Subjective Terminology

Chest register, chest resonance, chest tone, lower register, heavy register, heavy mechanism, “supported voice”, full voice, speaking voice quality, thick folds, TA activity, “twangy” belt (I really dislike that one). There are probably more words.

Are they all the same? Many would argue they are not. You can go on:

Mix, head/mix, chest/mix, legit/mix, belt/mix, light/mix, twangy/mix, bright mix, warm mix, forward mix, etc.

Head register, head resonance, head tone, higher register, light register, light mechanism, “pure tone”, angelic sound, CT activity, floaty sound, “off the voice”, etc.

What do any of these words really mean?

Nothing. They mean nothing until and unless you have a voiced sound happening and at that moment you label it with one of those terms. Then both the labeler and the person singing can agree that the sound was whatever the labeler said it was.

So, I can sing an /a/ (father) vowel on C5 at 85 dB and someone can come along and tell me that I am singing in (pick one of the words from the lists above) and I can either (a) agree (b) disagree (c) not understand or (d) call it something else of my own. If there is something else that can take place, do please tell me what it is.

If I sing with an electroglottic collar on my throat so I can monitor open/closed quotient on a computer software voice analysis program, and I also have a sound pressure meter to tell me how many decibels my sound is, and I know what frequency I am sustaining (but with some fluctuation, since human beings do not hold one frequency without variation) , and I can see my vocal folds on a computer monitor, and I can also see my larynx and the structures around it at the same time, while I am singing that /a/, then I would KNOW what was happening in my throat while I was singing. The label would go with that experience. The label, however, could be “throat position A”. That would work, wouldn’t it?

If we assume that we can “feel” TA/CT activity directly (we cannot), or if we assume that a sound we are making is happening because of where we feel the vibration of the sound (it is not) and if we label sound “the new Broadway sound” because we like the term, and then, further, decide we “know” what’s causing the sound based on our experience of it, we would become like 99.9% of all the teachers of singing who have ever lived.

The labels the music industry and Broadway in particular use are “group mind agreements” (see post from March 8, 2014). That means the people who use these labels have a certain kind of sound in mind when they are describing it. You can either recognize that sound and agree that it is called the same thing or not. If you do not, you are not likely to get hired by someone who is seeking it. Simple.

So, if you want to have a conversation about your speaking voice on a low pitch and say that it isn’t chest register or about head and say that it is caused by making your head vibrate, go ahead. No one will stop you. Expect other people to argue with you. Expect that things will remain unclear. Expect that nothing will change. We’ve been there a very long time.

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