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Gina Ellen Vocalist
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So, Can any of you classical peeps here tell me what happens with a classical head voice. Am I right in saying there is no chest involvement? To me it sounds like purely head voice musculature? Not a mix or full head voice. Like neutral in CVT terms without air. I know there is no air and twang to loose the air but is there any actually chest like a pop mixed voice/full voice? If this is right, is it the same with classical males? It seems males do have more of a mix when they use there head voice. Or do they train both?

Just curiosity really.....

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Yes, it's basically what you say. Female classical singing has mostly no chest musculature involved (or lives almost exclusively in vibration mode M2). Most females bridge very early in classical singing (in the D4-F4 area), and the highest females (high sopranos) sometimes don't use any kind of chest voice at all while "pulling down" their M2 as low as C4. (most high soprano stuff is in the C4-C6 area). In CVT this is indeed neutral without air.

Below C4 chest voice is usually used (but mostly still within what CVT calls Neutral) and the lower females also use chest voice up to something like F4.

The same strategy is used by a special kind of male singers, who are called countertenors. They sing the low part of their voice in chest, but bridge very early to M2 without chest musculature.

For most male singers (Basses, Baritones, Tenors) it is totally different, though. They sing almost exclusively within vibration mode M1 (chest voice) and don't bridge at all. Only in rare cases very high notes are sung in M2.

There is still the term "head voice" which is used by male classical singers, but it doesn't refer to a switch of vibration mode, but to a switch of resonance (where you feel the sympathetic vibrations).

This has led to a lot of confusion in the past, but usually it is like this:

female/countertenor low voice = M1 (CVT neutral, sometimes Overdrive/Curbing)

female/countertenor mixed voice = M2 (CVT neutral)

female/countertenor head voice = M2 (CVT neutral)

male low voice = M1 (CVT Overdrive)

male mixed voice = M1 (CVT Overdrive/Curbing)

male head voice = M1 (CVT Curbing/Edge, in rare cases Overdrive)

male "falsetto" voice = M2 (CVT Neutral)

The falsetto voice is rarely used in classical singing, and one of the main factors of characterizing vocal fachs in males is where the switch to falsetto mode appears, because with the typical low-larynx setup of classical singing there is a certain point in your range (as a male) where the glottis WILL open and falsetto (neutral with air) appears. This is usually around E5 for tenors, around C5 for baritones and around A4 for basses.

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All: I have to say, as a lifelong classical singer, and a teacher of classical singers, that getting tied up in terminology, even modern-day terminology, is going to lead astray in this area. Its not 'one-size-fits-all' when it comes to female voices.

Depending on the voice type, scope and the kind of music, classical singing can be widely varied in effect and technique. There is not just one 'female classical technique'. For example, female opera singers quite often sing with big, full vowels and well-balanced twang, resulting in ENORMOUS vocal power. On the other hand, amateur classical sopranos singing in church choirs sing with a lighter registration and at a lower dynamic level.

So, if you want to get into the detailed technical discussion, perhaps we should focus on a particular kind of music, and discuss how a singer develops the appropriate technique and tone for that.

I hope this is helpful,

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Isn't it physiologically the same thing as falsetto? And by falsetto, I mean the contemporary definition - phonation without vocal fold closure. Not the literal Italian definition of falsetto.

In terms of physiological mode of vibration (M2) falsetto and female classical head voice are the same. To make up more confusion, in science falsetto and M2 are sometimes used synonymously.

However, in both classical singing and contemporary singing falsetto is often referred to as "singing M2 with incomplete fold closure" (leaking air). This is not true for classical female head voice. While this coordination shares the vibration mode with falsetto it is usually sung with full cord closure.

You could basically say that the term "head voice" often refers to falsetto + cord closure. However, the classical head voice of males is usually not just falsetto + cord closure. It is actually sung mostly in vibration mode M1 (which is sometimes referred to as chest voice). Thus, the term "head voice" in classical singing is often misleading, because it refers to different coordinations for males and females.

And Steven is right. There is a large variety on exact coordinations. But the one thing that they mostly share is that female classical singing mostly lives within vibration mode M2.

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Steven, would you care to elaborate on how a professional operatic soprano produces the high notes? I've always been under the impression that there isn't vocal fold closure. It's just that falsetto produces a pretty big sound in the range in which they sing.

