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Help: Problem with head voice

dorareever 16 May 02 - 02:44 PM
GUEST,Just Amy 16 May 02 - 03:14 PM
CapriUni 16 May 02 - 03:21 PM
GUEST,Just Amy 16 May 02 - 03:36 PM
Lynn 16 May 02 - 10:10 PM
Celtic Soul 16 May 02 - 10:19 PM
Lynn 16 May 02 - 10:27 PM
Escamillo 16 May 02 - 11:09 PM
DonMeixner 16 May 02 - 11:20 PM
dorareever 16 May 02 - 11:47 PM
Deckman 17 May 02 - 12:02 AM
dorareever 17 May 02 - 12:07 AM
dorareever 17 May 02 - 12:08 AM
Escamillo 17 May 02 - 12:56 AM
hesperis 17 May 02 - 01:35 AM
Escamillo 17 May 02 - 05:17 AM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 17 May 02 - 05:30 AM
CharlieA 17 May 02 - 10:27 AM
GUEST,MAG at work 17 May 02 - 11:29 AM
Alice 17 May 02 - 11:42 AM
Mark Clark 17 May 02 - 12:22 PM
Mark Clark 17 May 02 - 12:28 PM
Celtic Soul 17 May 02 - 05:35 PM
Escamillo 17 May 02 - 10:20 PM
Genie 18 May 02 - 01:09 AM
hesperis 18 May 02 - 02:21 AM
Cappuccino 18 May 02 - 02:43 AM
Escamillo 18 May 02 - 03:59 AM
Alice 18 May 02 - 11:15 AM
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Subject: Problem with head voice
From: dorareever
Date: 16 May 02 - 02:44 PM

Maybe someone can help me.I have no problem at all using my chest voice,and though I use it less I can sing in an acceptable way using my head voice too.The problem lies in the fact that I have an hard time switching from one to the other.I can do it,but it doesn't flow.It's more like I stop for a second and then get back singing using my head voice.When I have to switch from head to chest is easy.Chest to head instead doesn't flow.


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: GUEST,Just Amy
Date: 16 May 02 - 03:14 PM

As a voice teacher, all I can say is practice, practice, practice. There is no easy way to do this.

Truthfully, all singers have this problem to start with. The best way to overcome it is to blend these voices into one. How do I do this? I'm glad you asked. First, I assume that you are doing your breathing exercises everyday and are using your diaphragm. What you need to do is stretch your head voice and your chest voice to cover each other. When you do your scale exercises sing as high as you can in your chest voice. Concentrate on raising this note by note day by day. Conversely and most importantly, sing in your head voice to the lowest note your can reach without switching. Keep trying to lower this daily note by note. You should be able to smooth your transition between these two "voices."

OR you can just change keys so that you are singing in your own range (tessitura) rather than the key that the instruments are comfortable playing in.

May I finally suggest that you spend some money on a good voice teacher (not a vocal coach) who can show you some good exercises (like octave splits) to correct this problem. Sorry this post is so long but you can see I am passionate about the voice.


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: CapriUni
Date: 16 May 02 - 03:21 PM

Amy --

Just out of curiosity... what's the difference between a voice teacher, and a vocal coach?


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: GUEST,Just Amy
Date: 16 May 02 - 03:36 PM

Actually we went over this in another thread but to clarify it. A Voice Teacher teaches you how to use your voice - the physicality of the voice and the diaphragm, the range of the instrument, etc. A Vocal Coach is more concerned with the way the song comes out of your mouth - helps you learn phrasing in songs, what keys are good for you, etc. In the U.S. if you are a professional singer, you can take the Vocal Coach fees off your taxes but not the Voice Teacher because they assume if you are a professional that you already know how to sing.


