Singing Tips | The Difference Between Resonation and Sympathetic Vibration

Joe NaabSinging Tips

Today’s singing tip helps to clear up a confusing part of learning how to sing. Most voice coaches still rely entirely on the phrases, “chest voice” and “head voice”, even though we’ve known for 40 years that those labels aren’t describing what’s happening on a physiological level when we sing. This is not to say that these phrases are no longer useful.

Where this can become dangerous, especially for the beginning singing student, and especially for men, is that when we are told that we sing in a thing called “chest voice”, and that we can feel the sound resonating in our chest, our natural tendency when we sing and vocalize is to try to push those low notes down into our chest. This is the worst thing we can do.

ALL RESONATION HAPPENS ABOVE THE VOCAL FOLDS! There is no resonation in the chest. What you feel in the chest is called “sympathetic vibration”. It’s a sensation that results from the massive amount of sonic energy that we are sending into our heads that gets partially absorbed by bone and tissue. This absorbed sonic energy causes vibrations in our chest for lower frequency notes.

It is critical as a singer or voice actor to master the projection of all sound vertically into the resonator, our head, independent of pitch. Never attempt to direct sound into the chest. It will muddy up the sound and cause turbulence and tension in the mouth and throat.

You can conduct experiments, also known as “negative training”, by alternating between directing sound up into the head and trying to direct sound down into the chest. Listen to and feel the difference. You’ll find that the tone is much nice when you direct the sonic energy up into the head. There is less tension and less tension means more fun.