Lah Demo, Head Voice vs. Falsetto, and Cheesy Opera Timbre

David9321David9321 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 16

Lah Exercise Demo

I have a few general questions:
1. The Lah Vowel
I speak Spanish so (hopefully) I'm not having problems pronouncing the Lah vowel, but I'm not sure what do with my jaw.
Should I use some muscles to stretch open my jaw for a brighter timbre (even if it means having a little tension), or should I just let my jaw relax open (even if the mouth isn’t as open as it could be)?
Any other pointers about how well I’m performing the exercise would be greatly appreciated! 


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    David9321David9321 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 16
    edited March 2015
    2. Head voice, Mix voice, and Chest voice vs. Falsetto

    I’m a little confused about all of this terminology and how it correlates to what is actually happening in the body.

    This is my current understanding:

    When we sing in "true voice," the true vocal folds come together and vibrate to produce pitches.
    When we sing in falsetto, the false vocal folds come together instead and vibrate.

    In either case, the tone or timbre of that pitch is shaped by the strength of the fundamental
    frequencies and how the overtones are filtered by how much sound is allowed through the
    larynx (lowering the larynx creates more space), oral cavity (shaping with the tongue and
    lips), and the nasal cavity.

    I'm assuming that the "true voice" is any case where the true folds are connecting, and terms
    like head, chest and mix voice only describe where the vibrations produced by the true
    folds primarily resonate. If that’s the case, then head voice is not the same as falsetto.

    When the voice cracks, it is because the true folds have failed to connect, and we find the
    path of least resistance by reconnecting with the false cords instead to produce that high note.

    If this is all true, then what exactly is the “knee” or “speed bump” that Ken talks about if it’s not the break that occurs when switching from using the true folds to the false folds?
    Also, how can I tell if I'm singing in falsetto or head voice? I want to make
    sure I am working my chest voice as much as possible during the exercises.
    Please let me know if I'm misunderstanding something, (don’t be afraid to use anatomical detail, it really helps ). 
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    David9321David9321 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 16
    edited March 2015

    3. Vowel Modifications and Opera Timbre


    I consider myself a low baritone or bass, and I've noticed that I can produced a silly,

    exaggerated, "opera-like" timbre when I really drop my larynx (unnaturally so) and open up my

    throat while singing a lower note (usually around C3). I've noticed that it's impossible to

    sing a higher note like G4 in the same manner. My larynx definitely has to come up and the

    timbre is considerably thinner. Is this what Ken means by "avoid pulling chest" or letting go

    of that "weight" when singing higher notes? If so, is this the purpose of vowel

    modifications? What exactly is happening at the anatomical level when we use vowel


    Also, am I doomed to that thinner sound when I sing higher notes?

    I would really love to develop the timbre of guys like Ivan Moody and Howard Jones. These guys regularly hit notes around a G4 (and occasionally even a high C) with such a full, open, "chest-y", sound; I’m worried I’ll only ever be able to do that within the E2-E3 range :(

    Ivan Moody


    Howard Jones (skip to 1:20)


    I greatly appreciate any feedback you guys could give me!

    (Sorry about the lengthy post!)

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    highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,359
    edited March 2015

    Hi, @Xiphos,

    Your Lah Video is marked private and will not play.

    The false folds are not used in head voice or falsetto, so that makes answering all of your follow-up questions regarding that just about impossible.

    The speed bump, or vocal break happens when changing from one set of muscles to another on the true vocal folds.  The false folds are not involved. 

    The difference between head voice and falsetto is that in falsetto, there is a space between the true folds.  They are held slightly apart in falsetto, and that causes an airy sound, due to the gap, or space between the vocal cords.  In non-falsetto head voice, the cords do not have an air space between them.  Instead, they are adducted together.

    As you ascend in pitch, you will need to reduce the amount of chest tone that you use.  That is called "shedding the weight".

