EXO’s Vocal Analysis: Chen [Rewritten]


Vocal Range

E2 – Bb5 (3 octaves and 3 notes)

Supported Range

A2/Bb2 – A4

Voice Type

Tenor

Strengths/Achievements

  • Best Technique in EXO overall
  • Able to support his lower register all the way down to C3 previously, and A2 as of late
  • Often sings with a lifted soft palate
  • Agility has seen slight improvement since debut
  • Placement is kept outside of supported range
  • Most supported lower register in male tenor idols(and possibly ballad singers) thus far
  • Best sense of pitch in EXO
  • Sings with the least tension in EXO

Points for Improvement

  • Tends to sing with a larynx vibrato
  • Notes below A2 tend to be unsupported with a low larynx
  • Belts with a high larynx above A4
  • Sings with an overly airy falsetto
  • Sloppy runs

Registers

  • Lower: Arguably the most developed lower register amongst tenors in K-pop, idol or not. With a very forward full tone and developed cord connection, he’s able to sing with a lot of ease even in the second octave.
  • Middle: One of the better mixed voices amongst tenors, Chen is able to consistently produce resonance without issues and brings support even as high as A4. Despite that, strain is still obvious and present above A4, where he sings with a high larynx and a tight throat.
  • Upper: Generally airy and disconnected, good placement can be present in his falsetto. However Chen has yet to produce a connected sound in his upper register, not singing either with a head voice nor with proper support in this register.

Agility

While not his forte, Chen has seen an improvement in this area. During EXO’s debut era, Chen’s runs would often be sloppy and done without precision or accuracy, often sliding from note to note or simply becoming more tentative and unclear when approaching runs, such as in “Fool“, “The Last Time“, “Open Arms” and “빨래.” However he has learned to sing with more accuracy and precision as time went on. Despite not being as skilled in this area as Kyungsoo, he has shown to be able to handle runs with more ability than previously shown.

Overall analysis

The main vocalist of EXO M and one of the vocalists of EXO, Chen debuted at a skill level higher not only than all of his group members but also higher than most of his peers. While having a naturally high tenor voice and a lot of potential in range, Chen is one of these idols who has taken the time to show improvement and a good work ethic throughout his career as a member of EXO. Despite debuting with a high enough skill level, he never stopped improving and has made great progress in his singing technique, especially his lower range.

Despite being praised for his high belting, Chen’s strongest register is his lower register. When he first debuted, Chen had support down to C3 and was even able to project notes in the C3 – E3 range with absolutely no effort as seen by the C3 and D3 in “Just Once“, the D3 in “응급실“, the Eb3s in “What Is Love“, “The Last Time” and “빨래.” He always showed a very good understanding of how to properly connect his vocal cords without any use of tension in the third octave, while staying very audible and placing his voice well in his chest and mask. However, after EXO’s hiatus, Chen came back and showcased the ability to support lower as shown by his A2 in “Drunken Truth“, his Bb2’s in “Người Ấy“, his B2 from “Visiting Super Junior” and his C3 in “Love Again.” Below A2 though, Chen loses support and becomes airy though without sacrificing his larynx position as seen in his E2 and F2 in the “Low Note Battle“, his F2 in his duet with Suho, his F#2 in “Drunken Truth“, and his G2 and G#2s in “빨래.”

Chen’s second strongest, and most famous, register is his mix. Even as low as F4 Chen shows a nice forward placement and resonance which, unlike his fellow vocalists, is unhindered by jaw tension. He is able to bring his support and resonance up to A4 by consistently engaging the correct amount of breath support with the least amount of tension, allowing him to sing with freedom and an overall relaxed sound through his mix. This is shown by his F4’s in “The First Show”, “XOXO”, “Nothing Better“, and “Overdose.” His F4’s and F#4’s in “I Really Didn’t Know.” His F#4s in “MACHINE”, “With You“, “The Last Time“, and “Wolf.” His G4’s in “Baby Don’t Cry”, “Lucky”, and “빨래.” His G#4’s in “Miracles In December“, “History”, “Open Arms“, and “Don’t Go.” And his A4’s in “Lucky”, “I Really Didn’t Know“, “In Heaven“, “Best Luck“, “I Miss You“, “Baby Don’t Cry,” and the studio recording of “Although I Loved You“. Despite the support and resonance often present in sustained mixed notes, his laryngeal vibrato tends to make his belts sound rough and even closed at times due to the unnatural tension he uses to create that vibrato. Above A4, Chen begins to push his larynx up as shown in the Bb4 and B4’s from “I Really Didn’t Know” and “With You“, as well as the C5’s in “Mama”, “It’s Still a Dark Night” and “What Is Love.” The C#5 in “Wolf” and the D5’s in “Vesti La Giubba.” The Eb5’s in the “EXO High Note Battle“, the E5’s in” Wolf”, the F5 in “What Is Love“, and the G5 in “Drop That.”

