Vocal tract configurations in male alto register functions

Matthias Echternach*, Louisa Traser, Michael Markl, Bernhard Richter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Purpose: Professional male altos (countertenors) mostly use a register function, which is considered to be derived from falsetto. However, the sound produced differs in professional altos compared with the modal register or falsetto of untrained voices. The aim of this study was to analyze differences of the vocal tract shapes in male alto register functions. Material and Methods: Dynamic real-time magnetic resonance imaging of eight frames per second was used to analyze the vocal tract profile in seven professional male altos who sang on the vowel /a/, an ascending and descending scale from G3 (196 Hz) to E4 (330 Hz). The scale included their register transition from modal register to stage (counter) falsetto and naïve falsetto. Results: Register transitions from modal register to stage falsetto were associated with increased lip opening, jaw retraction, elevation and back positioning of the tongue, pharynx narrowing, uvula elevation, drop of larynx height, and tilting of the larynx. Differences between stage and naïve falsetto were found mostly with regard to lip opening and pharynx width. Conclusions: The differences between the vocal tract configurations might have an impact on the acoustic characteristics observed in professional male alto register functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)670-677
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Voice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Altos
  • Countertenors
  • Falsetto
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Register

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • LPN and LVN
  • Speech and Hearing


Dive into the research topics of 'Vocal tract configurations in male alto register functions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this