Musical terms

I was listening to Demi Lovato’s Confident and after a few times, I am ready to say that’s it’s a pretty good album. With how my preferences don’t lean easily toward pure pop, this is high praise, indeed! One of the songs is about her relationship with her father, so I went over to Wikipedia to see if it is autobiographical1. While there, I learned a few new words.

The first is whistle register. The performer who is most famous for the whistle register’s use is Mariah Carrey. You know that really high squeal she sometimes does? That’s the whistle register. Wikipedia describes it this way:

The whistle register (also called the flageolet or flute register or whistle tone) is the highest register of the human voice, lying above the modal register and falsetto register. This register has a specific physiological production that is different from the other registers, and is so called because the timbre of the notes that are produced from this register is similar to that of a whistle.2

And note that when one considers a singer’s range, the whistle register is not included.

The whistle register took me to Mariah Carrey’s Wikipedia entry where she is referenced as having a “melismatic” style. What’s that you ask?

Melisma, plural melismata, in music, is the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession. Music sung in this style is referred to as melismatic, as opposed to syllabic, in which each syllable of text is matched to a single note.3

You’ll hear this the most often in R&B music. It’s always sounded to me that the singer is showing off or simply trying too hard. I’ve never cared for this singing technique, and now I know what it’s called!


  1. It is.
  2. Whistle register,” Wikipedia, retrieved March 7, 2016.
  3. Melisma,” Wikipedia, retrieved March 7, 2016.

Album cover © 2015 Hollywood Records

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