Quick Look at ANATS Primal Sound Presentation // Dale Cox

On September 16 – 18th 2016 the ANATS (Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing) Queensland Chapter hosted the weekend symposium “The Power of Emotion: Engaging Primal Sound in Contemporary Singing Styles.” 

The symposium included a live stroboscopy and presentations by Dane Chalfin and Mark De-Lisser.

Presenter Dane Chalfin uses a model of Primal Sound pedagogy to teach his vocalists in the recording and teaching studios to produce high quality professional CCM sounds. This report summarizes the information he presented. 


Dane Chalfin is a CCM voice coach working in music theatre, television, and the music industry, and is the Principal Lecturer in Performance and Artistry and Associate Professor at Leeds College of Music. His previous work was as the Voice Rehabilitation Coach at Wythenshawe Hospital Voice Clinic. He was also the President of the British Voice Association (2015 – 2016). 

During his work at Wythenshawe Hospital Voice Clinic, Dane scoped over 350 CCM vocalists and observed the laryngeal functions of various modes of vocal production. He has applied primal voice theory as taught by Janice Chapman (in her book Singing and Teaching Singing: A Holistic Approach to Classical Voice and via her masterclasses) to his observations of these stroboscopies. Chalfin’s theory is that by accessing these primal sounds the singer sets up the larynx and vocal tract to produce contemporary sounds quickly and easily. Whilst Chapman moves on from the initial primal sound production to transform the voice into a more classical resonance, Chalfin noticed that by simply accessing these sounds singers were able to make contemporary voice qualities with no further laryngeal manipulation required. After analysing all the stroboscopies, Chalfin reduced his initial ideas from twelve basic laryngeal positions to four.

The Four Positions 

[Explanation of Terms: During the weekend, the terms M1 and M2 were used, M1 being a description of what is commonly known as chest register, modal, or heavy mechanism, M2 for head register, loft or light mechanism. Also, twang was described as a constriction occurring in the middle constrictors just above the larynx which gives a 2000 – 4000 HZ boost to the voice and is used in CCM belt. The presenter said it is thought to assist the cricothyroid muscle as the vocal folds lengthen to assist with volume. It may also help to stabilise the arytenoids from behind the larynx in the very top of the range of female voice.]


This was explained as being M1 or M2. It has a breathy sound, with a limited range, but is available on all vowel sounds. It is used at pp – mp and only usually on a microphone. There is no vowel modification in Sigh.  


Whisper was described as being M2, clear and light, neutral and twangy. It can be throughout the whole vocal range and across all vowels. It can range in decibels from ppp – mf. There is no vowel modification in whimper. The sound has a clear tone, light and thin sound. An example of this sound given was Colm Wilkinson singing the lyrics “God on High” in “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables. Another example was Dionne Warwick singing “Walk on By”. 


Whinge was described as M1 at all times. It was a plaintive, held “crying” sound, described as neutral, twangy and available across a wide vocal range. It is available in volumes from mp – mf and is similar in sound to a child having a tantrum. Internally the vowels required shifting as the pitch increased, oo moving to u, ee moving to ih. Whinge sounds have shorter, thicker vocal folds and there was evidence of some narrowing of the pharynx resulting in increased twang production. Chalfin explained American audiences would understand this sound more as crying. 


Yell was described as M1, clear and intense, with no cry in the sound. It is twangier than Whinge, and ranges from mf – f, but never ff for vocal health. It has a limited range (average male to Ab4 / A4, tenors to C5). It has limited vowels as the pitch ascends (eh, uh, ah). An example of this sound was Whitney Houston singing “Didn’t We Almost Have it All.” 

Dale’s Takeaways

To me, sigh sounded like a breathy chest, head or mixed voice. Whimper sounded like clear, head register, Whinge sounded like mix, and yell sounded like belt. I have found that this teaching model has been somewhat useful in the studio when teaching students of all ages and capacities. The most useful term, in my experience, has been using whinge as an access point for a mixed voice production, and although my students often laugh at the terminology, they could easily access the sounds we were trying to make. 

More Information

If you’d like to attend a presentation by Dane Chalfin to learn more about these concepts, check his calendar here.

If you’d like to attend a future symposium or conference related to CCM singing and pedagogy, check the CVR calendar for events all over the world.

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