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Steven, would you care to elaborate on how a professional operatic soprano produces the high notes? I've always been under the impression that there isn't vocal fold closure. It's just that falsetto produces a pretty big sound in the range in which they sing.

No, the difference between female classical head voice and male classical falsetto, which are both vibration mode M2, is mainly fold closure. There are papers that show that females can even keep there folds at full closure within whistle voice. That is actually the reason why they gave different names to it in classical singing (falsetto for males, head voice for females). Even in contemporary teaching like TVS the difference between the terms "head voice" and "falsetto" is mainly fold closure.

Males can have full closure in M2 when singing contemporary style (with more twang) or some very rare kinds of countertenors can have it. But in most male cases the classical way of sound coloring (lowered larynx) doesn't allow for enough twang to keep up full closure within M2.

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Benny, I understand what you're saying, I'm just not convinced. Female opera singing sounds very falsettoish to me, for the most part. I know they are capable of fold closure at the extremes of their range I just don't think they use it. I wanted Steven to elaborate because I know he has a lot of expertise in this area.

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Benny, I understand what you're saying, I'm just not convinced. Female opera singing sounds very falsettoish to me, for the most part. I know they are capable of fold closure at the extremes of their range I just don't think they use it. I wanted Steven to elaborate because I know he has a lot of expertise in this area.

Remylebeau, Benny:

Sorry it took me so long to respond. I've been out of town on a business trip.

A very good place to begin exploration of this topic is with Dr. Ingo Titze's articles at the National Center for Voice and Speech. One which bears on this topic is at

http://www.ncvs.org/ncvs/tutorials/voiceprod/tutorial/voluntary.html

Remylebeau: You mention that female opera singing sounds 'falsettoish'. This made me smile, since almost from the very beginning, the male falsetto was compared to the sound of female singers :-)

Here is a web page from the university of Stuttgart which extends the description of the particular muscular actions which are involved in the various phonation types, and whisper.

http://www.ims.uni-stuttgart.de/institut/arbeitsgruppen/phonetik/EGG/page10.htm

As I said in my first post in this thread, I think caution should be taken when discussing the registers of female classical singers out of context of particular voices and pieces of music. Many of the Classical Sopranos I have sung with in my career could vary their head voices from soothing to thunderous at a whim, which requires significant variation in laryngeal muscle action, including adduction and registration balanced with the breath energy. Others, often in church choirs, sing with a much less dramatic tone, even when they would do better to let the voice out a bit more.

So, I'd like to come back to a comment Titze made in the article mentioned above... that we often experience vocal registers as perceptions of timbre. However, when discussing the position of the vocal bands, the size of the glottis, vocal band motion and the open/closed phases of phonation... that is where the M0, M1, M2 and M3 terms apply. To say that M2 always results in a tone quality that we would describe as 'falsetto' does not mean that all the tone qualities that are described as falsetto are produced with M2 characteristics. 'Falsetto' as frequently used, covers a wider range of tone qualities than are produced by M2. To call the phonation mechanical characteristic as 'M2' is quite a bit more narrow a definition than calling a tone quality 'falsetto'.

But, its no big deal, unless someone gets hung up on the definition. If the teacher and student are communicating well, and the student is learning mastery of the tonal palate of the voice, and singing with good range, freedom and expressiveness, I don't care what people call it.

I hope this is helpful.

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^ Steve, awesome posts, as always. So, with the female singer in church choir, is she going more "falsetto" in order to better blend, rather than sing "lead" or be the soloist of the evening?

As a kid, I would certainly sing in church with others during services and the idea was to blend. I didn't sing in choir, as a rule, though a sunday school teacher might lead us through something. But not with the idea of formal production for an evening service, for example. As much as I admire Mark Wahlberg's "hallelujah" in the movie "Rock Star," the actual experience was not quite as "dramatic." :D

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^ Steve, awesome posts, as always. So, with the female singer in church choir, is she going more "falsetto" in order to better blend, rather than sing "lead" or be the soloist of the evening?

