Terms Related to Singing and Mariachi Style


Alto:  lowest pitched female singing voice

Aphonia: No voice; loss of voice

Attack:  beginning of the vocal tone


Baritione:  a male voice having a lighter tonal quality than a bass and extending a few notes higher.

Bass:  the lowest pitched male voice.

Belting:  a style of singing that uses an adjustment producing heavy tones through the vocal range.

Blend: 1. the combination of voices in group singing so that individual performers are indistinguishable. 2. smooth transitions between the registers of the singing voice.

Break: a sudden shift in vocal registration, a crack in the voice.

Breath support: Efficient and appropriate use of the breath stream for phonation.


Chest register/tone/voice:  adjustment that produces heavy tones sutable for loud singing and the lower range of the voice.

Clavicular breathing: inhaling by means of the muscles which normally move the shoulders; does not provide adequate control over exhalation.

Counter-tenor: a male singer who sings at the same pitch as an alto.


Depressed larynx: adjustment produced by dropping the jaw and pressing it against the larynx used to artificially deepen the voice.

Diaphragmatic breathing: technique of breath support in whic the muscles of the lower back abdomen are consciously engaged in conjunction with the lowering of the diaphragm.

Dynamics: variations in amplitude

Dysphonia: abnormal voice; a disorder of phonation, hoarseness.


Falsetto: the highest register of the voice; the lightest register.

Focused: a singing tone that is acoustically efficient.

Frequency range: the distance between one's highest and lowest frequency; pitch range.

Full voice:  highly resonant singing at maximum volume and capacity.


Head register/tone/voice: adjustment producing light, flute-like tones, conducive to soft and high singing.

Hoarseness: dysphonia.


Laryngitis: inflammation of the larynx.

Larynx: the voice box, the glottis, the vocal apparatus.


Marking: rehearsing without using full voice.

Mezzo soprano: a voice slightly lower than a soprano, with a darker quality.

Mixed registration/tone/voice: vocal adjustments having qualities of both light and heavy register.


Nodule: a small knot. See also vocal nodule.


Open throat: condition considered desirable for resonance.

Organic voice disorder: a disorder that is not functional; one that is caused by and abnormality of the organ, congenital, inflammatory, traumatic, or neoplastic.

Overtone: harmonic partial higher than the fundamental frequency which contributes to the resonant quality or timbre of sound.


Phonation: 1. physiological process whereby the energy of moving air in the vocal tract is transformed into acoustic energy within the larynx. 2. production of voiced sound by means of vocal fold vibration.

Pitch range: 1. distance between one's highest and lowest pitches; frequency range.

Placement: technique of singing guided by sensations of vibrations in the face, behind the teeth, in the nose, etc. i.e. "forward placement."

Polyp: a protruding growth from a mucous membrane.


Register: a series of tones that are produced by similar mechanical gestures of vocal fold vibration , glottal and pharyngeal shape, and related air pressure, with resulting similar tone qualities.

Resonance: intensification of sound by sympathetic vibration resulting in overtones.

Rich: tone containing many harmonic partials.


Scoop: undesirable singing habit of beginning a note beneath, then sliding up to the desired pitch.

Soprano: the highest pitched female voice.

Stoccato: each note separate, detached by a brief silence.


Tenor: highest pitched of the male voices.

Throaty: characterized by too much pharyngeal resonance and/or excessive pharyngeal tension.

Trauma: a wound or injury.

Trill: a form of vocal ornamentation in which there is a rapid alternation between two notes, usually a step or half-step.


Vibrato: a pulsating characteristic of tone due to regular, barely perceptible rapid fluctuations in pitch, timbre, and/or intensity.

Vocal fatigue: deterioration of the vocal quality die to prolonged use, may be the result of vocal misuse or abuse or may be indicative of a pathological condition.

Vocal cord: vocal fold

Vocal abuse: mistreatment usually by overuse of the vocal folds without regard for the consequences.

Vocal misuse: incorrect use of pitch, volume, breath support or rate which may occur singly or in combination.

Vocal nodules: bilaterally occurring thickenings at the junction of the anterior and middle thirds of the vocal folds, resulting from vocal misuse or abuse.

Vocal conservation: techniques used to preserve or improve vocal function.


Wobble: excessive vibrato.


Yodeling: singing characterized by obvious shifts in registration.


Reference:  Center for Voice Disorders of Wake Forest University (see reference page for complete listing.)


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