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Vocal Registers:

Stephen F. Austin, M.M., Ph.D.


Associate Professor of Voice
University of North Texas

The Vocal Pedagogy Workshop


9/30/2010 2011 1
Vocal Registers… OMG!
Literature is very confusing: little
agreement
Some historical pedagogical literature offers
a practical guide
Written before registers were understood
Some voice science literature offers a
simplification to this complex subject

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Vocal Register: 2 views
Source: produced at the level of the larynx
and respiratory system
Filter: produced by changes in the
resonance characteristics of the vocal tract:
formants interacting with the partials from
the larynx
A combination of both the above!

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The larynx:

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The larynx:

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Source: Vennard - ‘Heavy Mechanism’

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Source: Vennard - ‘Heavy Mechanism’

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Source: Vennard - ‘Light Mechanism’

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Register is defined by:

Slope #1: medial margin of the


vocal folds
What determines this
difference?

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Intrinsic musculature

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Electromyography

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Minoru Hirano “Regulation of Register, Pitch and Intensity of
Voice”. Folia Phoniatrica, Vol. 22, Pp. 1-20, 1970.

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Minoru Hirano “Vocal Mechanisms in Singing: Laryngological
and Phoniatric Aspects”. Journal of Voice, Vol. 2, No. 1, Pp. 51-69. 1988.

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Titze: Modal & Falsetto

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Register is characterized by:

Slope #2: the glottal flow pulse


Result of configuration of the
vocal folds

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Sundberg: Flow glottograms

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Register is characterized by:

Slope #3: EGG waveform


Result of configuration of the
vocal folds

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McCoy: Electroglottogram

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Closed Quotient
Heavy mech. = .5 or
greater
Light mech. = below
.5
Square folds stay
closed longer
Longer CQs have
more harmonic energy

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How does this
information helps us in
the studio?
(can it?)

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Historical approach:
Scientific observations were predicted
in long-established pedagogical
principles:
Decades of ‘trial and error’
application and observation
The true ‘scientific method’

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Manuel Garcia II A Complete Treatise on the Art of Singing:
Part On. The editions of 1841 and 1872 collated, edited, and translated by Donald V.
Paschke. New York: Da Capo Press. Pg. xli, 1967.

“By the word register we understand a series


of consecutive and homogenous tones going
from low to high, produced by the
development of the same mechanical
principle, and whose nature differs
essentially from another series of tones
equally consecutive and homogenous
produced by another mechanical principle.”

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Manuel Garcia II A Complete Treatise on the Art of Singing:
Part One. The editions of 1841 and 1872 collated, edited, and translated by Donald V.
Paschke. New York: Da Capo Press. Pg. xli, 1967.

(cont.)
“All the tones belonging to the same
register are consequently of the same
nature, whatever may be the
modification of timbre or of force to
which one subjects them.”

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Ingo Titze Principles of Voice Production. Prentice Hall, Englewood
Cliffs, New Jersey, Pg. 262, 1994.

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Giambattista Mancini Practical Reflections on
Figured Singing. Editions of 1774 & 1776 compared, translated and edited by Edward V.
Foreman, Pro Music Press, Minneapolis. Pg. 20, 1967.

“This chest voice is not equally forceful and


strong in everyone; but to the extent that
one has a more robust or more feeble organ
of the chest, he will have a more or less
robust voice.”

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Giambattista Mancini Practical Reflections on
Figured Singing. Editions of 1774 & 1776 compared, translated and edited by Edward V.
Foreman, Pro Music Press, Minneapolis. Pg. 34, 1967.

“A sonorous body, or rather robustness of


voice is ordinarily a gift from nature, but
can also be acquired by study and art.”

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We can ‘reshape’ the folds:
Vocalis is skeletal
muscle
Responds to exercise
Grows in strength
AND in mass!
Squares the vocal
folds
Profoundly affects the
timbre of tone
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Giambattista Mancini Practical Reflections on
Figured Singing. Editions of 1774 & 1776 compared, translated and edited by Edward V.
Foreman, Pro Music Press, Minneapolis. Pg. 35, 1967.

“It remains for me now to speak of those


voices which are slender and weak
throughout their register . . . One observes
that these voices are very weak in the chest
notes, and the greater majority deprived of
any low notes. . .”

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Giambattista Mancini Practical Reflections on
Figured Singing. Editions of 1774 & 1776 compared, translated and edited by Edward V.
Foreman, Pro Music Press, Minneapolis. Pg. 35, 1967.

“There is not method more sure to obtain this


end, I believe, than to have such a little
voice sing only in the chest voice for a time.
The exercise should be done with a tranquil
solfeggio; and as the voice enriches itself
with greater body, and range, one may
blend it as much as possible with the low
notes.”

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William Vennard Developing Voices. Carl Fischer, New
York, New York, 1973.

“During her studies she frequently asked for


help with her high tones, which did improve
during the work. More freedom and
modification of the brighter vowels helped
the top voice, but what she needed most was
to develop the chest voice and blend it into
her singing so that it would be usable.”

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Richard Miller Structure of Singing. Schirmer Books, New York,
New York. Pg. 136-137, 1986.

“Chest mixture will strengthen the soprano’s


lower - middle range. Almost every female
can make some chest timbre sounds, no
matter how insecure, in the lowest part of
her range. These notes should be sung in
short, intervallic patterns, transposing by
half steps upward, as more sound emerges.”

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Ingo Titze Principles of Voice Production. Prentice Hall, Englewood
Cliffs, New Jersey, Pg. 261, 1994.

“As the bottom of the vocal fold bulges out,


the glottis becomes more rectangular than
wedge-shaped (convergent). During
vibration, then, glottal closure can be
obtained over a greater portion of the vocal
fold, and thereby over a greater portion of
the cycle…The result is a voice of richer
timbre, which we call chest or modal
voice.”
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Voice Building!

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Filter
Partials interacting
with formants:
Don Miller –
‘Register Violation’
2nd partial in F1

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Filter
Don Miller – ‘Head
Voice’
3rd partial in F2

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Miller: Head Voice

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Head Voice?
Is there a change in the laryngeal
mechanism?
Results from a change in resonance effect:
Perceptual vs functional
Formants interacting with partials
Specifically 3rd partial lined up with F2
Requires a strong source spectrum:
• Characteristic of the ‘Chest Voice’
• Historically called the ‘Do Di Petto’!
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Sustained tones in the chest

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William Vennard Singing: The Mechanism and the
Technique. Carl Fischer, New York. Pg 214. 1967.

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William Vennard Singing: The Mechanism and the
Technique. Carl Fischer, New York. Pg 155. 1967.

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Garcia’s 1 st exercise for female
Complete Treatise Pt. 1

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‘Welcoming in the chest’

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“Imposing the chest’

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‘Imposing the chest – II’

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‘Deference to the head’

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