In singing, the head voice and the chest voice. In writing too?

Singing voices are customarily divided into different registers: the head register, and the chest register depending on where the sound seems to be coming from. Thus, if a singer is singing in his or her head voice, the tone will resonate in the head. The chest voice resonates in the chest.

The easiest way to understand this may be to hop in the shower and sing. See what happens when you try to pitch your song from your head and then try to summon it from your chest. In addition, to feeling that the song is coming from different parts of your body, you should be making different sounds. Head voices for both women and men are considered light, bright singing tones that are higher in pitch. Chest voices are often associated with deep, warm, rich, thick sounds.

We wonder if writers don’t have head and chest voices. Some authors do seem to write off the tops of their heads. These are writers who find considerable material in observation of the world around them, whose minds seem to be always working. Jonathan Franzen (at least in his last book, THE CORRECTIONS) seems to be a writer who writes from his very intelligent head. So, one can imagine, did Jane Austin. They are great observers.

Writers with chest voices get deeper in the gut, and the emotional struggle taking place is palpable. When William Faulkner writes about road surfaces you get the sense the macadam is dripping with emotional significance.

This is not to say that head writers do not employ their emotions or chest writers aren’t thoughtful – or to say that one is better than the other. It is just an interesting analogy and when we apply it to our summer reading, we are sometimes surprised by the conclusions we reach. For instance, we would classify the author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE as a head writer. Although Elizabeth Gilbert is dealing with emotional experiences, she does it in an observational way. MR PEANUT, our favorite book of the summer, is constructed like a video game and full of film noir references. But this is a book that comes from the gut.

What kind of writer are you? It might be useful to know.[youtube=]