by Koichi Nakamura
In the world of singing, there are many terms which can be vague and not easily understood. Chest Voice, Head Voice, and Mix are some of the “buzz words” that frequently come up during voice lessons but are usually not explained sufficiently. Let’s talk about what are these “voices” are and what part they might play in your singing.
If you put your hand on your chest and strongly say “AH,” you probably will feel some vibration in your chest area. This is often called Chest Voice. It has the same range and sound quality as your speaking voice. Chest Voice is the foundation for a developed singing voice; for if the Chest Voice is weak, your singing will suffer from breathiness and a lack of vocal presence.
Each of us has a different vocal instrument, and how low and deeply you can sing in your Chest Voice will depend on what type of voice you have naturally. If you compare the voices of Adele and Ariana Grande, Adele has a much thicker and darker Chest Voice compared to Ariana. However, this is not to say that deeper is always better. For example, just because a violin doesn’t have the same depth as a cello, doesn’t mean it can’t sound just as beautiful! The same thing can be said when comparing voices.
So if the Chest Voice is that important, should we sing from our lower to higher notes with only Chest Voice? The answer is no.
In order to sing in your upper range, you also need Head Voice. If you sing on an UH vowel from your low to high range imitating a siren, you might no longer feel vibration around your chest area on the higher notes. Many singers feel sympathetic vibrations in their head while singing higher notes, which is how we get the term Head Voice.
This term is often confused with falsetto, but these are two different things. Falsetto is a higher note with a weak, breathy quality. In Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” she sings the words “away” and “here” in the chorus (“in the arms of an angel fly away from here”) with a breathy, weaker tone quality. This is falsetto and can have a beautiful, haunting effect.
The Head Voice sounds much stronger compared to falsetto. For example, Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” goes up to Bb4 in the chorus. Listen to how Adam Levine sings “will” in the chorus, using a bright, sharp tone. It’s not breathy at all. This stronger tone quality is “Head Voice.”
Hopefully, you now have a better idea about what Chest and Head Voice are. To make things a little more complicated, many great singers blend these two voices together.
We call this blend a Mix Voice, when a singer combines Chest and Head Voice together. This often happens where we feel the voice shift from our lower to upper range. At SWVS, we refer to this vocal region as a passage or bridge. For males, the first passage is around E4-G4 and for a female from A4 to C5.
To blend Chest and Head Voice together, singers need to thin their Chest Voice so it can shift from low to high notes without a break.
The process for every singer to find their Mix Voice varies. It really depends what kind of habits and instrument you have. To achieve your ultimate goal of singing freely and evenly throughout your range, please consider taking a lesson with one of the certified voice trainers at SWVS.