The Voice

What is “singing”?

Singing is a physical manifestation of our increased emotional expression, state and personality, through the production of musical sounds, a larger and sustained form of speech. The act of singing consists of three components:

  • Body: skilful use of the body parts in order to sing properly, also known as vocal techniques
  • Mind: consciousness, habit, concentration/focus, musical creativity and intelligence, muscle memory(e.g vocal direction, sense of pitch)
  • Emotions (or soul): motivation, desire, interest, joy and passion in the act of singing, emotional release or total confidence, as well as the portrayal or delivery of a certain character’s emotional state.

All three components work together to produce a “perfect” vocal performance (“perfect” because emotions are entirely subjective, and a performance can be perceived to be moving by one person but bland as a Korean ballad by another (once again K-ballads are also entirely subjective).

Talent VS Training

Everyone can be taught to sing well simply because everyone possesses vocal cords, for example Minkyung learned how to be an above-average singer during her days as a trainee and further improved her singing on Immortal Song 2. Our vocal cords all produce the musical sounds the same way. Being able to sing well means you are capable of adjusting your vocal cords at their optimal position during vocalization, or in other words, sing with power. Voice lessons can help you achieve that. So in a physiologic sense, anyone, whether they have vocal talent or not, can learn to sing well.

Singing is 98% mental. The rest is physical and emotional. You need to apply the correct technique every time you sing. You need to make it a habit every time you vocalize. Your brain needs to remember every sensation and muscle memory that happens when you sing. This is why singing is mostly a mental/habitual process. Training the mental part of singing highly affects your vocal consistency, which is the most essential aspect for a good vocalist.

One way to determine the presence of “talen”t in singing is the speed of vocal learning. “Talented” people in a field tend to learn the skill in question faster than others. “Talent” is basically superficial because there’s no set definition as to what it is, and it’s pretty much immeasurable (unless we’re talking about the old-fashioned currency were talents were worth a shit ton).

Regardless of whether one has talent of not, it does not change the fact that everyone needs to be vocally trained in order to sing well. A raw talent NEEDS to be trained. Talented singers such as Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé all had vocal training to develop their talent and become virtuoso singers.

Differences between a Vocalist and a Singer:

  • Vocalist: Someone who has COMPLETE control, manipulation and authority over their voice, similar to an instrumentalist. Hence, they are judged by vocal technique and consistency.
  • Singer: Someone who uses their voice to deliver a message musically and convey emotions. They are partly judged by technique, but mostly subjectively judged by sense of interpretation wit, musical and vocal delivery, musicianship, musical and vocal creativity.

AileeGTG

The Voice

When most people sing they mainly use three parts of the voice: lower register (chest voice), middle register (modal voice), and upper register (head voice and/or falsetto). Each part of the voice requires a different placement (which I will get to later) and produces a different sound. However, the basic technique required remains the same for each register: good breath support and control, and proper placement.

Chest/Modal Voice

The chest voice is the part of the voice that is most commonly used when we are speaking. The chest voice, also known as the lower extension, is where a person sings the lowest notes of their range (below F#4).

Middle/Mixed Voice

Used for notes at F#4 and above, it’s the mixture and blending of the chest voice and the head voice together. It’s used when singing high notes (not in falsetto or head voice) in a belted manner. For example, when you hear singers belt they are doing it in their modal voice. You can belt in a chest dominant-mix (Ailee) or with a balanced mix (Younha). A head dominant mix is also used to hit high notes. A chest dominant mix is dangerous for those with light voices because it wears away at the vocal cords, so Ailee needs to learn how to belt with a balanced mix if she wants to keep that voice intact!

Head Voice

Used in upper notes. It has that “ringing” and bright sound. It’s called “head voice” as the feeling of the resonance is in the head when singing. Example of head voice in K-pop (3:31-3:33):

Falsetto

False, airy voice that makes the upper register (high notes) easier to access with this voice. To be more specific, it is a weaker, breathier extension of the head voice. An example of falsetto in K-pop is Rain‘s “30Sexy“.

