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Difficulties singing in the head voice register.....

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Here is some background information on my voice:

I started to take lessons last November, and my chest voice has expanded, and has become more free in the higher part of the register.I used to be barely able to hit a C4, but now I'm working to reach a G4. The lowest note I can reach consistently is a D2. In my falsetto, I can go comfortably to a D5. And then in my head voice, I can sing up to a C6.

When I sing in head voice, there is a distinct break between the register and my falsetto. I find it difficult to pronounce words in head voice while staying in the register. Because of this "crack", singing in the register wears my voice out fairly quickly. I've been working with my teacher on strengthening my falsetto, which has helped it a bit. My main goal in singing is to be capable of singing countertenor operatically, and for me to not be able to utilize this upper register in a healthy manner is frustrating, to say the least.

What would you suggest I do to fix this issue?

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Here is some background information on my voice:

I started to take lessons last November, and my chest voice has expanded, and has become more free in the higher part of the register.I used to be barely able to hit a C4, but now I'm working to reach a G4. The lowest note I can reach consistently is a D2. In my falsetto, I can go comfortably to a D5. And then in my head voice, I can sing up to a C6.

When I sing in head voice, there is a distinct break between the register and my falsetto. I find it difficult to pronounce words in head voice while staying in the register. Because of this "crack", singing in the register wears my voice out fairly quickly. I've been working with my teacher on strengthening my falsetto, which has helped it a bit. My main goal in singing is to be capable of singing countertenor operatically, and for me to not be able to utilize this upper register in a healthy manner is frustrating, to say the least.

What would you suggest I do to fix this issue?

It sounds like you have the wrong approach to head voice.

Does your head voice feel a lot like you are a blowing a lot of air and getting great resonance especially high harmonics but you feel no muscular activity in the larynx and cant produce boomy overtones to the sound? Is it also hard to articulate the consonants b, d, and g? If so I think you are in what I'd call reinforced falsetto and I'm not sure it is how countertenors sing. But I know personally it can wear out my voice quickly

You may be better off taking the coordination you know as falsetto and strengthening that into head voice.

Whatever you do, test your ability to bridge registers (early and lightly is fine) before you decide to strengthen your head voice. You need to first make sure it can be blended with chest.

But I am no expert on countertenors...maybe they do use what I called reinforced falsetto, and it certainly sounds like it.

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My big question, Counter, is the nature of the instructor you have. Is the person a classical or opera coach? If so, stick with that. Anumber of the guys around here are more centered on pop and rock singing, usually staying away from falsetto. Me, I ain't askeered of it but I am also NOT a teacher of singing, classical or anything else. I know just enough to know that I don't know a lot. But, having heard some countertenors, I think it is a valid pursuit and has value, especially in florid pieces.

Though you could still sing pop and rock, if you wanted to. Would it surprise you to know that Dee Snider trained as a countertenor before becoming a twisted sister?

What I do know, even as an amateur is that around the D5 area, even for tenors such as myself, there is a tonal shift because the resonating space there is so small it has enough room for the fundamental and not for the harmonics. The main harmonic is equal to 2 times the fundamental. That means, that at the frequency for D5, the harmonic is so far away, you have no small spaces left that are small enough to resonate that. And that is why the vowels all sound the same above that point. Also, the vocal tract set-up to make those pitches makes articulation quite difficult. In older, florid singing, that was not a big thing since the attention was to legato, more than it was to libretto. So, in my redneck opinion, the solution would be to get into that head formation just a smidge sooner. Lower the bridge point just a little.

Down in the 3rd and even most of the 4th octave, the fundamentals are lower frequency and the distance between them and their harmonics is not as far. It's like the difference between 1 and 1 times 2, as opposed to the difference between 10 and 10 times 2. At the lower freq's, there is more room to resonate harmonics, so there is more differentiation between vowel sounds and the vocal tract is a little more loose and allows more articulation.

But please, defer to your singing instructor, rather than me, a soi-disant singer from Texas.

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Without hearing a clip it's probably the usual culprit: some sort of mismatch between the support/air pressure and the vocal fold tension. If you take lessons, you should do what your teacher tells you to do, otherwise you'll never know if the problem was his advice didn't resonate with you, or you were taking too much advice at once.

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Thank you for all the responses. My teacher is an operatic/classical teacher, and she has helped me greatly.

My teacher and I have been working on blending my chest voice, and my falsetto together, and that has been going well. At this time, the head voice (reinforced falsetto?) that I sing in doesn't extend very well in the lower portion of my voice, and I have to start on a higher note to activate the register. When working with my teacher, she had me vocalise the register in broken chords from the top note to the bottom (e.x. F5, C5, A4, F4) on an Ah vowel. I found that I wasn't able to bring the register below an E4, which is where the break between my falsetto and chest voice is.

If anyone is interested, I'd be happy to make a video so you can see and hear what I'm doing wrong.

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Thank you for all the responses. My teacher is an operatic/classical teacher, and she has helped me greatly.

