The two registers and their many names

It seems to now be a majority view (with which I agree) that there are two primary registers in the human voice based on the primary underlying mechanics – a generally lower, thicker one dominated by the thyroarytenoid (TA) muscles and a generally higher, thinner one dominated by the cricothyroid (CT) muscles. My favorite terms for these are “chest” and “falsetto” for men, “chest” and “head” for women.

What I’d like to do today is very simple, and not rigorous in terms of science or taxonomy. I would like to simply list words and concepts associated with the two registers. This a jumble of nouns, adjectives, and verbs.

speaking, modal, brightness, loudness, brilliance, ping, ring, strident, blatant, projection, adducted folds, thicker folds, richness, weight, heavy mechanism, thyroarytenoids, TA-dominant, cry, whine, brassy, masculine, focused, screechy, steel, chiaro

pitch, beauty, mellowness, sweetness, thin folds, height, upper notes, hooty, space, cricothyroids, CT-dominant, air, air flow, breathy, sigh, white tone, feminine, weak, blowy, unfocused, light, lightness, light mechanism, oscuro, scuro, morbidezza

The two work together in good singing. Learning how to call on varying degrees of chest or falsetto/head involvement in one’s singing is a primary skill, along with ridding oneself of interfering tensions while strengthening the good tensions.

The varying possibilities for coordination of the chest and falsetto/head registers, plus the possible resonance strategies laid on top of the register coordination, can create many different possibilities for a sung sound in any one person. These possibilities plus the uniqueness of everyone’s vocal tract is what makes every singer sound different. What a wondrous thing is the human voice!

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