#24  Apples and Oranges continued


Adamís Apples, that is! 

As a women voice teacher, I have to approach working with menís voices with a different set of skills than with women, to understand and becoming fluent with a vocal mechanism that is in some ways is very different from my own. Learning where their registration events occur between chest voice and head voice, recognizing the vocal qualities of their various registers including falsetto, devising good methods for helping them develop flexibility between the registers,  and correctly identifying voice types requires good guidance from a number of sources.  For this article my coach in San Francisco, Alden Gilchrist, helped me sort through old notes on the phone, and also provided one of the very useful exercises in the practical section.   


The Vocal Registers of Men

Chest Voice and Head Voice

The musculature is the same in the production of the chest voice and head voice as with women, except that the majority of a manís singing range occurs in his chest voice; the cricothyroids shorten and pull the vocal together for the chest voice and as pitch rises the thyroarytenoids engage in dynamic equilibrium to produce the head voice, and the thickness or intensity of the tone as well as the pitch is controlled by the vocalis muscle.


This register, the highest in the male voice, is produced by a dampening of a portion of the vocal folds which in essence shortens the section of the vocal folds that vibrates, much like when a string player places their finger gently on a string and plucks it to produce a harmonic. 

Falsetto, though only used occasionally for a dramatic/comedic effect in opera and classical music due to its soft volume,  is much more prevalent in Hawaiian  or pop music where it is assisted by the use of a microphone and amplification.

Counter Tenor

The counter tenor makes a somewhat different use of the falsetto, by developing the lower part of the falsetto range as well as the upper part of the head voice, and the result is a stronger instrument which can carry over an orchestra.  This voice type has grown in popularity in the last 30 years with the resurgence of the productions of Mozart and Handel operas. Itís a viable voice type which replaces the castrati, which were prevalent in early and classical music, prior to the acceptance of womenís voices in performance.  The pitch range is comparable to a womenís alto or contralto range.  

Stroh bass

An additional vocal register for basses to access at the very bottom of their range, is a rattling glottal fry which is called Stroh bass, or straw bass. This quality is accomplished by lowering the larynx and opening the throat very wide.  It is wise to use this only occasionally and for very short periods for range extension, as it can be tiring or damaging for the voice if over used.  


Typing Ranges for Menís Voices

When typing or distinguishing young menís voices to insure that they are singing the correct repertoire,  itís important to remember that the point of termination of the chest voice, as well as color rather than ultimate range,  may be the best determining factor for what their voice type may be. It is possible to have a light and flexible tenor who can sing low notes, or a dramatic baritone who can sing quite high.  Young menís voices may take longer to mature than young womenís voices,  and for some of the heavier voice types,  development may continue well into their late twenties before the voice is settled. Distinctions between a lyric baritone and a dramatic tenor might be difficult to make, so it is wise for choral or opera workshop  directors to listen carefully and repeatedly to make sure that their singers are not straining and that they have been properly cast or placed in the correct choral section.    


Try this:

A simple test to determine how high the chest voice is being easily carried is to have the singer place their hand on their chest and make a sliding sound upward through their chest voice.  The sensation of the vibration under their hand is of the sympathetic subglottic resonance, and at the point where the voice flips into head voice that resonance will suddenly disappear.  

In Richard Millerís The Structure of Singing he presents a chart of where specific voice types experience registration changes, which may be helpful for distinguishing different voice types in menís voices.

Hereís an example of the many types of menís voices  and where their chest voices typically (approximately) terminate;

Tenorino; F4

Tenore leggiero; E4 (E flat 4)

Tenore lirico; D4

Tenore spinto; D4 (C# 4)

Tenore rebusto/tenore dramatico; C4 (C# 4)  

Baritono lirico; B3

Baritono dramatico; B flat 3

Basso cantante; A3

Basso profundo; A flat 3 (G3)


The importance of falsetto comes with the practice of moving from falsetto to head voice.  According to my coach, Alden Gilchrist, a way of experiencing the higher pitches in the male singers range with an element of ease can be assisted by having the singer moves from falsetto to head voice, and then take the voice downward into the chest voice.


The following is an exercise Alden recommends for blending falsetto to head to chest voice.  

Start on a B4 and go downward to B3

Repeat on a B flat4 and go downward to B flat 3






Have a very fine two weeks,



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