Professional opera tenors' vocal tract configurations in registers

Matthias Echternach*, Johan Sundberg, Michael Markl, Bernhard Richter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Objective: Tenor singers may reach their top pitch range either by shifting from modal to falsetto register or by using their so-called 'voix mixte'. Material and Methods: In this study, dynamic real-time MRI of 8 frames per second was used to analyze the vocal tract profile in 10 professional opera tenors, who sang an ascending scale from C4 (262 Hz) to A4 (440 Hz) on the vowel /a/. The scale included their register transition and the singers applied both register techniques in different takes. Results: Modal to falsetto register changes were associated with only minor vocal tract modifications, including elevation and tilting of the larynx and a lifted tongue dorsum. Transitions to voix mixte, by contrast, were associated with major vocal tract modifications. Under these conditions, the subjects widened their pharynges, their lip and jaw openings, and increased their jaw protrusion. These modifications were stronger in more 'heavy' tenors than in more 'light' tenors. The acoustic consequences of these articulatory changes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-287
Number of pages10
JournalFolia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Articulation
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Register
  • Voice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing
  • LPN and LVN


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