When I first heard the term chest voice as a voice major in college, I had no idea what people were talking about.
I thought it has something to do with a voice that has a lot of chest resonance, which is somewhat true.
To be honest, the terms chest voice and head voice are actually very ambiguous.
Different people associate different voice qualities to the terms.
If a singer gets too bogged down with “am I singing chest voice?” or “am I singing head voice?”, that can actually cause a lot of problems for the singer when singing?
However, since the term Chest Voice is used so often in the singing world, I will define the term as clearly to you as possible.
The Voice Produced from the Chest?
First of all, the voice is never produced from the chest. It’s impossible.
If you were to tell a typical vocal scientist or an ENT doctor about “chest voice,” most of them would have no idea what you’re talking about.
Any qualified vocal scientist would tell you that the voice originates at the vocal fold level.
The term “Chest Voice” really comes from the sensational perception of the voice on the singer’s side, which refers to the type of voice that brings a huge resonance in the chest cavity.
When to Use the Chest Voice?
To put it in plain language, you use it when you speak. Both male and female pop singers use it most of the time when they sing.
You don’t hear it most of the time with classical female singers unless they occasionally go really low in a few rare notes in their songs.
You use it to sing pop, musical theater, rock, and almost all of the styles of contemporary music.
For female singers that are classically trained, it is rather difficult for them to “naturally” tap into their chest voice without training since they sing in their head voice most of the time.
How to Find Chest Voice?
If a singer or student is having a hard time finding chest voice, I would tell them to speak the lyrics of a song first.
Don’t sing it, because they normally go to the head voice sensation, which is what they’re use to, when they go into singing mode.
Speak the words first a couple of times, then try to “speak it” on the melody.
Think of singing as sustained speech, which is a typical Speech level singing concept, and go from there. Speaking is the quickest way for the singer to experience chest voice, and slowly sneak the feeling into the song while they “sing.”
The Benefit of Singing Chest Voice
Typically, singing chest voice means singing with more vocal cord closure, which would give you more power and vocal intensity.
Does that mean if you sing in head voice, you will have no power? No. That’s not what I mean, you can be really powerful when you are singing in the upper register.
However, a lot of female singers who only sing in head voice do tend to be a little weaker in volume and power in the lower register because of loose vocal cord closure.
If you are struggling with power and weak tone while singing, a healthy application of the chest voice will help you build vocal intensity even when you are in the head register, because technically, every note you sing is a mixture of chest voice and head voice called mixed voice.
Young singers who are just too airy and breathy must get more chest voice training, because it would help them feel more cord closure, which could build more power in their entire range. There’s an online singing program by Robert Lunte that does an excellent job in vocal strength building.
With this said, I would even encourage female classical singers to do the same, even if they rarely use it.
However, once you find it and have control over it, you should “forget” about the term or just put it in the back of your head, because in the end, we are looking for one connected voice through the entire range- low, middle, and high.
Whether you’re in chest or head voice is totally not important. Those are just temporary term used for training.
If you have any questions about the issue of chest voice or head voice, comment below and I’ll be happy to discuss with you.