As a kid, I would certainly sing in church with others during services and the idea was to blend. I didn't sing in choir, as a rule, though a sunday school teacher might lead us through something. But not with the idea of formal production for an evening service, for example. As much as I admire Mark Wahlberg's "hallelujah" in the movie "Rock Star," the actual experience was not quite as "dramatic." :D

ronws: The typical female singer in a church choir will sing to blend, but the particular character of the blend will be promoted by the director's choice. IMO, the best church choir directors teach the sopranos to sing well together: The bigger voices learn control, and the smaller ones learn power. I think it is far more successful (and fun) to have the smaller voices learn to 'sing up' to the strength of the larger ones, than to consistently 'throttle back' the bigger voices.

Gina Ellen Vocalist & Remylebeau: I realized that I have not yet offered a response to the original question, which is (my paraphrase) 'What is happening in the Classical Head Voice'. For now, I will respond with respect to the female voice, and treat the male voice later if you want.

As we all know, the sung fundamental and character of the glottal pulse wave & resulting vocal tone are produced variously as a result of the laryngeal muscular positioning & coordinated action, and interaction with the breath energy and vocal tract resonance. There are lots of aspects that contribute to vocal tone. Change any 1 muscle's action, or move a vocal tract part, and the note and/or tone quality changes.

In the female classical voice, what has historically been generalized as 'head voice' can be sung with variety of registration balances, as f0 (the frequency of the voiced fundamental) results from a combination of length and stiffness of the vocal bands. The length comes from the relative positioning of the Thyroid cartilege and Arytenoid cartileges, and the stiffness comes from the simultaneous engagement of CT and TA muscles. In a manner of speaking, its a bit like the positioning of the arm: the bicep and tricep muscles position the angle of the elbow, but also can be put variously into isometric opposition to each other, leading to more or less bulging of the bicep.

This variety of adjustment is available to the singer in the head voice allows the character of phonated tone to be varied quite a bit.

Somewhat independent of this is the Vowel, though acoustic feed-back of the vocal tract does affect the motion of the vocal bands somewhat, increasing the speed of the glottal closure, which 'squares off' the trailing edge of the glottal pulse wave, increasing high-frequency components of it. The female head voice resonance character tends to favor H1 (the fundamental) in the ascending scale, whereas mix (or belt) favor the 2nd Harmonic.

In general, then, we tend to perceive as 'female head voice' any tone that has a resonance balance favoring H1, and 'Chest or Mix' as a balance favoring higher harmonics, especially H2. The female singer can accomplish this with various registration, even adduction choices, and with vowel choices.

More later.

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Great writing Steven. Now I like to hear something about the male voice in classical singing. BTW, you should really continue your "male passaggio 101" article :)

As for the quality in M1 vs. M2. One of the main factors of "meatiness" or "metal" is the length of the closing phases. While this value has been used as the main characteristic of M1 vs. M2 it can vary quite a lot within those two modes. The closing quotient in M1 can be in the 30% to 80% area, while in M2 it can vary between something like 10% and 60%. So it is well possible to sing "head voice" in a meatier or heavier quality than a soft chest for example.

On the other hand "boominess" or "fullness" is created by ampflifying overtones, especially the 2nd harmonic. This can be done within M2, too, which is sometimes called "fake belting". However, as Steven wrote, in classical singing females mostly use M1 tuning.

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Great writing Steven. Now I like to hear something about the male voice in classical singing. BTW, you should really continue your "male passaggio 101" article :)

benny82: Ok, I can do that. Do you have some particularly interesting aspects you want addressed?

As for the quality in M1 vs. M2. One of the main factors of "meatiness" or "metal" is the length of the closing phases. While this value has been used as the main characteristic of M1 vs. M2 it can vary quite a lot within those two modes. The closing quotient in M1 can be in the 30% to 80% area, while in M2 it can vary between something like 10% and 60%. So it is well possible to sing "head voice" in a meatier or heavier quality than a soft chest for example.

Please keep in mind as we have this thread, that M1 and M2 are not 'modes' in the same manner as would be used by CVT, they are phonation 'register names' identified by voice scientists, with characteristic vocal band motions. The parallels between them, CVT vocal modes, and the traditional (ancient) Head voice/Chest Voice/Mix/Falsetto terms is part of our problem when discussing 'what is, or what is not going on'. Also, the M-terminology for registers does not incorporate anything about what we have learned about the interaction of resonance with phonation, especially how twang (or epilaryngeal narrowing) factors in.