My teacher and I have been working on blending my chest voice, and my falsetto together, and that has been going well. At this time, the head voice (reinforced falsetto?) that I sing in doesn't extend very well in the lower portion of my voice, and I have to start on a higher note to activate the register. When working with my teacher, she had me vocalise the register in broken chords from the top note to the bottom (e.x. F5, C5, A4, F4) on an Ah vowel. I found that I wasn't able to bring the register below an E4, which is where the break between my falsetto and chest voice is.

If anyone is interested, I'd be happy to make a video so you can see and hear what I'm doing wrong.

Yes make a video. Audio only is fine.

I'm thinking either your head voice configuration isn't well developed enough yet or you use using that other thing I'm talking about that won't bridge with chest.

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Ron's magic pill for your troubles.

Time and patience. You are going to have some awkward sounds and times. Allow those to happen. Let that happen, let it go away. Stick with your teacher.

You've been taking lessons for 7 months. 7 whole months. Give it another 7 months and then worry about it. You are worrying about too much too soon.

That's probably not the answer you were looking for. But that's my "tough love" for the day.

:)

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I recorded myself doing some random vocalizations. Here is some of the audio that I recorded:

countertenor32: Clear tone. Not breathy. A good staring point for a falsetto.

Yes, and quite random. I have a suggestion: Vocalize with _purpose_, to develop or explore/discover phonation/resonance relationships.

This tone is clear, not airy. Bravo! Next step... bring it down toward your lower voice, and see how it connects to the rest of your voice...

I hope this is helpful.

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I don't know anything about countertenor. But falsetto, which is the CT muscle only (TA is totally lax), has a point at which you can't go much lower. I think you've reached that point at around E4. It sounds like you are totally in falsetto and not head voice at all. Do the "laws" of being a counter tenor allow for a head voice? If so, you could keep a little TA active and go down to some very low notes. You could strengthen your tone at any time because TA would always be engaged - even if just a tiny bit. It is really hard to go from absolutely no TA to some TA but it easy to go from a tiny bit of TA to a lot of it.

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I don't know anything about countertenor. But falsetto, which is the CT muscle only (TA is totally lax), has a point at which you can't go much lower. I think you've reached that point at around E4. It sounds like you are totally in falsetto and not head voice at all. Do the "laws" of being a counter tenor allow for a head voice? If so, you could keep a little TA active and go down to some very low notes. You could strengthen your tone at any time because TA would always be engaged - even if just a tiny bit. It is really hard to go from absolutely no TA to some TA but it easy to go from a tiny bit of TA to a lot of it.

geno, countertenor32: Perhaps some semi-occluded consonants at this point? Countertenors are not another species... they have higher chest voices and a heady register balance :-)

I've sung with a couple Countertenors in my life, on the concert stage, including Mark Deller (son of Alfred Deller) and Willard Cobb of the Early Music Quartet. Where some folks have an awkward bridge, fraught with peril, these guys have a walk in the park.... the voice just keeps going upward.

Countertenors do have a head voice, but it is often so smoothly connected that it is seems inseparate.

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Heard the sample.

countertenor32: While the occasional flip or crack during practice is fine, with the consistency of the unintentional flipping you are getting, you are going to get nowhere. I personally think something about your overall technical approach needs to change.

And I think the reason for the flipping is exactly what Geno mentioned. You sound like you are in a pure falsetto that won't go low enough to seamlessly bridge with chest voice. In order to bridge chest and head you need to retain TA activity in the head voice. TA is short for thyroarytenoid muscle, in lay mans terms, that comparatively bulky musculature we feel when we are in chest voice. You are letting go of that completely when you should instead only be letting go of maybe 75% of it in the middle of head voice. And it works in a spectrum, the higher you go, the less TA activity, but if you want a fully connected range suitable for performing IMO you should never release it completely.

I HIGHLY recommend watching this lecture and practicing the technique on an ascending siren like he demonstrates, to help you discover a head voice that can seamlessly bridge with the chest voice.

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From what I know countertenors sing entirely disconnected from G4 on, some even earlier. G4 - D#5 is sung in falsetto (M2), E5-C6 is sung in flageolot (M3, although according to current research it may be just M2 with a different mode of resonance).

However, the rules mentioned here, still apply. From let's say F4 downwards you have to engage TA ("chest musculature") to keep a stable mode. This is really hard, if not impossible, to learn from descending sirens. Ascending sirens with a bridge as early as possible will help more I think.

It also depends on your "real vocal fach" a little bit. Lower voices can induce a stable M2 a little earlier than higher voices. But "somewhere around F4" is usually a good point to let go of TA if you do early bridging into M2.

Try to shoot for a smooth bridge between chest and head resonance during the C4 - F4 area while at the same time changing vibratory mechanism to falsetto. One of the advantages that makes the bridge a little easier for countertenors is that you can bridge the vibratory mechanism (M1 -> M2) at the same time you change resonance strategy (chest -> head).

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  • 1 month later...

