or giving more room in the back to produce a "higher whistle" are you then actually referring to higher notes in normal phonation? Because a "higher whistle" needs a smaller room at the very front of the mouth and not in the back.

I think I understand, Felipe is using a whistle to help find a certain resonance place. Not necessessarily the only way to whistle.

When I whistle in the higher area I basically do the opposite of what he is suggesting. My jaw closes and my whole mouth closes to a very small open area created by my tongue groove.

But his way also works.

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Experiment as he has suggested. I only know that I have been able to achieve a high whistle by using his example. Many of the things suggested by other people has been contrary to things I had already worked out for myself. I have had to rethink almost everything when it comes to singing.

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Maybe what is happening is the air current is redirected above the soft palet.

The whistle is created from the air leaving the mouth but the sound is the resonance inside the mouth cavity.

I think that is the whole point. It's the resonance that changes. Not the source of sound. (filtering system?)

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mdew tell me, does it sheds some light on the matter?

And, now, do you see the problem on explaining this kind of thing through text? :)

Rach, there really isnt much to it man, give it a shot if you can, but if this helps, the posture on the front of my mouth is nearly the same, but the base frequency of the whistle is multiplied (or so says my chromatic tuner).

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If what I have replied in my earlier post makes sence to you then Yes it does shed light the the subject.

If it does not follow what you were meaning then No I am as confused as ever.

I do agree that trying to convey a concept to others can be a daunting task.( especially if you have to look up a word like"Daunting" to find out what the other person means).

And if there are different ways to produce similer effects how would you know the other person is using the same way as you to produce these effects.

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Im also having abit trouble understanding :) But i "kindo" grasp this placement your talking about and i think the presentation is great.

But would be cool to get some kindo example in the midrange of sounds with this placement and sounds without

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felipe, i watched your video. i can't whistle too well, but i do understand and agree with what you're saying.

i feel you have to find the resonance, very much like tuning in an old analog transitor radio. once you get in the pocket (like ron said) you know it.

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I do understand how the whistle position can promote a forward placement because of the high front vowel position of the tongue. However, I'm confused on how the "lift" in the back is related to the whistle which is produced in the front (besides the fact that it's difficult to whistle with a lowered soft palate).

It is actually important how you do the whistling. While Felipes idea is great it needs at least some decent kind of supervision because there is a possibility that you do the whistling wrong. There are several ways to whistle, but to sense the type of resonance Felipe wants to explain you have to whistle in a certain way.

The whistling you have to do for this excercise has to be performed with a mouth shape that is shared with the "french u", which is the "u" in the word "menu" for example. Felipe performs that vowel in the video. In German it is the vowel "ü".

Some people (including me) can also whistle with a completely round mouth shape or whistle "through the teeth", but this will not give you the sensation that is needed for this excercise.

If you do the whistling with the "ü"-mouth shape you will have to lift the soft palate for the higher notes, which is probably what Felipe wants to show you.

However, as I said it needs at least some decent kind of supervision, because I as an example can do the whistling with a completely round mouth shape and if I do this there is no need for me to lift the soft palate for the higher notes, it just needs more support.

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Until you achieve the high whistle in this position you will not know what he is talking about. I think that is also one of his points.

There is a pressure that you will feel on the soft palet. But until you achieve the whistle you will not know where exactly that pressure is.

The resonance does not happen until you get it right.

Even knowing what Felipe was looking for it took him a week to get the whistle. Unless we already have an idea of what to look for we will not find it in a day unless just by luck. That is also a point in what he is trying to say.

If I am wrong Felipe let us know.

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Guys I don't believe Felipe's post was to confuse you about whistling. He was just giving an example of how to make your voice shift in resonance. And because he can whistle correctly and allows his whistle to shift and not get stuck in a resonance space was his analogy. "Don't look at the finger, you will miss all the heavenly glory":)

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Thanks Daniel.

Another fine example of how trying to explain one concept with another concept can also lead to confusion.

It cannot be easy for you teachers to come up with examples that everyone can understand.

It is not about the whistle.... It's about resonance.......The whistle will not happen without the resonance......

When the whistle happens for you take note of the pressure that you also feel against your softpalet......

If you can create a sliding whistle from the low to the high. Notice that the pressure tracks across your palet from hardpalet to softpalet. This pressure also represents the the movement of resonance.

Please Felipe, if I am on the wrong track stop me from making a further fool of myself.

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