You’ve probably heard people referring to vocal colors. Have you ever wondered what that actually means?
1. Fundamental Pitch & Harmonics
When a pitch is sung, several frequencies ring at the same time, giving the sound vocal color and a unique timbre. The initial pitch is called fundamental frequency, all the other pitches are called overtones or harmonics.
Our ears hear all these pitches as one pitch, however the combination of the fundamental frequency and its harmonics give the note the brilliance and a full, rich sound.
2. Changing your own Vocal Colors
You can manipulate the sound and your vocal colors in two ways. By either increasing or decreasing the mass of vocal folds vibrating, meaning how much compression you have on your vocal folds. Or by changing your resonance space, e.g. moving your tongue, soft palate, jaw, cheeks etc.
3. Using different Vocal Colors
We often use adjectives such as bright, warm, brassy etc. to describe vocal colors and timbres. Depending on the mood of the song and the style of music, you can change your own vocal color. This doesn’t mean that you sound like someone else but that you show a different shade/color of your own voice. This enables you to connect even more to the song and use a wide spectrum of emotions.
4. Vocal Colors
Here are a few examples of vocal colors you can create from light to strong.
- Breathy Sound: A breathy sound has a hissing tone quality. You can hear the air rushing threw the vocal cords and they are not completely closed. In your higher register this would be your Falsetto sound. This vocal color is great for softer, shy, vulnerable passages of the song.
- Light Chest: This is a lighter sound in your lower range. The vocal folds are closed but there is relatively little mass of the vocal folds vibrating, resulting in a lighter and softer sound (not breathy).
- Light Mix: When you move into the middle range of your voice and you keep the same amount of tension on the vocal folds, you’ll be in your mix register (female E4 – Bb4 for chest mix and B4 – Eb5 for head mix, male B3 – Eb4 for chest mix and E4 – Bb4 for head mix), more about Vocal Registers. In a light mix, the vocal folds are closed and there’s less compression on the vocal folds compared to a strong mix.
- Head Voice: When you sing in head voice the vocal folds are closed and you usually sing in a higher part of your range. There is relatively little compression (less mass of vocal folds vibrating). The sound is comparable to the light chest sound but in a higher range.
- Strong Chest: A strong chest voice is characterized by closed vocal folds and more mass of the vocal folds vibrating, in your lower range. The sound is strong and very speech-like.
- Strong Mix: In a strong mix you have more mass of the vocal folds vibrating, resulting in a stronger sound, compared to light mix. You would sing a strong mix in your middle range. The sound will have a chest quality, resulting in a rich and resonant sound.
- Belt: A belt sounds a little bit like a ‘skilled yell’, even though you’re not really yelling if you’re belting properly. There is a great amount of mass of the vocal folds vibrating, like in a strong mix but the vowels are more open in a belt. The sound is very ringing, present and open with a chest quality of sound.
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