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Lynn
Date: 16 May 02 - 10:10 PM

Just a bit of clarification...None of us ever breathe without using the diaphragm. It's part of the mechanism. The problem is when we're upright we tend not to breathe as low as we could. By bringing attention to low expansion (which is actually a relaxation of the abdominal muscles), we as singers draw in as much air as we can. It is then the CONTRACTION of these very same abdominal muscles which supplies the physical support to the flow of air, helping to free the throat and neck from unwanted tension. Watch a baby when its wailing at its loudest. When she's lying on her back, her abdomen will expand out tremendously, then contract visibly just before the shriek. Ever wonder why babies don't get hoarse even after crying all night long???? That's why. They do it properly, naturally. We forget when we get upright.

Early in her career, Joni Mitchell had a wicked split between her head and chest voice. She could sail in head, and flip in a moment to chest (just listen to the end of Big Yellow Taxi). Problem was she never reconciled the two. Years of chain smoking have obliterated her head voice. Tragedy? Well, maybe, or maybe not. Her voice sure has character!

But Amy was right when she said, 'practice, practice, practice.' By using it, especially descending, you'll eventually figure out how to make the transition from one to the other. Amy's suggestion of easing the head voice down lower is good. I'd be very cautious about trying to push the chest voice too high. That can be damaging if you don't pay attention to what your body's telling you.

Not all singers have this problem. I've had a few students who have virtually no discernable 'passaggio' - that point where you transition from chest to head. Admittedly, they're rarer than the rest of us.

Find a good voice teacher...one who won't insist on doing just classical material. Good luck!

Lynn


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Celtic Soul
Date: 16 May 02 - 10:19 PM

For me, the "practice" that Amy wisely suggests above involves the use of slides. I slide up and down scales in order to find that breaking point, and learn to compensate for it. What works for me (but may not for you) is to pull back a little when approaching the point between the chest voice and my falsetto. It's a tricky thing, but with practice, has become easier. Getting another opinion from someone who can *be there* with you to see and hear what you are doing will also likely help. Many here may be great coaches, but, like a Doctor, if they can't see (hear) the symptoms, the diagnosis may not be as accurate.

Good luck! :D


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Lynn
Date: 16 May 02 - 10:27 PM

Keep in mind, too, that it's different for us guys (going chest into falsetto) than it is for you girls (going chest into head). A tricky thing, 'tis.

Lynn (a guy)


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Escamillo
Date: 16 May 02 - 11:09 PM

Some authors (Madeleine Mansion for example) say that the male voice flows from chest to head voice without falsetto (except in counter-tenors or male contralto voices). Indeed for us (the machos!) it's easier, and many times the passagio flows inadvertently. Again, our head voice up to the lyric tenor tessiture does not compare to the female falsetto, but my teacher (a tenor) says that a great help is to exaggerate as much as possible the elevation of the CAVUS, or rear palate area, to increase the resonance cavity, just in the passagio notes. And most important, not to worry about the notes and let them flow.

The final word indeed is that of a vocal teacher, which is the best investment you could ever do for your voice.

Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: DonMeixner
Date: 16 May 02 - 11:20 PM

How is the diference between the two voices described? I hear them separately mentioned but I only hear people discuss the two voices as if everyone already knows there are two voices and they are diferent.

If it is easier to klick me into another thread thats fine.

Don


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: dorareever
Date: 16 May 02 - 11:47 PM

Yes indeed I was thinking that maybe a teacher could help me.I always been for the all-alone approach and until now it was quite good since I learned how to sing and breath properly without ruining my voice without a teacher.But now that I want to do things that don't come naturally to me I do no want to risk it doing things the wrong way. I also wanted someone to tell me if I'm indeed an alto as I think I am (despite the talk about true altos being very rare),so maybe a teacher could help me with that too.


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Deckman
Date: 17 May 02 - 12:02 AM

Don ... good question! As a male singer, let me try to set the example this way. In a room, all alone, softly sing the HIGHEST note (remember softly)you can do comfortably. It will probably be a falsetto (sp?)note. Slowly descend to the bottom of your range. If you can succeed in that, WITHOUT a 'break' in you voice, you do good. That takes lots of practice and serious training. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: dorareever
Date: 17 May 02 - 12:07 AM

Don,they are two different voices.

