EXO’s Vocal Analysis: Chen [Rewritten]

Chen3

Vocal Range

E2 – Bb5 (3 octaves and 3 notes)

Supported Range

A2/Bb2 – A4

Voice Type

Light Lyric 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

(originally analyzed by : zhx)

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

    1. I translate the title in my head but I read it as It’s Unfortunate and I was like.. “I didn’t know there was a song with that title..” lol It’s not truly a challenging song for him, so there’s not too much room for improvement. His jaw position seems to be better though, which is a plus for sure.

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  1. Do you think that a male singer (or even a female singer) trying to sing outside of their supported range too much is going to end up like Christina Aguilera or Bom with damaged vocal cords even if they’re good. Like a tenor who can support up to C5 and a soprano who can support up to F5 but they continuously choose to strain above that range. Like naul sings in the fifth octave slot but he still has healthy vocal cards even at his age

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    1. I don’t think so because the way these vocalists strain is a lot less intense than for vocalists who can’t support. Even though there’s tension, these vocalists can support well so the amount of support they have plus the minimal tension would have to be done for a very long period of time for it to really affect them. Naul would have to sing a song in his mix that’s from C5 to C6 only everyday for him to really be damaged.

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      1. Thanks that makes sense, so it’s like they still have support it’s just the tension overtakes their support so its not as bad? Anyway my larynx raises very easily and I think you said somewhere untrained people have a naturally high larynx so you have to learn how to bring it down, so I tried singing high while pushing my larynx down at the same time but I stopped because idk if it’s healthy so basically is it?

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      2. It’s not unhealthy if it counters the habit of going up, so it keeps it neutral. Try to push your larynx down so that it stays neutral, but don’t push it down so that it’s low. The ideal way to sing would be singing with a relaxed throat by focusing on little to no movement in the larynx at all but that’s challenging. Try to watch yourself singing in the mirror. It’s easier for me cause I have a prominent larynx, but if you don’t it may not be as easy.

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      3. Thank you this is hard knowing where is just right but I think I’ll probably get it one day. Also I’m pretty sure I’m a baritone now since I start mixing at C4 and D4/Eb4 is where it starts to get to uncomfortable also I learned how to use my head voice lower so I switch at F4 now. Can I send you me singing in head voice because I think I can support Bb4 but I’m not sure

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  2. Could you tell me what was Chen’s rank before it was rewritten? And what year was it? I’m curious about his improvement.
    Sorry if it was somewhere in your article. English is not my native language and i could have missed something.

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  3. hello there, I’m wondering who’s better between jongdae and jonghyun? how is jongdae a competent to good while jonghyun is only competent? anyway, thankyou😁

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    1. You do realize your second questions answers your first question, right? If Chen is rated higher than Jonghyun then Chen is a better vocalist than Jonghyun. Have you read both analyses to understand why he is better though?

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    1. It was never said that he had support in his falsetto. Actually a falsetto can’t theoretically be supported at all since it isn’t a well connected register where the vocal cords are properly stretching. What is said that his falsetto above D5 is strained, so below that there’s less tension and it can be relaxed, but relaxed is not the same as supported.

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  4. I was wondering about how to navigate the passaggio, since I always seemed to have a “crack” when I go from G4 to a4, and then having a very hard time from going from a4 to G4. However, I remember, Chen in Growl had the b4(or a note close to it) and there was this slight crack sort of when he descends from g to f#(again in not sure if it’s those notes, but it’s there) is that him transitioning back to his chest? Also, how do I avoid that crack between registers?

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      1. Chen was never 5, he never went from 5 to 4.5. Kyungsoo’s analysis is not mine, I don’t know when it will be done.

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    1. T-Ara’s Jiyeon, f(x)’s Amber, 4Minute’s Hyuna and Secret’s Hyosung have had solo releases and won’t be analyzed either. I shall add all 4 of their names to the list of vocalists we won’t analyze. (Amber is already on that list.)

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      1. Are you mean they won’t analysis permanently like forever. ..or they just not good enough to be analysis or they hadn’t show enough or maybe until the older analysis came out ..is this permanently..or until something change

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      2. I mean I can see why people would be curious about analyses for Amber and Hyosung, but Jiyeon is really not known for her vocals and Hyuna is a rapper. So is Amber really.

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      3. yes kimsoya, they wont be analyzed for a very long time. this blog already have much vocalist in the future list, also they have to keep up with old analysis in case there are improvement or worse. the only chance for them to be analyzed is showing huge improvement and become above average vocalist

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    1. Thank you! And I mean some nice head voice moments for Baekhyun, some not bad Bb4’s for Chen and Xiumin’s showing nothing new that I’ve not heard before.

