What Is Chest Voice And How Is It Produced?

Chest voice is one of the vocal registers. In singing the term is used to describe

  • the low part of the vocal area
  • singer’s sensations of where the sound resonates
  • the vibratory pattern of the vocal folds, mechanism 1 (M1)
  • modal register (strong, speech-like voice)

Definitions that base on singer’s aural perception and kinesthetic perception of the resonation are not as accurate as a definition that is based on the vibratory pattern of the vocal folds. Hence all the different aspects are discussed as separate topics in this article.

1. Chest Register As Vocal Area

When talking about chest voice (chest register, speaking register, modal register) what is meant is the lower vocal area for women and the lower and middle vocal areas for men. The description is based on singer’s kinesthetic perception of where the chest voice resonates. Most commonly the chest voice area is considered to be below d4-f4 for both women and men.

The chest voice area can also be defined from the point of view of true vocal fold vibratory pattern which will be discussed in chapter 3.

2. Chest Voice Is Felt In The Chest

The term chest voice describes how and where the notes below 330 Hz (e4) are felt.

Therefore the chest voice

  • is felt in the chest as resonation
  • sounds loud
  • is typically used in the speaking area of the voice

Still, resonation in the chest can be felt as well as speech-like sound can be heard above the “chest voice range”, as well. Then the topic is about using the term chest voice as a description of voice quality, which will be discussed in chapter 4.

3. Chest Voice From The Perspective Of The Vocal Fold Vibratory Pattern

The vibration of the vocal folds makes the air vibrate in the glottis (the area between the true vocal folds) creating a sound. The faster the vibration of the vocal folds, the higher the frequency or pitch. In turn, the slower the vibration of the vocal folds, the lower the frequency or pitch. Very simply put; changes in the speed of the vibration is a consequence of the vocal folds’ stretching and thinning (upward) and contracting and thickening (downward).

In the lower area of the voice, or chest voice area, the vocal folds don’t really need to stretch or thin yet. The responsibility in pitch production in that area is mainly on the vocalis muscle (thyroarytenoid m.). Higher, approximately above d4-f4 the activity of the cricothyroid muscle is also needed in pitch production.

Vocal fold animated

4. Chest Voice As A Definition Of The Sound

Chest voice belongs both to the traditions of classical and contemporary singing. Female contemporary singers use their chest voices more frequently on the average compared to female classical singers. Men use their chest voices more frequently in classical singing, in addition to contemporary singing.

Challenges With Definitions

As stated before, the term chest voice means different things in different circumstances. In order to be clear keeping the context in mind is essential; are we talking about chest voice area or chest voice sound. Despite of many definitions, the term chest voice has been and is still being used in voice training with good results.