Head voice and falsetto differ in tone and production. Head voice is produced by thyroarytenoid muscles fully vibrating and coming in contact with each other, whilst falsetto is produced by only thin edges of the thyroarytenoid muscles vibrating and coming in contact with each other, which offers less resistance of the breath flow. In other words, in falsetto production, there is air passing through the vocal cords, as opposed to head voice production where no air is passing through. This causes the tone to be airy and weak with lack of resonance.

Falsetto is therefore a disconnected part of the voice, while head voice is a connected part of the voice (the whistle tone is, however, a disconnected part of the voice). We can also refer to falsetto as a “disconnected head voice”. If the falsetto is unnaturally airier than usual, meaning that an extremely small portion of the vocal cords come in contact, then we can call this falsetto a “disconnected falsetto”. When a head voice is resonant, we call it a “developed head voice”, and a well developed head voice usually sounds operatic, for example Ock Joo Hyun at 3:53-3:57:

Falsetto can also lead to vocal irritation, which leads to the damage of vocal cords if it is used too much.

Other Parts Of The Voice

Vocal Fry Register: Lowest register of the human voice. It has that “frying”, sizzling, or rattling sound. This register is useless in singing and it cannot be counted as part of one’s vocal range. Plus, using this register too often and bringing it up to relatively higher notes can be very damaging to the singing voice.

Whistle Register: Highest register of the human voice. Think Mariah Carey’s whistles.

Passagio: Place within the vocal range where the voice shifts into a different register. Each voice type has a different passagio, which is why the latter is a good indicator of what voice type you are.

Voice Classification (Fach System)

The vocal fach is a system used to identify opera singers’ voice type. Although it is a mere speculation if applied to “pop singers” (keep in mind that opera singers use a completely superior technique as opposed to pop singers), many people do believe there are undeniable components of the pop voice that could be associated to that of the opera voice, leading us to believe that certain pop singers have such and such voice types, or will have such voice types, if operatically trained.

Voice classification is done by analyzing certain aspects of the voice, such as timbre, vocal weight, tessitura, passagi, and vocal range. However, when it comes to pop voices, only timbre, vocal weight, and passagi are useful in identifying their voice type. The more well-trained the voice is, the more accurate the voice classification will be.

Timbre: The quality of their voice. Examples are bright, dark, cold, rich, soft, steely, metallic, mellow, warm, etc.

Vocal Weight: Refers to the “lightness” or “heaviness” of one’s voice. It is determined by the “thickness” of one’s vocal folds. Lighter voices are associated with the term “lyric”. Heavier voices are associated with the term “dramatic”. Lyric voices have a thin, small, and bright sound. Dramatic voices have a huge, deep, and dark sound. Lyric voices have more speed and better agility/flexibility than dramatic voices. Dramatic voices have more power and more volume output than lyric voices. Spinto voice refers to a voice with medium vocal weight. They have that “creamy”, “rich”, “womanly”, and fuller sound than lyrics, but are not heavy or dark enough to be considered dramatics. The weight of certain voice types may be sub-categorized into “full” or “light” (light lyric soprano, full lyric soprano, etc). Light voices possess that “youthful” or “girlish” quality, whereas full voices sound more mature or smooth.

Tessitura: Range where a singer is most comfortable singing and where their voice sounds the most pleasant. It is also known as “supported range” or “comfort zone”.

NOTE: These aspects MUST be analyzed in the MIDDLE VOICE of a vocalist, the most important part of the voice.

Voice Types

Female

  • Lyric Coloratura Soprano: Mariah Carey during her prime.
  • Light Lyric Soprano: The majority of female K-pop vocalists are LLS, like HyorinAilee, TaeyeonLuna, and Haeri.
  • Full Lyric Soprano: Celine DionLara FabianSeeYa‘s Yeonji, Ock Joo Hyun, Big Mama’s YounghyunCSJH’s Lina and Stephanie, Apink’s Eunji
  • Spinto Soprano: SohyangWhitney Houston during her prime.
  • Dramatic Soprano: Patti LabelleMonica Naranjo
  • Falcon Soprano: Vanessa Amorosi
  • Lyric Coloratura Mezzo-Soprano: Beyoncé
  • Lyric Mezzo-Soprano: Barbra StreisandToni Braxton, Big Mama’s Jiyoung, Lee Hi
  • Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano: Anastasia
  • Lyric Contralto: Cher, Ana Carolina (Brazilian Singer)
  • Coloratura Contralto: Annie Lennox

