Vocal Registers – What Are They?

Vocal registers are an important concept in singing.  They refer to different parts of the voice based on how high or low you are singing.  Lower notes will feel different to the singer than higher notes.  These different sensations will occur because the voice will resonate or vibrate more strongly in certain areas, depending on the pitch.

If you are singing a low note it will have a very different feel than a high note.  You can experience this by placing your hand on your chest and saying “AH” in a loud voice.  You will feel strong vibrations in the chest area.  This is where the term Chest Voice comes from.

Now say “wooo” on a high pitch, like you are cheering.  You should no longer feel the strong vibrations in your chest but rather more in your head.  This is called Head Voice.

These sensations and vocal registers will be very important in learning to sing.  It is because the voice has to travel through these different vocal registers that it is such a tricky instrument.  Mastering these vocal registers will be a huge step in mastering your voice.

Most singers are aware of these shifts, even if they have never studied singing.  The real issue comes in between the head and chest voice.


The Break Between Vocal Registers


This area, which lies between the head and chest voice is known by a number of different names.  Often called the break, middle voice, passagio (the classical term), bridge and mix area.  No matter how you refer to it, the singer must begin to blend their head and chest voice here in order to have a smooth handoff of vocal registers.

Most vocal problems occur in this area, which covers about 5 notes.  Cracking, straining, flipping, difficulty with breath and pitch are very common here.  It is because it takes precise coordination to go from the chest voice and gradually blend into the head voice.


Shifting Resonators

These vocal register shifts occur because the voice has two separate amplifiers (the throat and mouth).  What is occurring here is that the voice is actually shifting from one main amplifier to another, from the throat, which creates chest voice, to the mouth, which creates the sensations of head voice.  The ability to do this properly will create the mixed voice effect, where the entire range is smooth and seamless.

Even though sound waves are always traveling through and being affected by both the throat and mouth resonators we need to be able to control which resonator is dominant or providing most of the amplification.  How do we help our vocal resonators do this?


Vowels To The Rescue

The vowel is our hero here.  Changes in the vowel will change the shape of these resonators and how they affect the tone.   Vowels that are more open or wide (such as AH in BAT) will favor the throat or chest resonance.  Narrow vowels such as OO will tend to favor the head or mouth resonator.

This concept will be a very powerful one in your development as a singer. Vowel work should be a big part of your vocal practice and will give you control over your vocal registers.