Unfortunately, Chen’s straining is often showcased due to the fact that no other member in EXO M is able to sing the most difficult parts of their repertoire and he will be left having to split singing parts amongst him, Kyungsoo and Baekhyun. To compensate for this, Chen began to lessen the amount of chest in his mix above C5 to avoid dealing with as much strain as he previously dealt with as seen in the D5, E5, and F5 from “El Dorado.” Much like many other male idol groups and even solo singers in the Korean music industry, singing as high as a female is still a part of EXO’s music and in many cases, Chen is one of the only vocalists who can handle singing these demanding high passages. Although he’s minimized the strain in his voice above C5, there’s still a lot of tension in his voice whenever he sings above A4, mostly caused by the unnecessary demand for such high notes in K-pop tenor songs.

Chen’s weakest register is his falsetto which is often overly airy and pushed above D5. At times he’s able to place his sound more forward and produce a more head placed falsetto, such as in “The Last Time” but that usually comes with only the “ooh” vowel where he shows more throat and tongue tension. Although he’s able to stay more or less relaxed in his throat up to D5, he tends to have a more locked jaw when he sings in his falsetto which creates a lack of freedom in this register, as heard in “I Miss You” and “Nothing Better.” As he sings above D5, his voice becomes tighter and tighter, where he is unable to escape the tension present both in his upper mix and his falsetto. To overcompensate for the lack of freedom, Chen uses air pressure and a very forward mask placement to sing from Eb5 ~ Bb5 most of the time, as heard in the “EXO High Note Battle.

As an overall vocalist, Chen is one of the most promising young male idols of the debut era past 2010. Showing great discipline and growing quite considerably throughout his career as a main vocalist of EXO, he’s become one of the top male idol vocalists today and only shows promising potential for the future. To further develop his voice addressing tension in his tongue and jaw would help him free up the upper part of his mix and falsetto range, allowing for him to maintain a more relaxed approach and keeping a more neutral larynx as he sings higher.

Musicianship/Musicality

Chen is a vocalist who knows his strengths, often using his lower register rather than mixing above B4 when given the choice. He never truly approaches things in a very show offy way, often attempting to keep true to the original versions of his covers. This helps him always deliver songs lyrically and musically rather than trying to do things he’s unable to do. When singing solos he avoids messy performances and favors the dynamic delivery of a song over adding runs and high notes that he could most likely not sing properly.

Label (Type of Vocalist)

MB Vocalists: Mid-Range Belters

LR Vocalists: Low Range Vocalists

Vocal Range Video(s)

video by: Edgar Cárdenas

Video by: 1zhxzhx

Best Vocal Performance(s)

video by:1zhxzhx (zhx)

Analyzed by Haruko & Ahmin

(originally analyzed by : zhx)

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472 thoughts on “EXO’s Vocal Analysis: Chen [Rewritten]

  1. Ooh. Thank you! Is nasality a disadvantage for vocalists? Besides from the fact that many are annoyed by it. How do vocalists remove nasality????

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    1. Well it inhibits openness, projection and it’s easily avoidable by changing the direction of the airflow and placement within your body so that you project more towards your mouth and nasal cavities instead. Lifting the soft palate helps a lot.

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    1. Around G3 actually. In classical singing, usually it’s agreed by majority that 5 notes is the standard gap for both voice types(soprano’s standard in classical for low notes is C4 while for tenor is D3. So A2 for tenor is like G3 for soprano)

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      1. But that’s closer to an octave, that’s 6 notes unless you meant 5 whole notes which still isn’t the same exact note. Also in classical standards, the way the voices are developed is different so sopranos rely much less on mixing with chest voice or developing the chest so the standard lowest note is much higher than in pop where sopranos use much more chest voice.