Male

  • Countertenor (arguable term): Ney Matogrosso (Brazilian Singer), Mitch Grassi, Chris Colfer
  • Leggiero Tenor: Naul
  • Light Lyric Tenor: Most of male idol vocalists in K-pop, Chris BrownBruno Mars, and Ne-Yo
  • Full Lyric Tenor: K.WillLuther Vandross, Peabo Bryson, Park Hyo Shin
  • Spinto Tenor: Michael Bolton
  • Dramatic Tenor: N/A
  • Baritenor: N/A
  • Lyric Baritone: SHINee’s Key and Minho, SS501’s Park Jung Min, EXO’s Chanyeol, John Park, Busker Busker’s Jang Beom-Jun, Rain, Big Bang’s T.O.P., Super Junior’s Kangin, Kibum and Siwon, B.A.P’s Yongguk, and certain male rappers in K-pop.
  • Dramatic Baritone: N/A
  • Bass-Baritone: N/A
  • Lyric Bass: N/A
  • Low Bass: N/A

Falcon Sopranos, Basses, and Contraltos are very, very rare voice types.

Vocal Range

Series of notes that a singer is able to produce, starting from the lowest note to the highest note. Only notes that are musically “useful” are counted as part of a singer’s vocal range. Notes produced by squealing, screaming, and shouting are not counted as part of one’s vocal range as they cannot be used musically. A vocalist has full control over their instrument when they can produce a healthy and powerful sound in EVERY single note of their range.

A person’s vocal range can be very small (Judy Garland) or very large (Mariah Carey), but the size of one’s range does not determine whether or not they’re a good vocalist — contrary to common belief. Therefore, if someone says ‘X’ is a good singer because they have an “extensive range”, they’re most likely talking out of their ass.

You can find your range by using this video:

Your vocal range also doesn’t determine your voice type.

A couple vocal range videos in K-pop:

As you can see, Taeyeon has quite a small vocal range whilst Ga-In has a significantly bigger one; however, Taeyeon is far superior as a vocalist to Ga-In, emphasizing my point.

Note Identification/Naming

One of the commonly used methods to name a note is through the “Scientific Pitch Notation”.

The musical notes consist of (in order): C, D, E, F, G, A, B. If you count the next C, it would be one octave. So one octave is eight notes. The number next to the note is the octave. For example, C5 is the note C (from the piano) in the fifth octave.

b = Flat = Half Note Lower
# = Sharp = Half Note Higher

Musical notes in order (sharp and flat notes included): C, C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, Bb, B.

For example, my vocal range is B2 to C#6. Therefore, I have three octaves, one note, and a semi-tone of vocal range. Most untrained people have around a two octave range, but as you master vocal techniques, your range can expand.

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902 thoughts on “The Voice

  1. It says here that Sohyang was(?) a spinto and Mariah was a lyric coloratura in their prime (I suppose they have passed). That means voice type can change? I thought it was something you were born with and will die with. What can be the cause to this? And does it happen with other voice types too or just spinto and coloratura? And can you change your voice type intentionally by training?

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    1. It changes with age too since the vocal cords get thicker. Also abuse like drugs can change your voice too. Sohyang was never a spinto that’s a mistake. Intentionally with training? No, you can emulate another voice type but it won’t sound natural.

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    1. From these videos, I think the highest note was Eb5 and I didn’t personally hear vocal strain. She produces very big and powerful resonance, her placement is very full, opened and forward. She gets a bit pushy, a bit too raspy but she’s singing rock a lot more healthily than many amateur rock vocalists.

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      1. Thanks for the reply. Could you tell me what was the highest note between 1:07 – 1:15. Was that note resonanted?