I think that I might have stumbled on the source(s) of my difficulties. I noticed that after singing a while, I start to feel some irritation emanating from my soft palate. My theory is that I'm singing in my upper register with my soft palate in an improper placement (whether it is too high, or too low, I don't know), I'm guessing that the register breaks as a result from too much breath pressure, and my larynx also tends to raise a bit as well. I haven't had the opportunity to ask my teacher about this, since she has taken August off, but I will question her about it when we start up again. Any thoughts about would be much appreciated.

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Countertenor, singing high notes (especially in English because of the dipthongs) is always a tradeoff between pronunciation and quality of tone. Your teacher will likely eventually teach you to modify your vowels to preserve your tone. This will make your voice work much more smoothly, though the lyrics will become harder for the listener to understand.

Every time I hear a well trained operatic soprano, I remark that her voice was beautiful and I didn't understand a single word she sang. Of course opera is not the only genre guilty of this by any means.. I still can't decipher any of the words coming out Brian Johnson's mouth other than "back in black" when he sings Back in Black.

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I'm pretty sure it's like "Packing the van, my cousin Lou's gotta cramp, rubber gun with a bull, it are a powder pat"

Other parts, I can hear better.

"I'm in a band, with a gang. You have to catch me if you want me to hang."

"I've got nine lives, cat's eyes. "

How about nonsensical lyrics from the hit song by another band, "Blinded by the Light."

"Blinded by the light. Wrapped up like a deuce another runner in the night. She got down but she never got tight, she's gonna make it through the night."

Made no sense to me. The only part that made sense was in the break. "Momma always told me not to look into the eyes of the Sun. But Mama, that's where the fun is ...."

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Other parts, I can hear better.

"I'm in a band, with a gang. You have to catch me if you want me to hang."

"I've got nine lives, cat's eyes. "

How about nonsensical lyrics from the hit song by another band, "Blinded by the Light."

"Blinded by the light. Wrapped up like a deuce another runner in the night. She got down but she never got tight, she's gonna make it through the night."

Made no sense to me. The only part that made sense was in the break. "Momma always told me not to look into the eyes of the Sun. But Mama, that's where the fun is ...."

Hey ronws! I'm a newcomer to this forum, but I've been scouring the boards and have enjoyed quite a few of your posts, I must say.

It's funny you should mention "Blinded by the light." The only word I could ever pull out of that second phrase was "deuce." hahaha

It's always impressive (if not healthy) when you hear a singer sing high with unmodified vowels however. I'm thinking of Sebastian Bach's scream at the end of "I Remember You" studio recording, where the "u" vowel is completely intact. Or Geoff Tate in "Breaking the Silence" when he belts out, "You never answer meeee." Maybe something you can pull off if you're in the studio recording an album, but live, you've got to modify in the upper register if you plan on maintaining your vocal health.

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It's funny you should mention "Blinded by the light." The only word I could ever pull out of that second phrase was "deuce." hahaha

Someone once made a one-panel cartoon joke out of that. "Great, we have the first line. Now, let's come up with 4 minutes of incomprehensible non-sequiturs to finish it."

Describes that song to a tee.

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Blinded by the light was an autobiographical story. There really was a silicone sister with her manager mister.

There were about a dosen verses that we never hear. That is probably why it does not make sence to us.

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Other parts, I can hear better.

"I'm in a band, with a gang. You have to catch me if you want me to hang."

"I've got nine lives, cat's eyes. "

How about nonsensical lyrics from the hit song by another band, "Blinded by the Light."

"Blinded by the light. Wrapped up like a deuce another runner in the night. She got down but she never got tight, she's gonna make it through the night."

Made no sense to me. The only part that made sense was in the break. "Momma always told me not to look into the eyes of the Sun. But Mama, that's where the fun is ...."

When manfed man sings blinded by the light I can decipher the lyrics, even though they're nonsense. When the boss sings it I haven't a clue what the words are. But still love the boss.

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It's always impressive (if not healthy) when you hear a singer sing high with unmodified vowels however. I'm thinking of Sebastian Bach's scream at the end of "I Remember You" studio recording, where the "u" vowel is completely intact. Or Geoff Tate in "Breaking the Silence" when he belts out, "You never answer meeee." Maybe something you can pull off if you're in the studio recording an album, but live, you've got to modify in the upper register if you plan on maintaining your vocal health.

It is always a trade-off imo. There is really no problems singing the vowels you want in the high part of the voice in general. It is just a problem if you want to sing them with a "belty" sound color (real belting is more or less impossible on OO especially in the high voice).

Especially the EE vowel is actually easy to sing in the high part of the voice. But the sound color will be thin and light. The OO is harder in the high part but possible and the sound color will be thin and dark.

It always depends on the situation. Depending on the song you may be able to sing an EE or OO on a high note with a very thin sound color and it goes throuh pretty much unnoticed. On other songs it may be clearly audible that your sound color changes to a lower mass configuration. When I sing EE or OO on notes above G4 my intensity is pretty much in the speach-level area. The volume is still high though (especially on EE) because of the twang.

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