The Voice

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 (3:18-3:28):

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, passaggi, and vocal range. However, when it comes to pop voices, only timbre, vocal weight, and passaggi 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 “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(Arguable term in Contemporary music): 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, Sohyang, Apink‘s Eunji, Barbra Streisand
  • Spinto Soprano: Whitney Houston during her prime.
  • Dramatic Soprano: Patti LabelleMonica Naranjo
  • Falcon Soprano: Vanessa Amorosi
  • Lyric Coloratura Mezzo-Soprano: Beyoncé
  • Lyric Mezzo-Soprano: Toni Braxton, Big Mama’s Jiyoung
  • Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano: Anastasia
  • Lyric Contralto: Dear Cloud’Nine9, Cher, Ana Carolina (Brazilian Singer)
  • Coloratura Contralto: Annie Lennox

Male

  • Countertenor (Arguable term in Contemporary music): Ney Matogrosso (Brazilian Singer), Mitch Grassi, Chris Colfer
  • Leggiero Tenor(Arguable term in Contemporary music): Naul
  • Light Lyric Tenor: Most of male idol vocalists in K-pop, Chris BrownBruno Mars, Ne-Yo, etc
  • 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 & Zelo, SG WANNABE’s Kim Jinho, Hwang Chiyeol, 2AM’s Jinwoon
  • 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.

316 thoughts on “The Voice

  1. Hi admins~ there’s something about vocal classifications that confuse me – can people change their vocal fach/type? Because people keep saying that it’s someone’s “natural voice type” I assumed that it’s not something that people can change (without surgery or anything), but I hear many people, including you guys, saying that Christina Aguilera went from a Light Lyric Soprano to a Mezzo-Soprano and Whitney Houston went from a Spinto-Soprano to a Mezzo as well. I can understand a person changing their tessitura whether it be b/c of bad technique or drug abuse, but would they change their passagi as well? && if possible, would a Mezzo be able to become a Soprano? Just wondering ^^ thanks!!

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    1. Health habits can influence one’s voice type. Honestly I am not sure what Christina’s voice type is because her voice is so damaged. She sounds like a soprano when she talks, but she sings like a mezzo, but then she seemed more soprano-like earlier in her career. Whitney Houston’s voice type change had to do with drug abuse. As far as I know, voice type can change with age, let’s say not 30’s or 40’s but when you reach your 60’s, it’s possible that your vocal cords thicken and your voice becomes lower since your body is aging, this can happen to healthy vocalists as well. A mezzo becoming a soprano, this can happen when the voice is still maturing. It’s not common, but through puberty one’s voice can change and become lower or higher.

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  2. I have a question. I am taking vocal lessons since a few months. When I began, I couldn’t sing in head voice: My lowest note was F3 and my highest was B4. After some weeks, I learnt how to sing with my head voice and could sing until A5. I asked my vocal teacher what my voice type was and she said she was not sure and I noticed her looking for my passagio between chest and head voice. I am pretty sure my passagio is between E4 and C5. My voice becomes lighter (less chesty?) starting at F4.

    Well, my question is if you can tell me what my voice type is >.<

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  3. hi! Admin.
    I’m a k-pop fan, and I’m also a crazy fan of pentatonix.I remember that you mentioned Mitch Grassi in your article.And could you analyze their vocal skill,and their levels? Thank you

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  4. hi friends…pleas I need your help I am doing my best and so tired of my support problem. …Every time I heard myself and on record I can hear myself taking breath I have serious supporting problems…since I got horrible tone I thought the only thingwho can save me is a good techniques…then end up having having problems with the basic of singing….pleas my friends any help to learn how to support..

    pleas my friends can I know your opinion about
    http://www.become-a-singing-master.com/how-to-sing-from-your-diaphragm.html

    he really express what I feel

    Like

    1. Dear, I am sorry but you’re thinking about it all wrong. You don’t have a terrible tone. Your true voice is not coming out because there is too much going on that’s wrong on in your singing. Your throat has tension, you close your upper throat when singing higher and you either try too hard to pull your chest voice very high or you switch into a really shouty and thin mixed voice. The thing about support is that it is quite simple, however the muscles do have to be trained to an extent so that you know how to manipulate air more freely, however the most important muscles after that are the throat muscles. The weak vocalists on this blog are basically singing with 100% tension throughout most of their range, which is why they’re said not to support right. They use too much throat, like you do. However teaching support takes control, teaching someone to let go of tension has to do with singing softly but connected so that you exercise your muscles properly. It’s not something I can teach you by writing you a message, I need to be able to do a lesson with you. I need to monitor your singing, fix what you’re doing wrong and work on what you’re doing right. If I can’t hear you, I can’t fix everything and a written message is not going to help you enough. I am so sorry and this really frustrates me, not to be able to help you more.

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  5. honestly…I am saying this with tear in my eyes…I swear no matter how I thank you it won’t be enough at all you helped more than you can imagine..you believed in me and believed that I had chance to improve and achieve my dreams that’s all I ever want…Thank you so much Thank thank thank you..I will work harder than ever… 🙂
    pleas do you think love me like you do by ellie Golding is a good song for someone like me to start with

    Liked by 1 person

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