Laryngeal Vibratory Mechanisms: The Notion of Vocal Register Revisited


      This study, focused on the laryngeal source level, introduces the concept of laryngeal vibratory mechanism. Human phonation is characterized by the use of four laryngeal mechanisms, labeled M0–M3, as evidenced by the electroglottographic (EGG) study of the transition phenomena between mechanisms with a population of men and women, trained and untrained singers. Macroscopic and local descriptions of the EGG signal are analyzed during the production of glissandos and held notes with different mechanisms. The transition from one mechanism to another of higher rank is characterized by a jump in frequency, a reduction of EGG amplitude, and a change in the shape of the derivative of the EGG (which may correspond to a reduction of the vibratory mass). These characteristics are used to identify a transition between two mechanisms, in complement with acoustic spectrographic analyses. The pitches of transitions between the two main mechanisms M1 and M2 and the range of the frequency-overlap region are described in detail. The notion of vocal register is revisited in the light of these concepts of laryngeal mechanism. The literature on vocal registers is reviewed, and it is shown that the confusion often cited with respect to this notion may be related to the heterogeneity of the approaches and methods used to describe the phenomena and to the multiplicity of descriptors. Therefore, the terminology of the registers is organized depending on their relation to the four laryngeal vibratory mechanisms.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment


      Subscribe to Journal of Voice
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Garcia M.
        Mémoire sur la voix humaine présenté à l'Académie des Sciences en 1840.
        2nd ed. Imprimerie d'E. Duverger, Paris1847
        • Behnke E.
        The Mechanism of the Human Voice.
        12th ed. J. Curwen & Sons, Warwick Lane, London1880
        • Gay T.
        • Strome M.
        • Hirose H.
        • Sawashima M.
        Electromyography of the intrinsic laryngeal muscles during phonation.
        Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 1972; 81: 401-409
        • Hirano M.
        The Role of the Layer Structure of the Vocal Fold in Register Control.
        University of Jyvaskyla, Vox Humana1982 (50–62)
        • Kitzing P.
        Photo- and electroglottographical recording of the laryngeal vibratory pattern during different registers.
        Folia Phoniatr. 1982; 34: 234-241
        • Hollien H.
        On vocal registers.
        J Phon. 1974; 2: 125-143
        • Colton R.H.
        Vocal intensity in the modal and falsetto registers.
        Folia Phoniatr. 1973; 25: 62-70
        • Van den Berg J.W.
        • Vennard W.
        • Burger D.
        • Shervanian C.C.
        Voice production: the vibrating larynx.
        Instructional Film. University of Groningen, The Netherlands1960
        • McGlone R.E.
        • Brown W.S.
        Identification of the “shift” between vocal registers.
        J Acoust Soc Am. 1969; 46: 1033-1036
        • Titze I.R.
        A framework for the study of vocal registers.
        J Voice. 1988; 2: 183-194
        • Svec J.G.
        • Schutte H.K.
        • Miller D.G.
        On pitch jumps between chest and falsetto registers in voice: data from living and excised human larynges.
        J Acoust Soc Am. 1999; 106: 1523-1531
      1. Miller DG. Registers in singing: empirical and systematic studies in the theory of the singing voice [PhD thesis]. Groningen: University of Groningen; 2000.

        • Large J.W.
        Acoustic study of register equalization in singing.
        Folia Phoniatr. 1973; 25: 39-61
      2. Lecluse FLE. Elektroglottografie [thesis]. Utrecht, Rotterdam: Drukkerij Elinkwijk; 1977.

        • Colton R.H.
        Spectral characteristics of the modal and falsetto registers.
        Folia Phoniatr. 1972; 24: 337-344
        • Hirano M.
        • Vennard W.
        • Ohala J.
        Regulation of register, pitch and intensity of voice. An electromyographic investigation of laryngeal intrinsic muscles.
        Folia Phoniatr. 1970; 22: 1-20
        • Large J.
        • Iwata S.
        • Von Leden H.
        The primary female register transition in singing. Aerodynamic study.
        Folia Phoniatr. 1970; 22: 385-396
        • Blomgren M.
        • Chen Y.
        • Ng M.L.
        • Gilbert H.R.
        Acoustic, aerodynamic, physiologic, and perceptual properties of modal and vocal fry registers.
        J Acoust Soc Am. 1998; 103: 2649-2658
        • Fabre P.
        Un procédé électrique percutané d'inscription de l'accolement glottique au cours de la phonation: glottographie de haute fréquence.
        Bull Acad Natl Med. 1957; : 66-69
        • Childers D.G.
        • Krishnamurthy A.K.
        A critical review of electroglottography.
        Crit Rev Biomed Eng. 1985; 12: 131-161
      3. Henrich N. Etude de la source glottique en voix parlée et chantée: modélisation et estimation, mesures acoustiques et électroglottographiques, perception [Thèse de Doctorat]. Paris: Université Paris, 6; 2001.

        • Henrich N.
        • d'Alessandro C.
        • Castellengo M.
        • Doval B.
        On the use of the derivative of electroglottographic signals for characterization of nonpathological phonation.
        J Acoust Soc Am. 2004; 115: 1321-1332
      4. Roubeau B. Mécanismes vibratoires laryngés et contrôle neuro-musculaire de la fréquence fondamentale [PhD thesis]. Orsay: Université Paris-Orsay; 1993.

