More on Registers

I haven’t spoken about Registers, which are a big bugaboo. There are lots of theories and research on the registers, but we can find out for ourselves what seems to be true:

There are two registers, which we call Chest and Head or Falsetto.

If you sing up from the bottom of the voice, there comes a point where you either have to stop, or shift over into something else. In women’s voices, this is the “normal” register for singing. In men’s voices, this is a kind of weak, female sounding place, which most men don’t use very much.

Simply, there are two sets of muscles involved with making sound. When one set dominates, you get a “register” or series of notes all belonging to that one mechanism. So what’s happening at that “break” point is a sudden shift from domination by one set of muscles to the other.

The problem arises in that we don’t usually have the same strength in both sets of muscles. Women usually have more developed strength in the head voice, men in the chest voice, because of the way we speak.

The solution to the register break problem is to develop the weaker register and then figure out how to join the two together by learning to “trade off” the domination in the middle part of the voice where the registers overlap.

This is a very tedious problem, and can usually only be successfully done with the help of someone who understands registers and how to deal with them.

 

Foreman, Edward. Transformative Voice. Pro Musica Press, 1998.

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4 thoughts on “More on Registers

  1. Justin,

    Thank you for your posts!

    How much success have you personally experienced (either as a teacher or your own voice) with balancing registers?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Steve!

      Thanks for your comment. Frankly, I have had phenomenal success in my students as well as my own voice in register balancing. For my students, it opens up the scope and potential of the voice, giving it strength, power, stamina, as well as range and ability to swell and diminish with fluency and ease. In my own voice I have noticed the same abilities as well. A registrational pedagogy is in distinct contrast to training methods that focus on ‘support,’ and ‘placement.’

      I would add that this is not a ‘quick fix’ and does take time. Additionally, we’re always playing with balances as well to give the singer different ways of using the voice depending on the style sung: operatic singing requires more nuanced and elegant register balance, whereas a jazz approach can be more flexible.

      In my personal opinion, I have found no other way to build the vocal instrument, ameliorate dysfunction, and strengthen the voice. In my research into the old treatises on singing, it would also seem that it combines these writings without discarding current scientific knowledge of the singing voice.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Great! It is so encouraging to hear this.

        How much time have you observed this taking? Months? Years? Decades? Do thicker/deeper voices indeed take longer as some writers have suggested?

        Thanks again!

        Steve

      2. Register balance varies for each singer and depends on the musical and vocal experience the singer has already had (as a result of no training, bad training, or good training).

        A singer should expect changes in the voice in as little as 1-6 months. So much depends on not just the student’s voice, but the psychological profile as well:
        How do they conceive of their voice?
        Are they ready to change the voice for the better, or do they want to hang on to ‘what works’?
        How do they emotionally identify with their sound?

        All these factors determine the rate of time that the singer will experience development of the voice. In my experience, the ‘blank slate’ students make the most progress because they are open to the experience and can move quickly to deeper levels of ability. Students with extensive experience are less likely to submit to a training program that threatens to take away what they feel is their ‘core sound.’ Therefore, their growth can be protracted and time consuming. Hope that helps! No one plant in the garden can determine growth time for all the others…

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