Chest voice and head voice are terms for describing where the sound resonates in your body when you sing. In other words, the sound timbre or “color” of a voice quality at a certain pitch. Singing teachers have argued for centuries over these concepts, and continue to do so.
Most singers have experienced these sensations, and know what true chest voice and head voice feel like. Singers usually recognize they feel very different. To some singing teachers, this is how the voice is taught. They teach you to sing in one register or the other.
With Speech Level Singing, and here at Bee Music Studios, students learn how to sing throughout their entire range while negotiating the transition from their chest voice to their head voice. This is called mixing. Singing in a mixed voice means the singer has the ability to maximize their chest resonance on low notes and head voice on high notes.
At Bee Music Studios we take mixing a step further. Once a singer can ascend and descend throughout their entire range with ease, a singer can learn how to maximize the “illusion” of chest voice on high notes. This is a voice quality frequently heard in rock, pop, country, R&B and opera! (Just listen to Pavarotti). This illusion is created when the thyroid cartilage in the larynx tilts forward. Tilting of the thyroid cartilage causes the vocal cords to thin and stretch. This is a very healthy way to sing high notes.
Some singers can actually tilt their cartilage and sing with thick folds. This is not recommended for amateurs, and in fact, takes a great deal of self awareness to achieve this balance without vocal trauma.
Here is a link to Carrie Underwood who does a fabulous job of singing with thick folds and a tilted cartilage. She can manage this because she has great breath control and self awareness. Notice the chin rising for the belt notes. There are other coordinations going on as well here, but that’s for another post! The action really happens at the one minute mark. (FYI Kelly Clarkson is a master of this as well).
So what’s the difference between Adele’s voice and Carrie Underwood’s voice?
The issue with Adele’s voice is too much air passing through the vocal cords on high notes. This can be damaging to the vocal cords.
Adele’s voice is “chestier” and that’s why we love it! She has a lot of breath escaping and that adds character to her sultry, smoky voice. The problem is, all this breath passing through the cords can cause havoc to a singer’s vocal cords when trying to reach high notes. The more air coming through the vocal cords, the harder it is to control. Maybe with more tilting of the cartilage, Adele can still achieve the sound we love to hear, without all the breath.
This is a prime reason why John Mayer has already had trouble with his voice, and yet Steven Tyler continues to scream regularly with no issues whatsoever after 40 years!
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