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    1. The answer lies more close to what Random Human, Ron and Bargaro are saying, not rnsy. A2 feels really low in my tenor voice, and G3 isn’t the lowest cap for a soprano, at all. F3 and E3 are closer to what my A2 feels like.Personally, I’d lean more into E3.

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  2. Hello Ahmin,

    For what I read on the analysis, I think Chen is a good vocalist but I was wondering what is he missing to be classified as a well-rounded vocalist? Thanks in advance.

    Regards.

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    1. I think there are 2 things that keep him from a good vocalist. He has issues with his larynx vibrato. He is unable to support Bb4, which is keeping him from becoming a good vocalist. His falsetto is very underdeveloped compared to the rest of his registers. His transitions aren’t bad, but it’s too breathy. It’s not very connected, so he is unable to consistently produce a true head voice.

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      1. I think what elisasosa meant was what keeping chen from being categorize as a well rounded vocalist in this analysis. In order to be categorized as one, each register must be developed well with consistency and balance. Chen’s upper register lack in development, not being able to connect his voice up there. Thats why hes not considered as a well rounded vocalist in this page, even though his mix and chest voice is pretty good.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi! I’m back. So I have a few things I’ve been wondering for a while now.

    1. Would you say Chen is one of the greatest kpop male vocalists?

    2. The analysis said Chen has yet to produce a connected head voice, does that mean he has never ever done so? And wouldn’t that take points away from him? Or does his mix balance that flaw out?

    3. Adding smth to my last question – I read somewhere (don’t ask me where, I truly can’t remember) that men are mostly unable to produce true head voice, with some exceptions, and what they produce is either a relaxed, more connected falsetto OR a headier type of mix. Is this true?

    4. Is a tenor supporting up to A4 in his mix very good? As far as I can tell, NCT’s Taeil can support up there so I was wondering if that was a point in his favour.
    ((Also, I do realise this isn’t Taeil’s analysis but since he doesn’t have one and I was already planning to ask a bit about Chen, I thought I’d throw this in here.))

    .

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    1. 1. That’s a dangerous question. The answer could depend on many factors and I’m not sure how I feel about answering it.

      2. This isn’t a test and people aren’t given a score so there are no points to be taken away nor granted. But according to the analysis he’s never sung with a supported connected head voice.

      3. No, that’s not true in the context of pop singing. I’ve answered and gone more in depth about this on my head voice videos on YouTube.

      4. Yes it’s very good, it’s not an easy feat. But to say Taeil does it? Im not so sure that’s true. If it is and he does it consistently, yes it’s a strength in his favor.

      3.

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      1. Okay yeah. I supposed the thing I mentioned in my 3rd question was untrue but I wanted to check.
        I do believe Taeil has supported some A4’s live but no, not consistently.

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      2. Now that I think about it, I assume you’re familiar with Taeil? If so, if you are and have time:

        1. Would you say he consistently supports? Proper support, not shallow and not too inconsistent

        2. Does he have good pitch/intonation? And is he able to hold harmony?

        3. You posted a comment a while ago saying Taeil could bring support down to D3 and up to G4 (I am not too sure which video/performance you were analysing since I can’t find it)
        Would you say that is his supported range? Or can he perhaps support lower? You said he couldn’t support A4’s, what about G#4’s?

        4. Has there been any instance in which he has produced resonance?

        5. Since his debut up til now, have you noticed any improvement (assuming you’ve been keeping up with him since debut)

        6. NCT 127 released a new song today

        Taeil sings between 3:00-3:10. Which are the highest and lowest notes he hits in that part? Supported or not?

        7. Has he ever produced connected and/or supported head voice? I don’t think he’s produced a properly supported head voice, but I’d say he has connected HV.

        Also, damn, I had a lot of questions. If you are not familiar with Taeil or you feel like you’d rather answer them when you have more time/understanding of him, don’t hesitate to postpone your answers, I’m very grateful of all the help you’ve given me already.

        PS: Posting it here to continue the convo

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      3. @dannn I think I can help with some of these.

