Vocalist.org archive

From:  Tako Oda <toda@m...>
Tako Oda <toda@m...>
Date:  Tue Dec 5, 2000  6:01 am

On Mon, 4 Dec 2000, Lloyd W. Hanson wrote:
> I must protest your use of the term full chest when speaking of tenors
> singing G4 and above in full voice.

Ah, yes, I knew you would not like this ;-)

And let me start out by saying I agree with everything you say. There is
no tenor who could sing an absolute chest high C for very long. I
understand that a tenor is actually making modifications to sing the
higher notes.

When I say "full chest" high C, I mean a connected, tenor head voice. Many
consider this an extension of chest voice because a skilled singer can
gradually migrate from one to the other. Of course it is not truly chest
voice. Any countertenor who has a root tenor voice can tell you, however,
that his upper voice is somehow distinct from either of these lower
voices. Brian Asawa calls it his falsetto. I don't know what David Daniels
calls it, but he has been quoted as saying it is completely different.

Whatever it is, it is not exactly falsetto (loose cords and incomplete
closure) in the strictest sense - something to which we both agree, I
think. There is a significant singer's formant, and a great deal of
dynamic control.

What I am suggesting is that there are two types of head voice, both
distinct from falsetto, in that there is tension in the cords and the
principle action of raising pitch is a lateral pulling. The tenor variety
has intrinsically more mass (allowing it to morph into the full chest
mechanism), accounting for the relatively complex spectrum. The
countertenor/soprano variety has less mass, giving a simpler, banded

I sincerely believe that true countertenors manage to maintain their
boyhood upper register... Prominent CTs such as Scholl and Deller have
stated that they did not replace their boyhood voice with some other
register, they simply maintained their ability to use their voices in the
original way. There was no "learning curve" as there is for tenors and
baritones. If this is true, then it is comparable to a female soprano's
ability to use her girlhood voice through puberty. In both cases, there is
a head voice that is qualitatively distinct from the connected head voice
that tenors use. I think we've seen enough spectographs to see that a
countertenor's and soprano's spectra in "head" have much more in common to
each other than to a tenor's chest or head voice.

Anyway, when I spoke of baroque tenors, I meant men who have such light
root voices that they have a choice of "tenor" head, "countertenor" head
or (to a limited extent) actual falsetto in the upper ranges - all of
which reconcile with the lower range reasonably well, depending on

Some tenors seem to have such good control that they may shift from tenor
and countertenor head voices with as much agility as they do shifting from
chest to tenor head voice. This is why they seem to have an extension to
F5 or so. There is no man who can maintain the diffuse spectrum of the
tenor chest voice up into this range - at some point, the cords must be
thinned to the point that the action is like that of a countertenor.

I've seen some photos where they show a D5 for a countertenor and haute
contre to actually be identical in mechanism. It is the notes leading up
to this point that are different, because the haute contre maintains some
of the weight of a tenor's chest voice and gradually lessens it going up
the scale. A typical countertenor, on the other hand, never incorporates
this kind of mass back into the cords, hence the light sound all the way

Tako Oda

On Mon, 4 Dec 2000, Lloyd W. Hanson wrote:
> I must protest your use of the term full chest when speaking of tenors
> singing G4 and above in full voice. All of the pictures of this kind of
> singing which is common in all opera from most of the bel canto and on
> indicate that the voice is not in chest configuration but rather in head
> configuration. The vocal folds are elongated and the cricothyroid is very
> active. This kind of head voice is more virile than a sotto voice or mezzo
> vocal head voice but it is still head voice. Any tenor who sings in this
> register in his chest voice will not last long. There are some notable
> tenors who have tried it. It is know as singing on the principle, not the
> interest.
> We have discussed this before on this list. Regardless of the stunning ring
> that is present when the tenor sings G4 and above and the fact that this
> ring is remindful of the quality of the tenor's middle range chest voice,
> it is really a well produced, strongly supported head voice.

  Replies Name/Email Yahoo! ID Date Size
7333 tongue problems Jennifer L. Fretwell   Tue  12/5/2000   2 KB
7335 Re: tongue problems thomas mark montgomery   Tue  12/5/2000   2 KB
7411 Re: tongue problems Jennifer L. Fretwell   Thu  12/7/2000   3 KB
7413 Re: tongue problems John Alexander Blyth   Thu  12/7/2000   4 KB
7424 Re: tongue problems Lloyd W. Hanson   Thu  12/7/2000   3 KB
7352 Re: tongue problems Lloyd W. Hanson   Tue  12/5/2000   3 KB
7349 Re: BAROQUE TENOR Lloyd W. Hanson   Tue  12/5/2000   3 KB
7351 Re: BAROQUE TENOR Tako Oda   Tue  12/5/2000   2 KB
7383 vocal registers: was: Re: BAROQUE TENOR Martti Savijoki   Wed  12/6/2000   3 KB