“If you want to chat with me, please define your terms.” – Voltaire
We have to be on the same page. There are too many pages. There are too many tips, tricks, and tips spoken and written by people who don’t share the same terminology. This creates problems, misunderstandings and debates.
Returning to science, we can find ways to describe things so explicitly that conjectures and opinions collapse under the weight of provable truths. From the myths chaos has arisen and that we can make the distinction between reality and seek an agreement while the truth frees us from the past.
The common names of the vocal registers:
Low middle voice
Middle high voice
Super Head Voice
Chest Voice got its name as a result of the singers feeling a sympathetic vibration in their chest as they sang in the lower part of their voices. The chest voice is not actually a sound, per se, but a record. The size of the sound waves is such that in the lowest register, the chest vibrates.
The low and middle voice is just above the chest voice. It should be matched with the chest voice and may sound exactly the same, except it is at higher pitches, above the actual chest voice.
The high middle voice is below the main voice, but is above the low middle voice. Some prominent vocal coaches do not distinguish between medium low and medium high and call it the same way. Some prominent vocal trainers call the voice media Mix or Mix Voice or Mixed Voice. This is misleading because it sounds as if a singer could or would mix two singing registers and that is not what is happening, as is easily demonstrated when you look at the vocal cords as a singer glides from chest to mid-low, mid-high, and lead voice. . You don’t have a magic blender or food processor around your neck that mixes sounds in some imaginary way. The medium, low and high voice registers are not a combination of head voice and chest voice. They are among those records.
Head Voice got its name because the singers noticed that they could feel vibrations in their heads when they sang louder than where they normally speak.
Super Head Voice is above Head Voice. It is also called a whistle log, but it is not a whistle. Some call super head voice flageolet, which is a real “mechanical” hiss.
To recap, the vocal registers are the ranges of the voice, but they are not qualities of sound or tone. Some singers and vocal trainers are unaware and speak of registers as if they were a specific tone quality or timbre. The best music schools, conservatories and universities are precise and explicit and do not interchange or misuse terminology. This is a good time to get everyone on the same page. By doing this, we can gain a deeper understanding of the structure and function of singing. We might even get along.
Sound, tone and timbre
Sound travels at approximately 750 miles per hour. We do not have valves, as such, within our heads, which allow us to direct the sound or position the sound to any appreciable degree. We also do not have muscles that expand the pharyngeal cavity and therefore cannot “open our throats” or “keep our throats open.” Do not blame me. I did not design or build the human body.
When the vocal cords are very close, as air is expelled through them, we will have a sound called full voice. The full voice is the sound we make in which we can “project” or have power or sound. Many singers and some vocal trainers refer to the full voice as a chest voice, but these terms are accurate and not interchangeable. The chest voice is a register and the full voice is a sound. A record will be exact notes in your own vocal production. You may notice that they vary slightly up or down on any given day, but not by much. Do not call full voice chest voice. You can sing with your full voice in all registers. When you do this, you are not stretching your higher chest voice. That is a common fallacy. You can yell or yell and do something some call a “chest pulling voice,” but it is yelling, not singing, and it is potentially damaging to the vocal cords.
You cannot sing out loud with a choppy sound and you may even feel pain if you try to do so. Respiratory tone production is accomplished because the vocal cords are not adducted enough to make the voice sound full. As a result, the air escapes and we can hear that in combination with the tone of the vibrating vocal cords. A choppy tone could be called a ringing or sound characteristic.
What are the vocal cords? Vocal chords only exist when there are three singers singing together in three different tones. Some vocal trainers have referred to vocal cords, but meaning vocal cords. Doctors don’t normally say vocal cords as they are not cords and they are definitely not “cords”.
Videostroboscopy has revealed that the vibratory action of the vocal cords is quite complex. Using a microphone to measure frequency vibration and combine it with a strobe light has allowed clinicians and speech therapists to visually observe the actual function and structure of the voice as it is in action. Videos of this can be found online.
You can think of the full voice as a solid sound and a breathy voice as having air.
Remember this: “If you want to chat with me, please define your terms.” – Voltaire
So hopefully there has been some clarification in the definition of terms, based on modern science, not myths.