Vocal Registers

Weekly Teaching Tip – Oct. 19, 2015
by Dean Kaelin

This is how I personally describe the registers. Hopefully it will be helpful to many of you. Remember that registers are moveable and not absolute. They will vary depending on the physiology of the singer, and the style and intensity of the performance. So it is the principle of registers that is important to understand. I think of moving from register to register like moving through a door from one room to the next. One of the key benefits of Mix singing (and responsibilities of Mix teachers in teaching) is developing the ability to move smoothly through all of the registers with no change in vocal quality.

The first floor – (the basement, aka: chest voice) – anything below the Eb just above middle C (some women can go clear down below C3 – middle C is C4 otherwise known as the 4th “c” up from the bottom of the piano) – So this floor can be pretty big depending on how low the female can sing. It can be as big as an octave and a third (C3 to Eb4), but is usually an octave at most (E3 to Eb4) and most probably about a 6th (G3 to Eb4).

2nd floor – (chest mix: still mostly in chest, but starting to feel some head voice starting to sneak in gradually. Also, in a more classical approach there will be more head voice in this floor. In more contemporary styles (pop and theater) you will feel more chest.) This goes from the E just above middle C (E4) to the Bb just above that (Bb4). So the room is a tri-tone.

3rd floor – B4 – Eb5 (the B above middle C to the Eb above that) – this is “head mix”, or head voice, but still feeling an attachment to chest. This is where most women feel the “big break” (between A4 and B4) when singing contemporary styles. This room is also a tri-tone.

4th Floor – E5 to Bb5 – “head voice”. This is the typical Head voice taught in most classical techniques. So, in most classical techniques (and choir) they don’t have the 2nd or 3rd floors. The 2nd and 3rd floors are the “mix floors”. Classical techniques usually go from all chest to all head, which is why there is usually such a big break in the voice (because they are actually skipping 2 floors). And often times, classical female singers are encouraged to pull their head voice down as low as possible and only “sneak lightly” into chest voice (basement) if it is absolutely necessary. The 4th floor is also a tri-tone.

5th Floor – B5 and above – “super head voice”. There is also technically a “whistle voice” (6th floor) above this as well, but this is only for extreme singing.

For Men:
1st Floor – Chest: As low as they can go to Bb3 (The Bb just below middle C)

2nd Floor – Chest Mix: B3 to Eb4 – still in chest, but starting to thin out toward release (or “turning over” as some call it)

3rd Floor – Head Mix: E4 to Bb4 – In head voice, but still feeling a connection to the chest. This is where the “big break” for most men occurs since the singer is moving from a mostly “chest” coordination to a mostly “head” coordination.

4th Floor – Head Voice: B4 to Eb5

5th Floor – Super Head Voice: above E5

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