On the other hand "boominess" or "fullness" is created by ampflifying overtones, especially the 2nd harmonic. This can be done within M2, too, which is sometimes called "fake belting". However, as Steven wrote, in classical singing females mostly use M1 tuning.

I think you probably meant 'H1 tuning' in that last sentence. No worries! I know what you meant.

Consistency of tone quality, in any region of the voice, depends on maintaining the character of the glottal wave-form and the alignment of the resonances with the harmonics of the phonated tone. For men and women both, the tendency on the rising scale is to do too much, or too little, to maintain the consistency, either in the phonation domain alone, the resonance domain alone, or in their combination.

In the male voice, especially lower ones, the issue is 'head voice with power', or what the Italians used to call 'Full voice in the head' (Voce Piena in Testa). That sound, which is consistent (but not identical) to the ring and boomy quality of the chest voice, must be produced in a manner that approximates the glottal pulse wave form, and some resonance characteristics of the lower production... or it will be unacceptable to the ear... it will sound too different to the listener, and will be less than satisfying to them.

The challenge to the male singer is the technique of maintaining that glottal wave form through the resonance-disadvantaged area (aka, 'the passaggio') until alignment between F2 and H3 or H4 can be achieved. Put another way, as the vocal bands are thinning on the way up the scale, how to maintain reasonable closed quotient and glottal closure 'snap' that produces the fullness and high frequency components in the sound which are present in the chest voice.

Light head voice (which does not need either of those characteristics) is much easier to do, as it can be built from an easily-achievable M2, with twang added, and 'voila', the head voice used pre-Duprez in Italian Opera appears. Current writing on 'falsetto' in Italy discusses it this way, if even in the process, the re-casting of the term to 'yet another meaning' occurs.

However, the recent (last 15 years or so) research on the effect of epilaryngal narrowing specifically, and of vocal tract inertance due to resonance generally, gives us beneficial guidance. What we now know scientifically what good singers have known experientially... in their own bodies... that a free, well-supported, resonant 'twangy' tone is easier to produce over a greater range than a sucky one ;-) If the twang is produced epilaryngeally (that is, not by deliberate cord compression, but by resonance) then the vocal band adjustments needed to transition throughout the range can be accomplished with great freedom and consistency of tone. Using twang made this way, the glottal closure motion is naturally more rapid, giving a rich overtone content to the glottal pulse without having to use high glottal compression to accomplish it. Put another way, this kind of twang makes the tone 'chesty' without using so much TA muscle contraction to create it. The TA is then more free to be stretched by the CT, which is absolutely required to produce the higher fundamentals.

Combine that kind of phonation with good F2 tuning, and/or with some UH or Schwa in the C5+ region, or with a rock scream vowel, and really impressive results occur. Gedda, Pavarotti, Flores, Domingo, Milnes, Warren, Tippett, Tucker, Correlli, Bergonzi, Merrill, Hines... all these guys did it impressively well, for quite long careers, too!

I hope this is helpful.

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benny82: Ok, I can do that. Do you have some particularly interesting aspects you want addressed?

It would be nice to just go on where you stopped. Iirc the 101 ended somewhere around the passaggio entrance and some of the last sentences was that there are several strategies to go on during the passaggio. Would be interesting what these strategies are in terms of tuning and adjustment and also what happens at the sometimes so-called 2nd passaggio where the voice enters "pure head" or "falsetto" mode. (I guess its probably just that the tuning switches to H1?).

Please keep in mind as we have this thread, that M1 and M2 are not 'modes' in the same manner as would be used by CVT, they are phonation 'register names' identified by voice scientists, with characteristic vocal band motions. The parallels between them, CVT vocal modes, and the traditional (ancient) Head voice/Chest Voice/Mix/Falsetto terms is part of our problem when discussing 'what is, or what is not going on'. Also, the M-terminology for registers does not incorporate anything about what we have learned about the interaction of resonance with phonation, especially how twang (or epilaryngeal narrowing) factors in.

Yes, just wanted to point out that even the feature that was considered characteristic (the open/closing phases) can be very similar between those two vibratory patterns.

I hope this is helpful.

As always! I always thought that a lot of the quality in good voices comes from proper use of twang. Actually the heavy focus on the twang mechanism was the reason for me to get the TVS program. Using twang distinctively and with good control is neglected quite a bit in other programs unfortunately.

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