What are the chest voice and head voice?
Singers use distinct parts of the voice when singing. Depending on where the notes they are singing are positioned on their range.
They will use what is called their chest voice, or in other words create heavier darker notes using their larynx. The chest voice is the voice produced lower down towards the chest as in speaking, it’s the most relaxed. Baritones and basses produce a lot of their voice down there.
More resonant lighter notes are produced more through the soft palette and resonate through the head. Tenors use the head voice more , although most men are able to produce a falsetto sound which is the basis of the resonant sound of the head voice. Breaks You will hear most singers break from each part of the voice. That is the quality of tone which change from moving from the chest voice to the head voice. The skill is producing a sound which has all the tone and power from bottom to top. The bridge from chest to head voice is called –the passagio.
This is the bridge made up of notes at the top end of the chest voice until it moves into the head voice. It will vary from singer to singer and their voice type. Una Furtiva Lagrima by Donizetti starts on the F in the passagio and placing of this note and creating a round, strong tone is quite difficult. Developing a good , reliable passagio is the aim of every singer, particularly as it moves into the head voice and those higher notes.
A teacher will gradually work a student so that their range increases bit by bit, my teacher used to have me really gripping the Gs and Abs forcing me to sing on the voice, that is using the muscles in the larynx as opposed to using the soft palette and creating an alternative lighter falsetto sound. This is achieved by exercises based around scales and runs and singing repertoire, for example heavier roles like Caravadossi from Tosca. The more practice and working out will strengthen the larynx until tone quality is equal through the range of the voice. In fact somewhat depressingly this can take years. The great singers have been working their voices for a long time.
The mixed voice
The mixed voice saves us wearing ourselves out by singing on the voice(larynx) all the time. Mixing the head and the chest voice creates power, tone and avoids us getting worn out. However it can take a bit of time to learn how to blend these two sounds together. Singing teachers will get the student to hit the note with the head voice, finding the note with the resonance and then bringing in and filling out the sound with the larynx. Practising this slowly will help. Choose a note at the top end of the passagio and repeat finding the note and gradually bring in support it with the note created in the larynx. There should be a feeling of singing in the mask of the face, a kind of vibration and resonance of the nasal area.