Voice register is a term used to describe the difference in tones produced by the human voice in varied ranges. People who sing may have noticed that they experience sensations in different parts of the body, depending on what range they sing in. This can be attributed to the presence of different vocal registers.
We have 3 main voice registers:
- Head voice
- Chest voice
- Middle Voice
The higher register of the voice is known as head voice. Singing in this register you feel the resonance more in the bones and cavities of your face and head. Head voice is more associated with light, bright singing tones and is higher in pitch.
The lower register of the voice, or chest voice, is where our speaking voice occurs Singing in this register is usually accompanied by a resonance in your chest, hence the term. Chest Voice is often associated with deep, warm, rich sounds and is lower in pitch.
Our middle register is where we mix the elements of head and chest voice. Think of it as altering the balance of treble and bass on your sound system to make it sound better. Each singer must learn how adjust their own levels of bright and dark tones, through resonance and blending of the vocal registers.
As we sing from low to high (or vice versa high to low), an untrained voice will experience notes which don’t resonate quite right. Your voice may become weaker and thin sounding, or you may struggle to secure the frequency of your note (you may be slightly off key). This is known as the bridge or break point. Also known as Passagio in classical singing.
How to master the break
Singing lessons will help you develop your middle voice. Through vocal exercises, you will improve the tone and flexibility of your vocal cords/fold. You will understand your chest and head voice registers and be able to connect the two as you increase your voice range. You will learn to adjust (mix) your voice to add the desired tone for what it is you are singing. You may want to sing a high note, with a darker, more powerful resonance, or sing a low note with a brighter tone to it.
Vowel sounds will have an effect on your middle register. Some vowels are narrow sounding and are easier to control in a head voice, whereas wider vowel sounds are easier to control in a chest voice. By adjusting the tone and weight you put on these vowels will help you with mixing the middle voice.
The more in-tune you are with you register breaks, the better able the singer is at anticipating the need for vowel modification and attention to resonance. Much of this knowledge is gained simply by trial and error, and with the help of a teacher who understands different techniques to help ease these transitions.
Some more on Vocal Registers:
Whistle Register (also known as the flute register) is the highest vocal register, and is so called because the timbre of the notes that are produced from this register is similar to that of a whistle. Whistle tones are created by covering the opening to the larynx/trachea with the epiglottis, allowing for air to escape through a very small hole. In whistle register, only the front part of the vocal cords are vibrating together. Whistle register, although very high, should be able to connect with your other registers.
Falsetto is a musical term for a male voice that’s artificially high. Falsetto means “artificial voice” and comes from the Italian word falso for “false.”
Falsetto is where the vocal cords are not fully connected and adducting along their length, but have blown apart creating a Mickey Mouse sound. You may be able to produce the same high notes of head voice or whistle register, but true falsetto will not connect with your other registers
The differences between whistle voice and falsetto can be difficult to hear, due to differences in tone between singers, that said in an exaggerated form it’s the difference between Mariah Carey hitting the highest note you can think of (whistle) and Neil Young’s highest notes (falsetto). Though they are both in the higher register, whistle voice and falsetto are physically different actions of the vocal cords.