Reg­is­tra­tion

The human voice is a com­plex instru­ment. As you move through your range you will notice that the ease and qual­ity of sound changes. Some areas are nat­u­rally res­o­nant, while oth­ers may feel weak or strained. The more nat­u­rally res­o­nant areas fall into our four reg­is­ter: low head, upper head, bass and chest voices — while the weaker areas are typ­i­cally the areas of tran­si­tion between these registers.

The chest and head reg­is­ters are the most fre­quently used, and an ideal place to begin explor­ing the tran­si­tion area is between these two. The chest voice is where we speak; it’s the lower part of our range. Our head voice is the upper reg­is­ter, with dif­fer­ent tonal qual­i­ties. As you might imag­ine, singers usu­ally feel the upper reg­is­ter vibra­tional cen­ter in their head — and the chest in their chest. Some vocal­ists can move between reg­is­ters with nat­ural ease, and some require effort to smooth out the transition.

Try it: Lay on the floor. Sing a low note. Where do you feel it vibrate in your body? Sing a high note and notice where that is vibrat­ing. Try to vibrate dif­fer­ent areas of your body using sound.

It is eas­ier to show by exam­ple when teach­ing about reg­is­tra­tion. There are cer­tain tones that one can sing in both one’s chest and head voice. I start by singing the F above mid­dle C in my chest voice, then my head voice, then a 50/50 mix. The dif­fer­ence in tonal qual­ity is dramatic.

If you sing in your chest reg­is­ter, mov­ing up the scale you will first start feel­ing ten­sion and strain and then your voice will often stop or break. I sing as high as I can in my chest voice show­ing how strained it gets if I don’t tran­si­tion. I demon­strate how weak my voice sounds if I go too low in my head voice.

Devel­op­ing the tran­si­tion and being able to con­trol how you mix reg­is­ters is crit­i­cal for any vocal­ist in any style of music. Strength­en­ing these areas and work­ing with tonal qual­ity helps singers have more choice in how they color a tone wher­ever they are in their range.

Try it: Find the low­est note that you can sing in your head voice. Sing the note in your chest voice then slowly tran­si­tion from your chest to your head voice. Move up a half step and repeat the exer­cise until you are out of the tran­si­tion area.

While it is impor­tant to work with the tran­si­tions it is equally impor­tant and fun to work with the purest strongest part of each reg­is­ter; these are the notes that nat­u­rally ring out and once we per­fect this type of res­o­nance here we can cre­ate the same ring in the tran­si­tion areas.

Much of the above is pur­pose­fully over­sim­pli­fied. Once a singer is more advanced, I can touch upon the sub­tle shifts between low head voice, upper head voice, bass voice, and chest voice.