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What are Vocal Modes?

acoustic mode singing vowels vocal modes Jun 20, 2017

Vocal mode pedagogic ideas are based on categorizing certain elements of the voice into groups so as to aid in the teaching and learning of singing ideas. Here at TVS we are a vocal mode methodology and the only program to distinguish between two kinds of vocal modes, physical vocal modes and acoustic vocal modes.

Physical Vocal Modes

These are eight unique physiological configurations in which the larynx, along with the muscles in and around the voice, can configure into to produce a particular sound color or a particular acoustic effect. Although useful for developing technique, vocal modes also serve as vehicles for singers to understand the vocal mechanism. This is because these classifications help singers understand the different configurations the larynx can adopt. Here at TVS we have 8 basic physical vocal modes that have distinct characteristics relative to each other. These are:

  • Speech mode
  • Sob
  • Falsetto
  • Belting
  • Twang
  • Distortion
  • Quack
  • Opera


Acoustic Modes

That being said, there’s another type of modes that is equally as important to a singer but that still isn’t given as much spotlight as the physical vocal modes. These modes are called acoustic modes. They follow the same principle in terms of classification, but acoustic modes are families or groups of vowels that share resonant and acoustic resonant energy. Furthermore, because of this similar energy, these acoustic modes also have similar sound color characteristics.

The physical vocal modes and acoustic modes are very useful ways for a singer to develop their understanding of vowels. This is because although some singing vowels are quite intuitive, some others are a bit more exotic and can be tricky to understand. It is important to remember that the entire process of good singing begins with the acoustics. As such, if a singer visualizes the proper singing vowels of a phrase (before phonating), the result is going to be successful.

Singing Vowel Families

As stated before, having a good understanding of singing vowels cannot be undermined and should be a top priority for anyone pursuing singing seriously. The TVS program helps with this goal by breaking singing vowels into the following groups:

Edging Vowels:

The vowels in this group are characterized by a forward resonance on the palate as well as for engaging more compression relative to other vowel families. This results in the sound being brighter, more aggressive, and more forward in comparison to the other vowel groups (this sound is often times referred to as “metallic”).

Neutral Vowels:

The vowels in this group tend to reflect resonance in the center part of the palate. In other words, these vowels don’t sit as deep as curving vowels but also don’t have the forwardness of the edging vowels. The sound color for this vowel family tends to reflect a middle, soft palate positioning.

Curbing Vowels:

The vowels in this group tend to sit low and behind the head. This description is quite literal in terms of feeling the sound, as it truly does feel low and behind the head if you were to try and place the sound. These vowels are characterized by good larynx dampening, warmness, and a soulful or jazzy tone.


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