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  2. Someone told me that resonance is from twang / pharyngeal and not related to lifting soft palate. Not lifting soft palate is not related to nasal voice, and they said high larynx will not cause any damage to vocal cords. it is just shape tone colour as long as you don’t squeeze it or don’t cause any contriction.
    I want to know the reasons why high larynx can damage vocal cords and not lifting soft palate can lead to nasal voice in order to respond to that person. Thank you in advance.

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    1. Well I don’t know who that someone is but I can’t say I agree with them. The soft palate closes the nasal passage and allows the voice to project with more openness and space in the back of the throat while the air flow goes through the nasal cavities and not the nose. A high larynx will strain your vocal cords and it’s definitely harmful. Lifting the soft palate helps produce resonance but resonance comes from many things combined. The larynx should remain neutral while singing. When you don’t lift your soft palate, the air passage becomes opened and so there’s less openness in the back of the throat and the sound projects through the nose. High larynx just causes the vocal cords to be in an unnatural position, while squeezing the throat. It’s an unnatural way of forcing high notes to come out.

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  3. Hello, is it weird that I went through puberty already and I have never cracked my voice at all when I sing??? Also, I cant really tell whether I am using my chest or my head voice whenever I sing, I just know that it is connected throughout, but my falsetto on the other hand is very very weak and I always end up “cracking” back to full voice when I try to use it. Just a bit curious (im a boy btw) thanks XD

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  4. Hello, i want to ask, is it possible for Full Lyric Tenor with dark timbre doing run/riff or melisma things?
    i’d love to sing Diva-ish song, but my friends said that kind of song dont suit my voice.
    thank you

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  5. barbra streisand is a mezzo?? i thought she is a full lyric soprano. she does have big voice in low note, but her high notes also good. btw is she a contemporary singer?

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      1. is aretha franklin also a mezzo? i have read some article in diva devotee and they have a lot of mezzo singers. i thought that soprano would be the most common voice, right?

        one more thing, you have no singer in dramatic tenor. is it because dramatic struggle the most when singing? so that not many who become a singer
        i have met 2 people who have big deep voice, kind of dramatic i guess

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      2. Soprano is the most common voice type but there are a lot of mezzos out there. I’ve heard claims that Aretha Franklin is a falcon soprano. Oh we just don’t know anyone who’d be that.

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  6. i have some free time so i looked up to those antimainstream voices. i am talking about dramatic soprano, contralto, dramatic mezzo, etc. most of them sing in Portuguese or at least Brazilian singers. so i am wondering why there are many unique voice in brazil? and what do you think about music industry in brazil? im imagining there are a lot of diversity voices, which is good

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    1. I must say that a lot of Brazilian fans of K-pop and American pop music are very interested in divas, high notes, singing and exotic voice types. They often like to embellish the truth. I am not sure there are many dramatics in Brazilian music, but I have heard a few contraltos. I am not sure I’d call it unique as much as I’d say pop music in Brazil doesn’t revolve around high notes. It is a lot easier to find chill bossa nova vocalists who aren’t high sopranos, and I suppose contraltos get a lot more spotlight. Also the country is full of a very mixed ethnic population but to say they have lots of dramatics and whatnot, it may be embellishment of the truth and a lot of them might just be improperly trained lyrics.

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    1. Well objectively speaking, for one’s career, one’s health, one’s own professionalism, being a better vocalist is a realistic goal. Being a better “singer” is subjective and therefore isn’t a realistic goal, so I wouldn’t really say that’s the best option of the two.

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  7. hi guys I am so tired and sad I tried my best to learn how to support some websites say you should do the diaphragmatic breathing I have no idea what’s mean then another website from Hollywood coach say there’s nothing call diaphragm breath or support from diaphragm you can’t use diaphragm it’s work automatically you can read this in this website

    http://www.become-a-singing-master.com/how-to-sing-from-your-diaphragm.html

    I am really confuse then some websites say you can use it ……I am so upset each website saying different things …pleas friends can you put an article about how to support since this the main problem of singing and my main also or any short advice who can really help 🙂 🙂

