Laryngeal and Acoustic Analysis of Chest and Head Registers Extended Across a Three-Octave Range: A Case Study


      Voice registers are assumed to be related to different laryngeal adjustments, but objective evidence has been insufficient. While chest register is usually associated with the lower pitch range, and head register with the higher pitch range, here we investigated a professional singer who claimed an ability to produce both these registers at every pitch, throughout her entire singing range. The singer performed separated phonations alternating between the two registers (further called chest-like and head-like) at all pitches from C3 (131 Hz) to C6 (1047 Hz). We monitored the vocal fold vibrations using high-speed video endoscopy and electroglottography. The microphone sound was recorded and used for blind listening tests performed by the three authors (insiders) and by six “naive” participants (outsiders). The outsiders correctly identified the registers in 64% of the cases, and the insiders in 89% of the cases. Objective analysis revealed larger closed quotient and vertical phase differences for the chest-like register within the lower range below G4 (<392 Hz), and also a larger closed quotient at the membranous glottis within the higher range above Bb4 (>466 Hz), but not between Ab4-A4 (415-440 Hz). The normalized amplitude quotient was consistently lower in the chest-like register throughout the entire range. The results indicate that that the singer employed subtle laryngeal control mechanisms for the chest-like and head-like phonations on top of the traditionally recognized low-pitched chest and high-pitched head register phenomena. Across all pitches, the chest-like register was produced with more rapid glottal closure that was usually, but not necessarily, accompanied also by stronger adduction of membranous glottis. These register changes were not always easily perceivable by listeners, however.

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