Everything you need to know about Head and Chest Voice

What is head voice and chest voice? The difference between head and chest voice is what muscles are involved. Singing more in chest voice will not damage your voice. In “head voice”, the cricothyroid muscles are dominant, making the cords longer and, much like a rubber band stretched further, they vibrate faster. As long as the larynx is kept open and low, it is healthy to sing in “chest voice” or “head voice”. Thyroarytenoid (TA) muscles are the ones that make the cords shorter for lower notes and are the ones most engaged in speech. Ideally, these are engaged to one degree or another no matter how high you are singing. Falsetto has no TA engagement, which is why it often sounds weak. Sufficient pharyngeal resonance and tension reduction, buy keeping the throat open, pillars of fauces open, and soft palate up, will enable all of the sounds to carry with ease.

So, there really is only one voice, but people use the term “head” and “chest” to refer to which muscles are dominant in making the sound. Some people feel higher notes in the head and lower frequencies in the chest, thus the terminology.

Vocal problems tend to develop with tension and dehydration, resulting in swelling of the cords because they are slapping together too much or some other factors like stress hormones being constantly elevated, illness, or something else like continuing to sing with vocal fatigue. Go ahead and sing with good technique in both “head” and “chest” voice and you will have a long, healthy career.

By Paul Kolecki
Paul the Voice Coach, Los Angeles

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