Chest voice is low,powerful and heavy.It comes frome the chest. Head voice is higher,thinner and light.Comes from throat and nose.

There's also the middle register which I guess (correct me if I'm wrong since my formal schooling in this is very little)is my main problem. I also never understood if women have falsetto or they don't.I often read that there are 3 register for men (chest,head and falsetto) and just 2 for women (chest and head),is it right?


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: dorareever
Date: 17 May 02 - 12:08 AM

Don,they are two different voices.

Chest voice is low,powerful and heavy.It comes frome the chest. Head voice is higher,thinner and light.Comes from throat and nose.

There's also the middle register which I guess (correct me if I'm wrong since my formal schooling in this is very little)is my main problem. I also never understood if women have falsetto or they don't.I often read that there are 3 register for men (chest,head and falsetto) and just 2 for women (chest and head),is it right?


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Escamillo
Date: 17 May 02 - 12:56 AM

A teacher (a classical singer/teacher, not a pop vocal coach) will tell you your tessiture, but not immediately. It will probably take several classes and many exercises, because he/she will probably find lots of undesirable habits that will obscure the real characteristics of your voice, and also lots of unexpected capabilities that were laying down under those habits.

Every individual is different. In my case, I went to the teacher at an advanced age (47) as a bass who felt better as baritone. After 1 or 2 months he started to go deep into the investigation of my voice and after 6 or 7 months he declared me a TENOR. Since then I reached notes I could have never imagined, improved the sound dramatically, and although I will never sing a great aria, I am very happy as a choral tenor at the most important opera houses in my country. As a soloist, since I love traditionals and African-American songs, I always sing as tenor. Since then I have never been thrown tomatoes any more.

Regarding falsetto, I understand that women do use it and males don't, except in those rare cases when a female voice has to be emulated, as you may find in very fundamentalist choirs who still don't allow women (on behalf of strict adjustment to historic traditions as they say). Other high tessitures in Michael Jackson's style are simply screeches.

Female voices which don't know how to use falsetto properly (called by others triphasic emission), not artificial, not forced, would probably sound always as open, spoken voice very similar to shouting.

Please take these comments as coming from a student, not from a teacher.

Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: hesperis
Date: 17 May 02 - 01:35 AM

"Very similar to shouting"? Hmmmm... that may be my problem... my high voice is ok, but it's only got mezzoforte and forte... if I try to do any less or more then it's a strain and starts cracking after a while, even if other people can't hear it, I feel it!

I sing G below middle C easily up to C above middle C. After that, it gets difficult after a while. And some days I can sing down to E below middle C, but that's rare. I hit a low D once when I had a cold, and easily, too! (I guess the vocal cords got thicker temporarily from the cold? lol.) A couple of years later I was still able to sing the A two octaves above middle C, but that's a bit out of my reach right now. My "break" is around Ab-B above middle C. (Rather clarinettish, oddly, if you take clarinet as it's written and not in concert pitch.)

Conductors always tended to prefer my high voice. It was annoying, as I have so much more flexibility and expression in the easy range. Unfortunately, that's only a bit over an octave, and most songs aren't in a good key for that.


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Escamillo
Date: 17 May 02 - 05:17 AM

Chagall, I'm a little confused about which octaves are you referring to. If middle C is the third space in the staff and you reach an A in the second octave above middle C in the soprano range (fifth space above the staff), you are a super high soprano. In fact, the most demanding opera arias for soprano don't go beyond C in the second additional line above the staff.

If you refer to the tenor range (mine) which is one octave lower than soprano, your break is situated slightly above my range (mine is approx. F#-Ab) and this indicates to me that you are singing in a male range, which is most undesirable and the most common mistake, unless you have a very exceptional voice. May be that's why conductors prefer your high voice, it must have a more natural sound.