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  5. You said that Chen can support Bb2 in Người ấy, how about Suho’s Bb2 in 1:04?
    I think Suhu pushed his larynx down a little bit (just a little bit)

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    1. You’re correct. He’s not stretching his vocal cords properly. He’s not supporting, he’s just pushing air and pushing his larynx down.

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      1. Unfortunately so although he was rated as above average when his first analysis came out but I’m not sure how much of that was true or a misrating.

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  6. sorry i’m not sure if my other comment was posted so i’m writing this again. based on their technique, who do you think is better, xiumin or luhan?

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    1. Actually I don’t see your comment anywhere so this is a first. lol I don’t really know, they’re both weak vocalists. Xiumin has a better head voice but.. as for their middle voices, they both have very poor support.

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    1. He is not singing above A4, so this wouldn’t tell me if he improved at all. I still hear issues with the Aye vowel that he was knowing for having.

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  7. Thank you for your analysis. As a fan of Chen, I am so happy to see the analysis like this. I have a question about the performance Chen gave on “King of Mask Singer”(not really sure about the name but I hope you can understand which show I am talking about). I once saw a comment about Chen choosing those two songs. It said that those two songs are beyond the ability of Chen. It also said Chen is not really good at choosing the proper song which fits him. What is your view about the performance Chen gave? How does he finish those two songs? What do you think about that comment? Well, it is actually three questions lol.
    Since my native language is not English, I hope you can understand my questions. Also, I could have missed your analysis on those two songs. If I really do, sorry for that.
    Thank you! And, although a little bit late, Happy New Year!!

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    1. Unfortunately I only remember one performance of his from that and it was his solo performance. He was tired and his condition wasn’t good but I don’t think it was a bad choice for him at all. I don’t really remember the duet song he sang for King of Mask Singer unfortunately.

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      1. Thank you for your reply. But actually I am not asking about the duet song but the two solo songs. As you said, he is not at a good condition when he is singing the solo songs. Anyway, thank you for your help!!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Both performances had already been released at the time of this analysis and Drunken Truth is mentioned within the analysis. There’s no improvement in these performances that was not addressed within the analysis. The lower range was the biggest thing at that point.

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  8. Hello! Thank you for keeping these analyses up to date. Any chance you might refresh Baekhyun’s a bit if he’s shown any improvement?
    Also, there’s a typo in this one that’s been bothering me. The article says Chen “has not stopped to improve” rather than something along the lines of “has not stopped improving,” giving the wrong impression that he hasn’t taken the time to try improving himself.

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    1. Yes, of course. If improvement or change in technique is shown, the analysis will be edited to show the change. The typo was fixed. ^ ^

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      1. He didn’t sing in falsetto until 3:23. It’s as you’d think, it’s a falsetto. It’s not connected or relaxed enough to be properly supported.

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  9. Hi!

    First I want to thank you so much for time and dedication you’ve put into this analysis. It’s really really appreciated!

    What I wanted to clarify was if all of the video’s linked as examples are live? I’m sorry if this was mentioned and I somehow missed it. I know the “Though I Loved You” was an audio version because it was mentioned, but are all others live?

    The reason I ask is specifically for “What is Love” – it seemed like a lipsynced performance to me, but I might me wrong and it would be extremely gratifying to know it was live LOL.

    Please let me know!

    Thank you again for the analysis

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    1. We can guarantee it’s their voices but we can’t guarantee they’re not lip synched for some. The one you mentioned I believe is lip synched but it doesn’t change the fact that it shows how strained his singing gets when he gets to that part of his range. So I hope that makes sense but we usually try to only use live videos, with very few exceptions. ^ ^ Radio ones, King of Mask Singer, Immortal Song 2, etc, those are all live.

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  10. Chen recently (kind of) sang for the OST of a drama. The song is “I’m not okay.” I really liked the way he sounded there, but I wanted to ask (if you can answer) what you think about it? I leave the link

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  11. Sehun isn’t a vocalist, and he doesn’t sing very often, but if you were to judge him based on his vocal skills how would you rate him? It’s just that everyone seems to hate on sehun because he isn’t the strongest vocalist, and I’m curious if he’s actually bad as everyone says he is.

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    1. He rarely gets singing parts, but he does have brief singing parts in Sing For You and For Life. I don’t know if those are enough to properly rate him though.

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    2. We don’t rate vocalists on 10 seconds of singing. Sehun isn’t a vocalist for a reason. He doesn’t have the basics of vocal technique at all, even less than the other sub vocalists of EXO and that’s okay cause that’s not his thing anyway.

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