        I’ve heard admins say that Taeil’s support is consistent but he hasn’t produced resonance, though he isn’t too far off. I’d say he has decent pitch. I also know that his support up to G4/G#4 is pretty solid, and some A4s on occasion. The high note from Simon Says is C5-E5 slide iirc, and it’s not supported. I can’t recall his upper register atm.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi! How do you feel about Chen’s cover of park hyo shin’s wildflower? https://twitter.com/i/status/1064066250865668097
    he also covered it on their vlive the same day as the other video. did he do a better job here? I know he doesn’t really support above A4/Bb4 but this doesn’t sound bad. Is it a C5?

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    1. Since you’re asking the same thing in multiple comments, I just put them all in one to make it more organized. It’s actually really mixed, but he is pushing quite a bit on the C5 and C#5 on the second video, cause he went pretty sharp there. He is not exactly straining, but the larynx raises and he squeezes the notes out to an extent. They’re not badly executed though, because this approach to mixing above A4 is pretty good if it wasn’t for the excessive air and the slight raising of the larynx. He is almost there.

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      1. So does this mean that he improved his supported range a bit? I feel like his previous C5s don’t sound this good and they were more strained. Also, is this an indication that he might be able to better support Bb4 and B4 now? He is at least in the correct path, right? Sorry for all these questions 😛

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      2. Lets not worry about improving his supporters range but instead his mixing and placement have been improving. Oh yes you could say that, definitely the right path!

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      3. Not Ahmin, but I think he meant that Chen’s approach above A4 has gotten better, although he is not able to support anything fully above A4 – yet. So yeah, essentially, he just needs some more practice to strengthen his vocal cords in that area since he has already figured out a good approach and then he’ll be able to support higher.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Is he close to being labeled as a well-rounded vocalist since he’s almost there? He doesn’t seem to stop improving based off what I hear.

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      1. Btw, I was listening to various live performances of “best luck” where he sings the same note (C5) and you can really tell the difference from back then (around 3 years ago)! ^^
        That’s the only thing I could tell with my 0 knowledge about vocal technique! XD

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    2. @ sumire He’s improving in mixed voice, and his falsetto hasn’t seen any development as far as I know, so no, until he develops a supported head voice, he’ll not be classified well rounded no matter how good his mix is.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That was actually pretty relaxed, the throat seems to close only slightly. It’s the best Bb4 I’ve heard from him. The vibrato was too short to tell much.

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    1. Your question is slightly vague, but since someone already about it if you scroll up, I’ll just copy-paste the answer:

      “Since you’re asking the same thing in multiple comments, I just put them all in one to make it more organized. It’s actually really mixed, but he is pushing quite a bit on the C5 and C#5 on the second video, cause he went pretty sharp there. He is not exactly straining, but the larynx raises and he squeezes the notes out to an extent. They’re not badly executed though, because this approach to mixing above A4 is pretty good if it wasn’t for the excessive air and the slight raising of the larynx. He is almost there.”

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    1. I’d say that’s more of a falsetto. I love how Baekhyun’s lowest note is consistently F#2. He hit an F2, with a lowered larynx and perhaps a bit too much vocal fry to aid, but it does help project. I wouldn’t say it’s supported, but I would say it’s not far from it. The thing is the note is low, many baritones can’t go lower than F2 or E2, so they were all kind of hitting F2’s and E2’s over and over. Also Kai isn’t a vocalist, so his lacks a lot more development in the vocal cords. Yes the other time stamp is also F2. Nobody went lower than F2/E2.

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      1. Thanks for always replying to me!! If his F2 wasn’t bad and it’s not far from being supported does that mean that he might be able to support G2 or G#2 in the near future? Wouldn’t it be really good for a tenor to support as low as G2 or F2? It seems really impressive to me. Also, I’m curious about his mixing approach for his new ost. Would you say that he is using a lighter / headier mix for the higher notes?

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      2. It would be very good considering hardly any baritones can do it. But I can’t predict the future so I don’t know if he will support those notes. I don’t know if I listened to his new ost so I can’t really respond. Oh wait okay lol link so mhmm it’s kind of a raspy almost falsetto like mix.

