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

Weaknesses

  • 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.

Rating

Proficient to Good Vocalist

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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About ahmin3

kitsunemale from YouTube, AhMin33 from Twitter and Ahmin from OneHallyu! https://www.youtube.com/user/KitsuneMale

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

  1. I was going to post something about that exact same ”performance”, Ahmin. I’m not going to ask you any questions but simply show you what allkpop author wrote:

    ”As one his talents, Chen decided to show the cast of the program why he is the main vocalist of the group by singing So Chan Whee’s “Tears”. Before he started singing, he mentioned he will be singing the song in the original key even though it is extremely high for many singers. He impressed and shocked everyone in the studio by performing the song in a very comfortable fashion and made it look easy. “Tears” is a track that is very well-known for having numerous high key notes that only a handful of singers are able to perform.”

    First, Chen clearly doesn’t understand the problem with straining that high. Second, His veins were popping out, his larynx was high, his throat was tight, He was gasping for air and sometimes hardly projected, too much high phrasing, his neck looked like it was going to explode, he dipped down to hit the highest notes in kneeling fashion, etc. Somehow the author said he made it look easy and did it in a comfortable fashion. I don’t know how all of that even remotely looked comfortable.

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  2. Chen has sang down in the second octave in their new album, EXO are finally having bits of going in the second octave in their discography repertoire

    Was the passage at 0:19 – 0:24 supported ? I can’t tell if it goes down to Bb2 or A2 (probably Bb2)

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    1. He was hitting a bunch of supported C3’s and then sang a G2 with quite a bit of vocal fry and I’d say a bit of a lowered larynx.

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      1. Was his improvement big or he just, for example jumped from A to AA ?
        How would you rate him around his debut, just an estimate ?

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      2. I honestly don’t know, I feel like Baekhyun was believed to be a to aa back then, and D.O. was like AA? And Chen was also believed to be AA? I’m not sure.

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  3. Hi again.. lol sorry i bombarding your blog. just a curiosity here..
    here’s one of chen’s current performance showing his vocal tech. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd0Y_js-JJc
    first question : i am not vocal expert at all but i found he strains a lot. what about his control & intonation by the way ?
    Oh and eunkwang also sing this song.

    second question : which one do you think sing it better ? i mean which one has “healthier” technique to sing this song. idk how to say it tbh, lol sorry.

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    1. Neither of them are doing well because this is mostly within the C5 to G5 which is high even for girls so it’s expected they’d strain.

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  4. Uh, what? seriously Jongdae you’ve placed below Lina? Are you deaf, Jongdae sounds much better than her. mean geez, you got that seriously wrong.

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    1. Chen has a pretty high ranking and is in the Top 5 of Male Idols. Also Lina has slightly better Technique so it only makes sense for her to be placed higher. If you dont like how she sounds thats ok but thats no reason to call people deaf. Its your own personal preference if Chen sounds better.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. You’re welcome to explain how! ^ ^ Because “sounds much better than her” doesn’t mean anything if there is no reasonable explanation as to why.

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  5. Thank you for your amazing analysis, as always!
    You most likely wrote about this already but i’ll just be honest and say I haven’t read everything on the blog haha, but I was wondering, since you said no kpop singer is “great”, who is? Does it take to be an opera singer to be considered “great” ? (which makes some sense to me now that I think of it).

    And what did you think of Chen in 기다렸다 가 (nosedive)?

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    1. We do have K-pop singers who are great, just not idols. If you check our great rating, we have Lena Park, Park Hyoshin, Naul and Ann. No, we are not an opera blog, this blog has nothing to do with opera singing. So no, singing opera doesn’t make you great or not. This is contemporary vocal technique. The issue is most idols are young and the great and excellent vocalists are older and have had more time to improve and for their voices to mature. Oh for excellent? We have Sohyang only, because it’s a rarer kind of skill to achieve.

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      1. His voice sounds kinda thick to me, even though he sings with his throat. When he sings on a lower range, it feels more natural.

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      2. Everyone who is untrained will find it easier to sing in a lower range, but singing in a lower range and being more comfortable there (E3 ~ C4 for him, for an example) doesn’t make him a baritone. Suho’s voice shines above E4, where he really starts to really mix, which is the first indicator of a tenor. Second he has no presence of voice in the second octave or even lower third octave, an untrained baritone would sound at least like their voices belong down there. He’s just untrained, but he’s still a tenor.

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  6. If Chen is able to develop head voice, would he move up to be a good singer? And theoretically is it possible for him to hit higher notes with head voice?

    I think it’s impressive how he can belt so high in his mix when he doesn’t use head voice or falsetto 0.0

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    1. I’ll try to help with this one. The width of a supported range is almost always the less important factor when deciding a rating. Na-ul has less than a 2 octave supported range without head voice, but his mixing technique is considerably superior to Chen. In other words, it’s the technique within that range that matters. Extension matters, but more so the overall technique. Also keep the criteria in mind because I believe he is missing Bb4 for his mix to make it to good category.

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  7. Hi Ahmin! I have a video I’d like to show, because I was wondering why Chen went off-pitch during this performance (I know it’s old, but I just found it):

    He couldn’t hit the high note and went flat. What about that note at the end? Also, is it proper technique to bend over while singing a note? I keep seeing these guys doing it. Thank you so much!

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    1. No, bending over is not a good idea. You can bend down slightly as if you’re sitting, but not forward. That will mess up a lot of the breathing posture. 0:16 This note is indeed a flat Bb4, it was much closer to A4 than anything else.

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      1. Thank you! Also I’m wondering what exactly a larynx vibrato is. I looked up an explanation and it says it’s when you move your larynx up and down to produce a vibrato. I always thought Chen’s vibrato was lovely. How can you tell he’s using a larynx vibrato?

        Like

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