        • Roubeau B.
        • Chevrie-Muller C.
        • Arabia-Guidet C.
        Electroglottographic study of the changes of voice registers.
        Folia Phoniatr. 1987; 39: 280-289
        • Roubeau B.
        • Chevrie-Muller C.
        • Arabia C.
        Control of laryngeal vibration in register change.
        in: Gauffin J. Hammarberg B. Vocal Fold Physiology. Acoustic, Perceptual, and Physiological Aspects of Voice Mechanisms. Singular Publishing Group, Inc., San Diego, USA1991
        • Roubeau B.
        • Castellengo M.
        • Bodin P.
        • Ragot M.
        Phonétogramme par mécanisme laryngé.
        Folia Phoniatr Logop. 2004; 56: 321-333
        • Henrich N.
        • d'Alessandro C.
        • Castellengo M.
        • Doval B.
        Glottal open quotient in singing: measurements and correlation with laryngeal mechanisms, vocal intensity, and fundamental frequency.
        J Acoust Soc Am. 2005; 117: 1417-1430
        • Vilkman E.
        • Alku P.
        • Laukkanen A.M.
        Vocal-fold collision mass as a differentiator between registers in the low-pitch range.
        J Voice. 1995; 9: 66-73
        • Miller D.G.
        • Svec J.G.
        • Schutte H.K.
        Measurement of characteristic leap interval between chest and falsetto registers.
        J Voice. 2002; 16: 8-19
        • Hirano M.
        Vocal mechanisms in singing: laryngological and phoniatric aspects.
        J Voice. 1988; 2: 51-69
        • Van Deinse J.B.
        Folia Phoniatr. 1981; 33: 37-50
        • Castellengo M.
        Continuité, rupture, ornementation, ou les bons usages de la transition entre deux modes d'émission vocale.
        Cahiers de musiques traditionnelles. 1991; 4: 155-165
        • Miller D.G.
        • Schutte H.K.
        Physical definition of the flageolet register.
        J Voice. 1993; 7: 206-212
        • Hollien H.
        • Girard G.T.
        • Coleman R.F.
        Vocal fold vibratory patterns of pulse register phonation.
        Folia Phoniatr. 1977; 29: 200-205
        • Hollien H.
        • Brown Jr., W.S.
        • Hollien K.
        Vocal fold length associated with modal, falsetto and varying intensity phonations.
        Folia Phoniatr. 1971; 23: 66-78
        • McGlone R.E.
        • Shipp T.
        Some physiologic correlates of vocal-fry phonation.
        J Speech Hear Res. 1971; 14: 769-775
      5. Henrich N, Roubeau B, Castellengo M. On the use of electroglottography for characterisation of the laryngeal mechanisms. Presented at: Stockholm Music Acoustics Conference; 2003; Stockholm, Sweden; 2003.

        • Whitehead R.L.
        • Metz D.E.
        • Whitehead B.H.
        Vibratory patterns of the vocal folds during pulse register phonation.
        J Acoust Soc Am. 1984; 75: 1293-1297
        • Castellengo M.
        Manuel Garcia Jr, a clear-sighted observer of human voice production.
        Logoped Phoniatr Vocol. 2005; 30: 163-170
        • Paschke D.V.A.
        Complete Treatise on the Art of Singing: Part One (Translation of Garcia, 1847).
        Da Capo Press, New York1984 (Translation complemented by Fourcin A, personal communication, 2007)
        • Henrich N.
        Mirroring the voice from Garcia to the present day: some insights into singing voice registers.
        Logoped Phoniatr Vocol. 2006; 31: 3-14
        • Müller J.
        Physiologie du système nerveux ou recherches et expériences sur les diverses classes d'appareils nerveux, les mouvements, la voix, la parole, les sens et les facultés intellectuelles.
        chez Baillère, Paris1840 (Deux tomes; traduit de l'allemand sur la 3rd ed. par A. Jourdan)
        • Garcia M.
        Observations on the human voice.
        in: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. The Royal Society, London1855: 399-410
        • Garcia M.
        Observations physiologiques sur la voix humaine.
        Asselin, Paris1861
        • Battaille Ch.A.
        Nouvelles recherches sur la phonation.
        Académie des Sciences, V. Masson, Paris1861
        • Husson R.
        • Djian A.
        Tomographie et phonation.
        J Radiol Electrol. 1855; 33: 127-135
        • Large J.
        • Iwata S.
        • Von Leden H.
        The male operatic head register versus falsetto.
        Folia Phoniatr. 1972; 24: 19-29
        • Large J.W.
        Towards an integrated physiologic-acoustic theory of vocal registers.
        NATS Bull. 1972; 29: 18-40
        • Titze I.R.
        Principles of Voice Production.
        Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey1994
      6. Castellengo M, Chuberre B, Henrich N. Is voix mixte, the vocal technique used to smoothe the transition across the two main laryngeal mechanisms, an independent mechanism? In: ISMA, Nara, Japan, 2004.

        • Murry T.
        • Brown W.S.
        Regulation of vocal intensity during vocal fry phonation.
        J Acoust Soc Am. 1971; 49: 1905-1907