Do you know your chest voice from your head voice?

Hi everyone,

I watched the American Music Awards last night. Very entertaining but I tend to over-analyze the singers’ voices instead of just enjoying the show.

I can’t help but wonder if some of these singers know the difference between their head voice and their chest voice. I have a hard time listening to singers who don’t mix their head voice (high voice) well with their chest voice. There is no doubt that the chest voice is what is predominant in all these singers, but some know how to mix much better than others.  On the other hand, fans have fallen in love with Christine Aguilera’s shouty chest belt, so why would she bother to try and sing “better”?

Now, let’s define what “better” means to me. And to do this we need to make sure that everyone understands the difference between their head voice and their chest voice.

Your chest voice is the voice closest to your speaking voice. If you sing near the pitch that you talk and put your hand on your chest, you will notice that it vibrates. The resonance is mostly coming out your mouth. The “resonance” is the sound that we hear after our breath goes through the vocal cords, and reflects off bone, teeth, sinuses and soft tissue. As you start to sing higher, the resonance should shift from you mouth to higher up in your head. It actually splits and feels like it is going through the top of your head, as well as out your eyes, nose and mouth (the front of your face). This is a sensation that not all singers are familiar with.

Instead, a lot of singers will not “allow” the voice to shift gears into this split resonance, and instead they try and keep that “beefy” sound that they can create in their chest voice. This is the average singers interpretation of “power”. What they don’t realize is that it is definitely not the best way to get power out of the voice, and frankly, I think it’s very unpleasant to listen to.

To find your head voice, one just has to do a light sigh on a pitch above their “passagio”. The passagio is the “break” or “bridge” between the chest voice and the head voice. For men this is around E flat to G (above middle C), and for women the bridge is around A flat to C (above middle C).

MIXED VOICE: Of course, no one wants to sing just in their head voice….well, unless you are an operatic soprano or one of the Bee Gees. However, it is important to be able to sing in your head voice….to become familiar with it. Without your head voice, you cannot sing “in the mix” and mix is where it all happens. The mix is a wonderful blend of both the chest voice and head voice. Some singers find this naturally, and others struggle endlessly. Without a good mix, singers will fatigue quickly and struggle with pitch and consistency. Without a strong mix a singer is always missing a part of their voice.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments. I will try and blog more about “the mix” next time. Susan

2 thoughts on “Do you know your chest voice from your head voice?

  1. Dear Susan,

    I’ve been following your blog, and feel compelled to compliment your approach to educating anyone who takes the time to understand and practice, practice, practice what you advise. From my perspective of your instruction, which is simply as an observer of your website, I can tell that you’re providing excellent advice to lots of children, as well as their parents, with comments such as these.

    It makes me wish that I had a music instructor like you when I was in public school. I’m sure that I would have confidently found my mixed singing voice, and perhaps learned to enjoy music class more as an engaged participant, and less as a shyly reluctant child who wasn’t encouraged by what was being taught then.

    I truly applaud what you’re contributing to your students, and wish you continued success in all of your endeavours.

    Kind regards,

    Ron

  2. Thanks Ron for your comments. Children need to be encouraged to reach their full aptitude in singing and music performance from birth. With schools downsizing their music programs, it’s getting more and more difficult for the average child to have this opportunity. Kids are missing an important element in their personal growth, development and self esteem.

Leave a comment!

Your email address will not be published.