Head Register

The natural condition of head register is that it is weak, most particularly in the lowest pitches. This means that it is typically also breathy.

Since classical singing requires a high degree of head register dominance, it takes quite a while to be able to accomplish singing in a “head mix” in mid-range in most people. Why? Because in mid-range most adults are still speaking in a chest dominant sound and because head is weak there.

If you understand that there are but two groups of vocal exercises: ones that relax the throat and allow the larynx to descend, making the voice more relaxed and pleasant, bringing out its “beauty”, but also allowing the vocal folds to close less firmly; and ones that strengthen the mechanism in several ways, but which do not sound very “nice”, all of which involve resistance or “tightening” of various muscular groups, then you will also understand that developing strength in a head dominant middle range sound isn’t something you “just do”. It takes time.

The “bad” exercises, the ones that make the voice stronger or “tighten it up” in a good way are generally closed sounds, sometimes “ugly” ones. Since singing teachers never ever want to talk about the throat being tight (heaven forbid) they made up all these euphemisms like “pointed”, “focused”, “forward”, “ringy”, “in the masque” and a bijillion others, which would have been OK had they understood why the euphemisms were necessary, but mostly, they did not. The whole idea was not to ever think of your throat. By-pass the throat. Sing as if you went from your belly to your eyeballs. (:(

Most singers (and teachers of singing) have various musical exercises that they do on various musical patterns, sometimes in the same sequence, sometimes a random sequence. I have never, in all these years, encountered a singer who “warmed-up” with the same kind of exercises as another one. Sometimes the person has a specific idea in mind when warming up (“first the high voice, then the middle, then the low”, or, “first the masque, then the top of the head, then the diaphragm”, [whatever], or, occasionally, “first head register, then chest register, then mix”). Why would things be so varied? There are many reasons but I think the main one is that no one really knows what exercises do what. You do them because someone told you to or a bunch of different someones told you to and you put some of each of those people’s exercises together on your own. Sometimes the exercises go back several generations (“My teacher’s teacher did these and they were really good”). Sometimes you could just as well warm up to the names in the phone book or Happy Birthday. If you are singing, you are warming up. ☝

You need to understand what vocal function is in order to use exercises effectively. You need to understand what the voice is doing before you can determine whether or not that function is useful, correct, healthy or good. You need to understand what is MISSING if you are going to develop it and you need to know what kind of exercises will make that behavior happen. Then, you need to know how long to do the exercise and how vigorously. Then you need to know what to do to counter that exercise to be sure the rest of the voice stays in equilibrium.

So what exercises develop strength in head register down low? How would you know if it was stronger? (You need to know this if you are going to determine whether or not the exercise is working). How would you know that what you were doing was effective? Would you know the exercise was the correct choice or would you blame the student if it “didn’t work”.

Do you get head register to be stronger by thinking of your face? your nose? your eyebrows? your forehead? your cheekbones? your nasal passages? your sinuses? your soft palate? the “Singer’s Formant”? the high overtones? the tree across the street? your diaphragm???????????????????????? Do you get it to be stronger by thinking?

What happens when the head register is stronger? Is the sound prettier? sweeter? more fluid? more bouncy? more purple? more pingy/ringy? Is the voice more “open”? more “pointed”? more “forward”? chirpy-er? squeakier? Do you get it to be stronger by thinking it is stronger?

You see the problem. Until we, as a profession, can work on these things, we are still very lost.

And, if you want the answers, you need the Solution Sequence®, which you can only get by taking Somatic Voicework™ Level II at Shenandoah Conservatory in July. www.ccminstitute.com

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