It is normal that very high notes can be reached only in forte or mezzoforte. After all, authors use them only as a final stroke that ends a song or aria. But they must never be shouted openly and never produce a strain (unless it is heavy rock), and this is another trick that a voice teacher will reveal to us.

If this subject of voices is fascinating, more fascinating are the amazing things that a good teacher can obtain from our voices once we take it seriously and dedicate the time it deserves.

Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 17 May 02 - 05:30 AM

If the voices don't go away, just turn the music up or get a personal stereo.


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: CharlieA
Date: 17 May 02 - 10:27 AM

always used to confuse me that middle c was the lowest note i could pay on my flute! and was the one below the stave. It got easier as i did more singing and sung alto - middle c was about mid - high of my range. very annoying to hear all the lovely soprano songs and not be able to sing along *pouts bottom lip* *g*

Cxxx

I always find alcohol works against the voices


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: GUEST,MAG at work
Date: 17 May 02 - 11:29 AM

Say "Yoo hoo!" as if calling across a playground, and then do a pirate "Yo ho ho," and you will get your own chest voice and head voice right away. Feel the resonance. My old voice teacher (long ago and far away) had me work a lot on physical placement of the voice in the throat; humming with mouth open, to literally get behind my voice break. Blending them involves having some head resonance when you sing chest, and some chest resonance when you sing head. Developing your voice is work; rewarding, good work.


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Alice
Date: 17 May 02 - 11:42 AM

Back to the original question of making a smooth sounding transition through the passagio, chest to head voice... I second Escamillo on lifting the soft palate (the top back of the mouth). When I started lessons I learned to make that transition, but had to change a habit of "belting" in the chest voice to singing the way I do in the head voice, bringing it down in to the range of the chest voice. Lift the soft palate, sing your highest note, then a smooth scale down to your lowest note. Practice the placement and eventually you will find that the sound in the lower part of your range will blend more smoothly into the higher part. I still think you should find a GOOD voice teacher who will work one-on-one with you. If you can't get one in your area, try personal lessons from my teacher via cassette tape through the mail. She will listen to you sing and then record her feedback, recommendations, exercises, etc., and send the tape back to you. You can email to her at Szdngorder@aol.com. Her web page is temporarily at:Suzanne Gorder.


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Mark Clark
Date: 17 May 02 - 12:22 PM

I'm always excited to see these threads about singing. I read them carefully and add the threads to my tracer so I can find them again. Still, most of the time I can't really figure out exactly what you're all talking about.

I have been told to use my diaphragm since I was a small boy in church choir but I've never figured out what it might feel like to use one's diaphragm or how to know whether I'm doing it or not. I think I can feel the difference between what you are calling the “head voice” and what you call the “chest voice” but I'm never sure. I also don't know exactly how that relates to falsetto singing except that it relates to head voice.

I'm sure I must use these techniques—although probably not correctly—because I can sing a fairly low country song or a fairly high bluegrass lead and I use different muscles to do each of those. I also can through in a falsetto note when necessary and can do Jimmie Rodgers style yodeling at need. I sing tenor in our Byzantine a cappella Church choir but the highest note I'm comfortable singing is F. I've hit G on occasion but it's touch and go. Fortunately, very little Byzantine music asks the tenor to sing higher than that.

Most of my singing, though, is bluegrass, country or blues and I usually try to adapt my singing to the way I think the song should sound rather than adapt the song to my voice. If I can't sing the song pretty close to “right,” I'd just as soon not sing. The odd thing is that when I'm singing bluegrass, I can sing much higher than I can in choir. Of course in bluegrass I'm trying to sing as high and powerfully as I can manage and in choir I'm trying to blend in with the group.

Still, the muscle control and thought process is entirely different between these forms of singing. I've found I can take in a great deal of air, tighten my abdominal muscles, relax my throat and generate some power when I need to and that seems to make higher notes easier to hit. It also seem to me that quite notes don't have much tone (timbre?) unless a lot of extra air is expended at the same time. Louder notes seem easier to sing with tone.

