The following quotes are a continuation of the previous post which dealt a little with the chestiness of the passaggio.
Even when the vocal fold length decreases, it is still possible for some degree of stiffness to remain in the body of the folds.
(Titze, 1981, The NATS Bulletin)
The varying degrees of stiffness in tissues of the vocal folds, then, result from coordinating the groups of internal laryngeal muscles, all subconsciously controlled by the singer’s concept of vocal timbre and through acoustic responses (by what he hears).
(Miller – Training Tenor Voices, page 5)
Just thought I would pass this information on to you which clearly seems to buttress the ideas from my previous posts of variations in vocal fold length in the passaggio. Again, I would specify that I am not particularly interested in proving anything scientifically. It just interests me to understand that the passaggio can have a varying degree of vocal fold length and that active vocalis will in fact, NOT cause a loss of stiffness in the vocal folds within limits.
This information seems to correlate with certain concepts which contrast the traditional Italian school with modern approaches to tenor voice.
The idea that the passaggio should be “alleggerito” – lightened up, a change in timbre that allows the tuning of harmonics with velvety timbre, is achieved by nourishing a deep OO, among a few other things, which tends to lower or even tilt the larynx forward. This would seem to indicate the presence of longer vocal folds.
Modern tenors that sing with lots of chest tend to produce more buzz… I think relatively shorter and somewhat thicker vocal folds are sufficient to create the typical cloud of singer’s formant buzz typical of many modern tenors, with accompanying buzzing resonance extending upwards of 6-8 thousand hz., in contrast to the very specifically tuned singer’s formant of the longer posture.
The quotes seem to tell us that it is very much possible to have variations in fold length on a given pitch and that stiffness of the cord can present itself thanks to a combination of muscular actions.
Concluding, my ideas about WHY the singer with chestier passaggio produces less of a refined and tuned singer’s formant, and rather a more buzzy cloud of resonance, is not proven science, but rather hypothesizing.
What I know for sure is not the science, but rather the principal at hand. If you sing the passaggio too chesty, you will not be able to tune singer’s formant as exactly as you would with a balance leaning toward head register. There are specific exercises meant to aid in this quest, and very specific ways to tune harmonics correctly.
So the question then arises “where am I along this continuum? Do I sing too chesty in the passaggio? Is my resonance too chesty or is it tuned correctly?” I have in my mind the voice of a tenor I have worked with who has a very singificant “cry” in the middle voice but unstable in the passaggio and higher as he tries to keep that cry. In his case, the cry… the ring… is not based on a deep and firm OO position but rather is very chesty. Sometimes the “cry” can be misleading in this sense. It takes a very well trained ear to hear the difference between chesty resonance and refined resonance. Tenors like Pavarotti and Corelli have shifted our expectation very much toward the buzzier type cry sound; a very different sound compared to someone like Gigli, Lauri Volpi, Martinelli, Caruso, etc. Not judging one or the other… just pointing out a difference.