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  8. Oh I guess the correct name is Tim storm right??? there is a lot of bass singers in USA like the man from pentatonix or lau rawls and Leonard Cohen and many many not in kpop for sure

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  9. 1. Do you feel buzzing around the area where you resonate? How much? Is it a reliable way to determine if you are resonating?
    3. Can you resonate in the chest area when you sing in head voice and the other way around? What about when singing in mixed voice?
    4. Can you resonate in many places, at the same time?
    5. I tend to tense up around the throat/jaw area the higher I sing, what can I do to prevent it?
    6. How can you distinguish full lyric sopranos and light lyric sopranos? It’s hard for me to hear any difference between Ailee, Eunji and Hyorin. Both Ailee and Hyorin are light lyrics, but is it because they use a chestier mix that makes them sound like full lyrics for me? Or am I completely wrong, sorry kkaebsong…

    Thank you!

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    1. 1. It’s not 100% reliable because you may feel buzzing but still sing with a high larynx or have tension in your throat. Proper placement does not always indicate proper support which then does not indicate resonance. To be sure you have to have someone hear you, someone experienced.
      2. There’s no number two. lol
      3. Yes you can place your head voice in your chest and your mask. I’m not sure your head voice could be purely chest placed, but if I bring my head voice down below Bb3, it becomes less placed and kind of airy but around C4 ~ C5, I can make it sound sort of mixed because it is placed in my mask and chest, so it is possible yes. Mixed voice can be placed in the chest and the head with the mask to help for both.
      4. Yes you can, you can have more than one placement at once which helps you have more resonance.
      5. You can stick your tongue out and hold it with your fingers, as much as you can. So that you keep the throat muscles relaxed. You can also keep two fingers or three in between your teeth to keep your jaw from clenching and sing your exercises.
      6. Hyorin is not that chesty actually. The thing is Eunji is very balanced in her mix and even then her sound output, her volume, is pretty large without her trying. She has a certain darkness to her tone that even with a balanced/bright mix is still clearly heard. That makes her different than Ailee or Hyorin because when they mix lightly, they have no darkness to their tones. They only have darkness/bassier qualities because of the chestier mixed voice they use, when they use it. So you have to know how to differentiate the ratio of one’s mixed voice and then hear the natural quality of one’s tone.

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    1. You made this comment yesterday and I replied that arguable she is a mezzo soprano who sings with a lowered larynx most of the time.

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      1. Sorry about that again. Lately, when I make comments and I come back to check them to see if you already replied, I can’t find them or they don’t show up for some reason. Even when I look through the previous pages/comments they’re not there. That’s why I keep posting some of the same questions twice. I think I might’ve found the reason though…maybe. Sorry again.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. 4:23 for an example, that was head voice. But sometimes he is mixing within the same exact line and then switches to head voice very seamlessly. He keeps going back and forth between mixing and using head voice actually.

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  10. I’m just here to make a guess about Yuju’s voice type. I speculate that she might a full lyric soprano. I remember you (Can’t remember if it’s pandayeu or ahmin :P) that aside from having a more womanly voice, the volume that one naturally produces is also part of the criteria. And her voice does sound somewhat ‘big’ to me, although not heavy. But Yuju’s voice thin out a bit from around Eb5 on, so the ‘large’ sound could be an effect of resonance right?
    Anyway I’m just leaving a record for myself and to see if anybody would have similar thoughts 😛 I’ll patiently wait for analysis on her. Happy singing and writing!

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    1. Yknow I don’t know for sure, Pandayeu has said that he believes she’s a light lyric but I’m still undecided and open to the final conclusion when her analysis comes around.

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  11. Hi. Could you give me some tips to prevent strained and pushed voice? and how to properly placeyour sound? and also, how do we use the diaphragma correctly because i cant seem to grasp the concept of it. everytime i tried to inflate(?) my belly as what youtube says, it ended up with too much air when i sang… aaand last question, is there any other way to have proper voice lesson without meeting an instructor? my family arent well off so yeah… thanks!

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    1. Well there are skype lessons. Have you watched all the tips for K-pop fans videos? Cause many of these are targeted there.

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