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      3. No, I meant Baekhyun. Baekhyun went after Chen and hit F#2, which is his lowest known note already, and he could not go any lower no matter what.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You mean a soprano supporting down to A2 ~ C3? No, I don’t know of one. I know of sopranos supporting down to D3 at most. But I’ve heard mezzos support C3.

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      1. Hi. Because I’m also interested in this question I’m adding a comment with different videos of these performances. I hope you can open the one I send you 🙂

        This is the cover of Thorns from Knowing Bros.
        I couldn’t find a version of full performance with video so it’s only audio :(.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xI4eB3FrrCM Chen’s high note is still at 2:14. Could you also tell if they both did well here in general?

        This is the Miracles in December one:

        And I know that you don’t make an analysis of Suho, but could you tell me what you think about this note of his?

        And this performance especially since 2:09?

        Isn’t there an improvement? I think he sounds so much more comfortable. 🙂

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      2. Oh thank you for the added links and corrected stuff!

        So for 2:14 the notes are supported but they’re A4’s. They both are doing well for the parts that I’m hearing. Baekhyun peaked at some really nice G#4’s, a bit pushed. Unfortunately miracles in December is still blocked for me.

        The audio for Suho is full of reverb, throughout. The actual quality of his singing is relatively shallow, especially for when he was just generally phrasing. I hear tension throughout, and the note he sustains, the G#4, as well.

        For your question about Suho, someone posted this link before (0:11, 0:42~, 1:45~ and 2:39~):

        “I’m going to be very honest and say it’s very shallow. 0:54 onward like when he was phrasing more lightly, there’s a degree of shallow support and it’s better than the high notes because I’ve pointed out many times I’m more interested in a vocalist supporting. Not their high notes. If a vocalist can’t support consistently, a high note isn’t going to be supported period. For example, 1:32 G4’s and he usually places the sound inward before pushing it forward with like a shouty push of air pressure. 2:21 Even this E4 is not very well supported, he is still pushing from the throat, it’s shallow but it isn’t nasal. It’s just very in his throat with a lighter mix so it masks away the strain.” Also listening again, I’m noticing he’s pitchier than I remembered. Especially in the beginning, drops of support and then getting flat with too many slides.

        Improvement is hard because you’d assume I have been following Suho closely enough to know the difference between the degrees of support he’s shown over the years. It’s nothing massive enough for me to notice a big improvement. There may be small improvements, but I can’t tell to what degree because without following him closer, this amount of improvement isn’t significant enough.

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    1. Yes I do think the F#5 seems mixed. You seem to really like question marks. Anyway no, I’ve never heard Lay truly support. So none of these notes sound anything but shallow and tense.

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      1. Is there any chance you’ll bring back the vocal analysis rankings for both male and female? I didn’t find it necessarily offensive and I actually liked having it there as a reference. I found it very interesting because I am a huge stickler for vocal technique and would really enjoy seeing it again 🙂

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      2. Unfortunately due to the stress we get from people online due to those rankings, especially since it actually happened today, I’m afraid the decision to keep them off the blog is going to stay the same.

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    1. For the most part yes, on the C5s that’s when he began to push and squeeze a bit, but at that point he is singing really high so it’s understandable; it wasn’t bad. However, once he came down from the C5s his voice freed up a bit more and he became more relaxed.

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    1. Well if it’s F4, there should be no reason to doubt it being a well executed note by Chen, right? They were all well executed notes, but F4, G4 and G4 again. Not all F4’s.

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  5. Hi in this song Chen is singing a lot of C#5s and C5s. Do you thinj he has improved his supported range? also, it seems like he is using his falsetto and head voice a lot more recently, especially here too. do you think he uses a head voice now?https://youtu.be/RycTW2hJ87E

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    1. what makes you think that supporting C#5 is possible for him despite the fact that he has never ever got rid of strain above Bb4?
      At least you should da given timecode to the note

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    1. Oh shit sorry I accidentally did something weird and my question isn’t in the comment.

      I meant to ask, who has the best overall technique in EXO after Chen, Baekhyun, and D.O? From what I’ve been hearing of their singing (I’m a musical major), it’s a toss up between Xiumin and Suho, but I’m not completely sure.

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      1. Hi dear. I’m sorry but I haven’t been answering questions directly comparing vocalists. Like you said, it’s a toss and honestly it’s such nitpicking that it really becomes meaningless.

        Like

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