As for all the Italian words to describe the mechanics of singing, I'm probably not likely at this point to learn the jargon. I really need some way to translate the necessary muscle control parameters into the sensations I might feel when doing things correctly. For instance, I understand the physical concept of a standing wave and I believe I can tell when I am generating a standing wave through my vocal apparatus. Powerful singing is much easier if a standing wave can be produced.

My question really is whether there is any way for me to work on technique in an organized way or should I just “mess around” as I have always done and try to remember what works and what doesn't?

Does any of this make sense?

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Mark Clark
Date: 17 May 02 - 12:28 PM

And how many times have you ever heard someone “through” in a falsetto note?

Sorry for the typeo above.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Celtic Soul
Date: 17 May 02 - 05:35 PM

Dorareever, women absolutely do have a falsetto. It may not be as noticeable for those not looking for it, but I could sing a scale of the same notes with falsetto and without, and you'd be able to tell.

Also, I can hit much higher notes in falsetto than not.


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Escamillo
Date: 17 May 02 - 10:20 PM

Mark, everything you say makes sense. But remember that when you produce sound, you are hearing internally and externally, and this is not the same as a voice teacher will hear. Only he/she could indicate when the sound is correctly emitted, when there is a lack of breath support, when there is an excessive vibrato, and when it is plain wonderful (ha!, they never say that!).

Then, messing around or working in an organized way only by yourself, will lead you to no place. Not even the best tape recorder is of any help, because what you will hear will be very, very far from reality and will probably be too discouraging.

Moreover, the teacher will sing for you and show you amazing things. Don't care about the style which may be not what you want, just concentrate in the quality and safety of the emission. My teacher (a professional tenor) used to demonstrate the use of the cavity below the diaphragm just by taking my hands and putting them on his belly and back. It was a little embarrasing and I didn't like it very much, but then I realised what he was talking about: this guy was equipped with air bags ! I did never reach that phenomenal achievement, but improved a lot and could do a similar demonstration, to my wife only.

Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Genie
Date: 18 May 02 - 01:09 AM

Dorareever,

You say "I have no problem at all using my chest voice... . [but] I have an hard time switching from one to the other.

dorareever, if you do that fast enough, it's called "yodelling," isn't it?

Genie

JustAmy, thanks for the tax info. But [like many aspects of the tax code] I don't 'get ' it. I've been playing guitar for over 40 years, but I'd like to take targeted guitar lessons [e.g., classical or blues guitar] to enhance my professional skills. Ya mean I couldn't count that as a legitimate business expense? Similarly, I just got over a 2-month bout with laryngitis, and I'd love to work with a voice teacher/coach to learn how not to fall prey to that again. The fact that I've been working professionally with my voice for over 10 years obviously does not prove that I don't need a voice teacher. Sounds like a stupid distinction. But then, where the IRS is concerned, why should that surprise me?

Genie


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: hesperis
Date: 18 May 02 - 02:21 AM

Andrés, middle C is the one below the staff. My easy range is the G below that to the C above it, the C on the staff. I can sing a couple of full tones above and below that somewhat easily. The alto range is classified as singing two octaves - G below middle C to the G just above the staff. I can do F to F of two octaves if I'm in good voice and it's not allergy season.

Basically, if I go into the head voice much at all my voice begins to crack and die. I can pull the head voice down a tone or two to the G above middle C (the G on the staff), and that works fine.

The conductors liked my high voice because it was "pure" and not "chesty", and because they had heard me as a child with a natural soprano. It sounds screechy to me. However they were both pretty obsessed with high voices and "pure" notes. (One even sang as a tenor or countertenor all the time even though he knew he was a natural baritone, which I didn't find out for a couple of years. The other wanted to be a countertenor but didn't have a good falsetto and was stuck singing his natural baritone.) Everyone else loves the "richness" of my easy range, but I never went to a voice teacher.

