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Vocal Pedagogy

Summer MM in Choral Conducting at Simpson College

Vocal Pedagogy in the Choral Setting 

Summer 2020

Vocal Pedagogy in the Choral Setting 

Required Text: 

Supporting Documents

Voice Science in a Nutshell

Laryngeal Mechanisms

     The voice can create two different varieties of productions depending on how thick it makes the vocal folds. The muscle that manages thickness runs along the vocal folds as its deepest layer. Heavy mechanism is thick and generally lower because the muscle that thickens also shortens the vocal folds. Light mechanism is thin and generally higher because the muscle is mostly uncontracted which allows the voice to be stretched easier by a different muscle.

      However qualities of both mechanisms can be mixed and the voice can be stretched and moderately thickened. This allows both mechanisms to be used over a large range with a large variety of dynamics in each. In general, a mix quality is preferred in both mechanisms.



      Raising the soft palate closes off the nasal port which prevents air from traveling through the nose. Lowering the soft palate allows air to move through the nose and resonate in the nasal passages adding a distinct quality to the resonance of the sound.


Vocal fold closure

       How hard to close the vocal folds affects the sound too. Pressing them hard together will restrict airflow and make the sound brighter or edgier. Leaving them more apart will allow more ample airflow and make the sound breathier and less bright. In general a balance is desired.


Vowel formation

       Vowels are formed by changing the tongue, lips, and jaw. These changes adjust the resonant qualities of the throat and result in patterns of the two lowest resonances in the throat that we perceive as vowels.


Overtone creation at source

        Overtones are created at the vocal folds during vibration. Low notes have many tightly spaced overtones and high pitches have fewer farther spaced overtones. These overtones are then resonated by the vowel resonances in the throat.


Vowel registers

        The interaction between the overtones created at the vocal folds and the resonances of the throat create what have traditionally been considered registers or passaggio transitions of the voice. We perceive this type of overtone-resonance register as a distinct quality of vowel color or timbre; basically, these are: 


3+: The open speech-like quality characteristic of men in their middle low range and women in their lowest speech-register notes.


2: the open holler-like timbre characteristic of male singing within the traditional passaggio zone and low chest voice singing for women (below first passaggio); 


1.5: the covered, turned or mixed timbre characteristic of male singing above the second passaggio and female singing in what is traditionally named the lower middle register (above first passaggio);


1: The hooty heady and sometimes full and boomy timbre characteristic of female singing in what is traditionally called the full head voice or upper middle. generally used around the second passaggio


.75: The flute like timbre characteristic of women singing above the treble staff called flute, head mix or flageolet


.5: The whistle like timbre characteristic of the highest female singing at high C and beyond

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