    You can't take the full amount of tone that you use for very low notes up to the higher notes.  That much tone just wont "fit" up there.  You can, however, take some of that tone up, if you want.  Just not too much, or the note will splat.  Vowel modifications are a way to close down the vowels as they rise in pitch, to keep the splatting from happening.

    @Xiphos, please don't ask so many questions at one time.  Many of your questions are based upon misunderstandings that you have of how this all works, and you are getting way ahead of yourself.  Keeping things simple is a good idea.  Overcomplicating things is not a good idea.  I know you just want to know how everything works, but the purpose of the forums is to help you learn to sing, not to teach anatomy or to jump to conclusions from one topic to another.  We're going to try to keep things as simple and practical as possible. 

    You are not "doomed" to that thinner sound, but you will need to adjust and pare the sound down as your notes ascend.  It is possible to carry a certain amount of chest sound higher.  It will vary with the individual, and also with what style an individual wants to use.  There are limits to everything, and somewhere you will find the ideal balance for your own voice.

    If you have a number of questions beyond the amount of information that is provided in your lessons, you may need to book some time with Ken so that you can get as much special attention as you may need.

    All the Best!


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    David9321David9321 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 16

    (Note: I have fixed the link for the Lah video)

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    David9321David9321 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 16
    edited March 2015

    First of all, I want to thank you Bob for taking the time to answer my questions. I do apologize for asking so many at once; I originally had more but I answered many of them by searching through the forums. I’m aware that you are one of the few people (if not the only one) answering the majority of questions the users have on the forum, and I’m sure it must be exhausting, especially when many are likely covered in other forum discussions or answered within the lesson materials, so I tried my best to figure it out on my own.

    With that said, I don’t believe the questions I’ve asked are unreasonable. Arbitrary terms like “chest voice,” “mask,” and “register break” have been so hopelessly entrenched in vocal pedagogy, and yet on their own they do very little to explain precisely what is happening with voice. I think it’s important to understand the fundamental anatomy and physiology of the voice to maximize practice efficiency and avoid injury. Granted, you probably don’t need to know that the thyroid cartilage is anterior to the arytenoid and corniculate cartilages (unfortunately I had to know for my last exam haha), but you should at least know how the vocal folds produce sound, and perhaps the difference between the false and true folds, so you can truly visualize what is happening while you sing. I really don’t believe that would be overcomplicating things, but I apologize if these in-depth questions violated forum rule number 5.

    Thanks again for your help!

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    highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,359

    Hi @Xiphos,

    It's just much easier to be a little more thorough and focused when you ask one or two questions at a time.  Too many questions from one individual can also become problematic, when we are trying to serve a number of users here.

    When you ask a question and add to that "if that's true then... " and then add on question after intertwined question, it gets a little more difficult to give a thorough answer to each of many questions.  This is especially true if the premise to the original question that leads on to the list of questions is not true.  That layering of multiple questions, in itself, complicates otherwise simpler questions and compounds the difficulty in giving answers that are beneficial and comprehensible not only to you, but to others who use the forum as well.

    The false vocal folds only rattle.  They make the "cookie monster" sound. They are located above the true folds. They don't work at all like the true folds. 

    Falsetto is the sound like the Monty Python comedy players are using when they are dressed up in women's clothes and pretending to be women.  It's that hooty, airy, "fake" sound.

    Head voice is the sound of the voice above the vocal break (passagio) with cord closure, higher in pitch than chest voice. It does not have the chesty tone of chest voice.  In true head voice, the cords are held together, without the space between the cords that falsetto has.  It is a more timbral sound because it is not airy and hooty like falsetto is, simply because the cords are together, rather than being held apart with the airy sound.

    Head voice is the sound of artists like the Bee Gees in many of their 70's hits.  Many Beach Boys vocals have a lot of head voice.  It is high, and the tone is not as heavy as "full" voice, also known as chest voice.

