Updated: Aug 17, 2022
What is Chest Voice? Why does it matter and how does that help with singing? This part of your voice is so important to develop because if you can strengthen it and know how to use it, you can belt and mix. It can also help to make your higher notes stronger. I like to think that the chest voice is the foundation of a tall building. You can't sing higher if you don't have solid support from the bottom.
Let's talk about what it is, how it works, and what you can do to feel it so that you can develop your chest voice to sing more songs that require this type of mechanism.
But first, let’s define what a vocal register is.
You have low, middle, and upper registers. Those are split up into sections called vocal breaks. When we are talking about chest voice we are referring to your low register, where you sing lower notes.
So what is chest voice?
Chest voice is the lowest register of the voice in singing or speaking that causes vibrations in your chest area.
Chest voice is used to access these lower notes in a song. It’s where your speaking range is at, but on pitches. When you start to go higher, you’ll pass something called a vocal break or the passaggio, which means that is where your chest voice ends and begins the head voice. Usually, the end of your chest voice range is an octave above where your chest voice starts. That’s how you know you are in your lower register and how much chest voice can be used before it starts to feel like you need to flip into the higher register. The higher you go, the less chest voice is being used and then we start to blend into the head voice.
Chest voice is a function of the thyroarytenoid muscle (TA), which shortens and loosens the vocal cords, tightening up so that your voice decreases in pitch. In other words, by engaging this muscle, your vocal cords can thicken and it changes the dynamic frequency with how they vibrate. When this happens, it causes a deeper darker tone. The vocal folds in this lower register are also more relaxed, the folds come in more firmly causing more resistance as air passes through. That’s why sometimes when you sing in chest voice, it feels stronger and sounds louder.
What does singing in chest voice sound like?
Tone quality will sound:
Deeper, Darker, Warmer
How do you feel it?
You can feel the vibrations from the sound waves around in the chest area, which is why it's called the chest voice.
Everyone has a chest voice. The chest register range begins differently for everyone and depends on a person’s particular voice. Understand that singing lower notes may feel differently for you than for someone else. That is why it's good to work with a voice teacher who can tell where your entire vocal range starts and ends so that you are given proper vocal exercises in the range you are most comfortable with.
Chest Range for Different Vocal Types
Baritone starts around A2-A3
Tenor starts around C3-C4
Alto starts around F3-F4
Mezzo starts around A3-A4
Soprano starts around C4-C5
Time for a RECAP
How do you know if you are using chest voice?
All you have to do is listen and feel. Now you know:
It’s the strongest and loudest part of your range
It vibrates in the chest area
It’s where you can sing lower notes
It sounds darker, deeper, and warmer
How Do You Improve Chest Voice?
Play around with where your comfortable speaking range is at, to begin with, if you don't know what it is yet, and slowly experiment with vocal exercises and warm-ups to help you develop it. Work on developing the muscle for endurance and sustaining notes so that once you are able to sing a low note, you can also hold out a note, which is what you will encounter in songs. Overall, exercise the muscle more by singing more often and it should develop and strengthen over time.
I hope that helped you understand what chest voice is. If you need some vocal warm-ups for chest voice I do have some videos on my Youtube channel specifically for the chest voice, so make sure to check that out.
Sign up to get access to my 3 Days of free voice lessons. When you sign up, you'll get an email with a video of me for 3 days, teaching you how to sing (just the basics) so that you can get started on your singing journey. Do not just do warm up videos thinking that is how to improve singing. Warm ups are just to warm up. It is not a way to develop a skill. Take the time to learn some basic vocal knowledge and then return for more tips and exercises.
Keep practicing and you'll get better and better. The next thing you want to try once you have your chest voice become stronger is belting!