Type of Registers of the Human Voice

Each vocal register consists of several smaller voice registers. These registers are the basis for vocal music and provide useful guides for composers that wish to write within the register for each broad vocal type: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone and Bass. Each register creates a slightly different timbre, depending on the person singing. Composers need to know these registers to write effectively for the voice, and vocalists need to know them to understand where the voice changes timbre. The change in timbre is referred to as the passagi and usually occurs over the course of a major second.

Vocal Fry

This is the lowest register of the voice and is not very conducive to singing. In the vocal fry register, the vocal cords have to be completely relaxed, and the timbre produced is one that is uneven and choppy. The vocal fry register produces a glottal sound that makes it difficult to identify specific pitches. Instructors avoid teaching about the vocal fry register in vocal studies, since it is a harmful register to sing in and does not produce a high-quality tone. The vocal cords are forced to contract and compress, resulting in a unhealthy tension that can cause damage, according to Singwise.com.

Chest Voice

The chest voice is typically where most men speak, while women will speak in chest voice and the middle voice. The chest voice has a dark and rich texture that is useful for mellow and casual singing. The actual register will change depending on the singer and the voice classification, but a vocalist may learn where this register lies in her voice through practice.

Middle Register

The middle register is larger for women than it is for men. Women typically have an octave that sounds in the middle register, while men only have about a fourth. In both sexes, the range is a mixture of the chest voice and the head voice qualities. The timbre is somewhat warmer, richer and brighter than the chest voice.


Falsetto is a register that is limited to men and allows them to reach the alto and, in some cases, soprano vocal register. The sound is similar to head voice, but uses a different vocal technique and limits the degree of dynamic contrast. It is a pale and thin sound that requires men to vibrate only the edges of the vocal cords. Men who sing falsetto obtain a full and clear tone akin to the sound of a child's voice, as it lacks substantial depth and density.

Head Voice

The head voice register is just above the middle register and overlaps with the falsetto range. Singers generally recognize this voice, since it creates a buzzing in the forehead from the vibrations of the higher pitches. This voice is more dynamic than the falsetto, and female singers prefer to use head voice when singing in the higher range.

Whistle Register

The whistle register is the highest register and only applies to women. It can be seen as the equivalent of the falsetto in men. This register is usually between C above the treble clef staff to the D approximately one octave higher. This register is extremely bright and capable of great penetration through most any ensemble. Professional vocalists can learn to sing in this register to make it sound like an extension to head voice.


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