    In chest voice, you use both the thyroid-arytenoid and the cricothyroid muscles down low.  The arytenoids only handle the cord tension used up to the vocal break, and then they are beyond their ability to regulate higher tension so they stop being the muscles that primarily control pitch. In head voice you are using only the cricothyroids, instead of both, as you are above the range the arytenoids can handle. 

    You may have needed to know about some of this particular information for your last exam, but you don't need it to learn to sing.  It's nice to know, but KTVA doesn't teach it because it's just ancillary information when it comes to being able to actually sing.  You don't need a laryngoscope to sing or to speak.  It's OK to be interested in this, but it is not a requirement for good singing. 

    We won't be having a lot of conversations where we have to speak in terms like anterior, posterior, superior, or inferior in order to learn to sing.  We will be a little more pragmatic here.

    With your knowledge of all of this musculature and terminology, it seems a little surprising that you would not know what component of the voice does what when singing.

    "Singing into the mask" is vocal terminology typical of allowing a portion of the air to pass through the velar port into the nasopharynx, and concentrating part of that sound until you can "feel" it in the front of the face: above the lips, within the cartilages of the nose, in the front teeth, in the sinuses...  It "rings" a bit or at least you can feel some vibrations there.  It's more of a feeling that translates into a component of the sound, rather than a mechanical explanation of muscles and processes.  Most vocal instructors just say "sing into the mask more" and allow the student to experiment until they discover that mechanism from within, based on that cue.  Mask can help to brighten the tone.  You just need a little mask, not a lot, but it is a helpful tool and is one component of good singing.

    On your Lah video, you should bring your tongue down a little lower into the base of your jaw.  Presently, it's partially blocking the back of your throat. Ken wants you to sing with an Open Throat.  Also, Open the Jaw a bit more, and smile, showing your upper teeth.  Raise your cheeks slightly.  Look at Ken's face in the volume one videos.  Yes, he is happy, but he's smiling to brighten the tone.  That will also promote singing into the mask.  Press down on your diaphragm a little bit more, especially as you get higher in pitch, but also in general.  That will help your tone to get a little better.  You'll hear it and feel it when you get it right.  The best way to describe it is to just push down a bit on your guts, on your insides.  Specifically, it's your diaphragm.

    Remember to keep your scale Lah.  After a while you start going "ah" instead of "Lah".  That will help you with consistency to use a single, light consonant (L) to push off each scale with. 

    It is not impossible to sing a G4 with a lowered larynx.  I do it anytime I want to.  But it's not a good idea to force the larynx.  We need to relax the larynx.  When it relaxes, we can let it be more neutral and have less tendency to rise.  A high larynx can be OK for certain sounds sometimes, but more often than not, will cause jamming of the cords within a larynx that has insufficient room to work properly.  It is common for a high larynx to be an unconscious habit, problematic for vocalists.

    You are definitely going into head voice in your Lah video by the time you get to G#4 or A4.  You are connecting without a speed bump.  That's good.  In order to sound more like Ivan Moody or Howard Jones, you will want to grow your chest voice up into that range. You do that by resisting the release into head voice and singing with a little more volume while you hold on to the chest voice feeling.  That is exactly what you said you want, and you learn it by doing Ken's exercises and resisting releasing into head voice.  It takes a long time and a ton of practice to stretch your chest voice.

    In your next video, please back away from the camera enough to allow your abdomen to also be seen, all the way to below your waist.  That way we can see more of what you are doing that you should or should not be doing with your body.   You should also remove the hat from your eyes.  You looked like you were about to fall over at one point.

    You will do fine.

    You're welcome for the help.


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    David9321David9321 Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 16

    Your responses are awesome Bob, this has been very helpful! :)
    Again, I apologize for asking too much at once. As much as I tried to condense and organize my post, I think I still got carried away.
    I’ll keep all the info you’ve given me in mind while I practice.
    Thanks again!

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