• Yelling vs. Screaming in Operatic and Rock Singing

    Lisa Popeil – lisa@popeil.com

    14431 Ventura Blvd #200
    Sherman Oaks, CA 91423


    Popular version of paper 2aMU4

    Presented Tuesday morning, May 24, 2016


    There exist a number of ways the human vocal folds can vibrate which create unique sounds used in singing.  The two most common vibrational patterns of the vocal folds are commonly called “chest voice” and “head voice”, with chest voice sounding like speaking or yelling and head voice sounding more flute-like or like screaming on high pitches.  In the operatic singing tradition, men sing primarily in chest voice while women sing primarily in their head voice.  However, in rock singing, men often emit high screams using their head voice while female rock singers use almost exclusively their chest voice for high notes.

    Vocal fold vibrational pattern differences are only a part of the story though, since the shaping of the throat, mouth and nose (the vocal tract) play a large part in the perception of the final sound.  That means that head voice can be made to “sound” like chest voice on high screams using vocal tract shaping and only the most experienced listener can determine if the vocal register used was chest or head voice.

    Using spectrographic analysis, differences and similarities between operatic and rock singers can be seen.  One similarity between the two is the heightened output of a resonance commonly called “ring”.  This resonance, when amplified by vocal tract shaping, creates a piercing sound that’s perceived by the listener as extremely loud. The amplified ring harmonics can be seen in the 3,000 Hz band in both the male opera sample and in rock singing samples:



  • MALE OPERA – HIGH B (B4…494 Hz)       CHEST VOICE

    Figure 1 


  • MALE ROCK – HIGH E (E5…659 Hz)       CHEST VOICE
    Popeil 2

       Figure 2                                                                 


  • MALE ROCK – HIGH G (G5…784 Hz)    HEAD VOICE
    Popeil 3

    Figure 3




    Though each of these three male singers exhibit a unique frequency signature and whether singing in chest or head voice, each singer is using the amplified ring strategy in the 3,000Hz range amplify their sound and create excitement.


Share This