When I was thirteen/fourteen my range really changed, I forgot how to sing many songs because I simply could not sing them where I was used to putting the notes. I transferred some laboriously by singing high, which hurt my throat, and then immediately translating to the lower range. It didn't change like a man's with cracking and going all over the place, it simply hurt to sing one day, and I found out within a couple of weeks that I could sing much lower than I was used to. Then it took a couple of years to settle where exactly the range was, it still varies sometimes depending on what I eat, but now it's only over a semitone or tone rather than a couple of notes. I can't even scream high anymore.

A couple of years after that, before I lost the love of singing, I was singing a deep alto part in one song. It was the end of the concert, we'd combined youth choirs and it was about 40-60 people. The other choir's conductor asked for more volume because it was the finale. We added more volume. He asked for more volume again. I added more, some people couldn't add more. That kept going for a while, he was really trying to get a major dramatic crescendo out of us... eventually, I was the only one who could add more volume, and the conductor winked at me and asked for more, so I gave it. I sang FFFF on the G below middle C, it was an incredible experience, sound just pouring out like a liquid stream, and SO EASY!

I hope someday to get back to that easiness in singing, and to recover those high A's. It'll take a bit because my lungs aren't that great anymore, and I was told to be quieter so often that it is hard for me to relax and open up the voice now. But I will... I just need to live in a place where people don't get upset at "noise". *g*


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Cappuccino
Date: 18 May 02 - 02:43 AM

I'm really glad to see all this. I've wondered for years why I seemed to have two voices (both lousy) and assumed it was just something physically wrong.

What a relief. Amazing what you learn in this place...

- Ian B


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Escamillo
Date: 18 May 02 - 03:59 AM

Now I see, Hesperis. For me (used to the tenor choral notation) middle C was in the staff, but never mind, let's assume that you are referring to the soprano staff where your maximum range is low F in the third line below, to high F in the staff. It's somewhat lower than an alto but beyond the tenor high limits indeed. I imagine a warm deep voice which, if able to reach high volumes, would be invaluable in choirs and as soloist, that's why people admire the "richness" of it.

It is possible that your voice is exceptional, but the fact that your conductors preferred your high range, tells me that there is a better and more natural quality up in the scale. However, folk, blues and pop do not necessarily claim for classically classified voices, but for classically trained voices. Once they have been developed in full, free from bad habits and enriched at the maximum, then those voices can be used in any tessiture that doesn't harm. For an example, Barbara Streissand has an extension of only one octave and a half, she does never compromise her voice beyond that, but she's a wonderful singer in my opinion. Moreover, pop music can be transposed two tones or more and nobody will sue you for doing it.

But beware of the habits ! Singing too low may damage your cords as well as singing too high or too openly.

Again, we enjoy these conversations very much, but the word is that of the teachers. Do that best investment for your voice, go to a classical teacher and don't worry about becoming an opera singer. (Or will we see you in the role of the gypsy in Il Trovatore and people start to talk about a new Marilyn Horne ??)

Un abrazo - Andrés (Amy, Alice: some comments ?)

IanB, you may find lots of information in "threads on the singing voice" but if you prefer to post your comments right here, we will try to answer.


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Subject: RE: Help: Problem with head voice
From: Alice
Date: 18 May 02 - 11:15 AM

Hesperis, puberty changes the voice for both females and males, so what you experienced is normal. Many teachers will not take a child as a voice student until they have gone through the puberty changes, and I think there is good reason for that decision. Charlotte Church, for example, was pushed too far with her voice, too young, in my opinion, and now she sounds like she is losing it. She has lots of tension - her lower jaw shaking up and down when she sings. I hope some day you can get private lessons with a good voice teacher. An affordable way to start would be to contact my teacher by email at the address I posted above.

Amy, thanks for joining the forum. Threads on singing technique have been cropping up over the years. There's a collection I linked together in one thread. Regarding the teacher/coach label, I have used my teacher as a coach when I needed her guidance before specific performances, but I agree, not all coaches are teachers.


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