As discussed in a previous post, there are points in the vocal range when the muscular mechanism which operates the vocal cords changes while the resonance sensations in the body shift. This is where most people experience a break, or a sudden shift in vocal quality. The biggest and most prominent break point for most people is the first bridge, which is the transition from out of the chest voice. The first step in beginning to smooth out this transition is understanding that at this first bridge a mixing must occur. The singer must find a place that is not pure falsetto, and not pure chest voice. We call this the middle voice or the mix.
As we have described, the larynx must stay down in a relaxed speech-level posture, and the vocal folds must maintain a balance between cord adduction (closure) and air flow. Although what actually happens physiologically is different from what I am about to describe, the following model tends to be a good one for singers who are developing their mix and learning to balance their first bridge.
In the chest voice, it can feel it’s as if the vocal folds are stretching longer in order to rise in pitch, much like when a guitarist uses a tuning peg to raise the pitch on the string of a guitar. As the singer rises up to the top of their chest voice, they have three different options, only one of which is desirable.
1. They can continue to stretch the vocal folds beyond what is healthy, which causes too large of a vibrating mass, resulting in the rising of the larynx and the sound to “splat” or “spread” out of the mouth. The resulting sound is strained. It feels strained as well.
2. They can let go of most of the adduction of the vocal folds in order to sing on a smaller vibrating mass using only the upper edges of the cords. This is called falsetto. It sounds very airy with no carrying power and usually is accompanied by a very obvious break. Falsetto cannot blend with the rest of the voice.
3. They can keep the cords stretched, and keep the adduction muscles active thus bringing the folds gently together, while at the same time “shortening the vibrating length of the folds. This can be likened to a guitarist fretting up the fret board.
The third option is not what happens actually to the cords, but it is a model that has worked very well for many years to allow singers to find and maintain their mix. The only desirable option for the singer to move from chest voice into the mix. This feeling of a “shortened cord condition” results in an ability for the singer to stay at a relaxed speech level posture using a comfortable balance of cord closure and air flow. There is also an accompanying response of a “split resonance.” Some resonance continues to come out of the mouth as in chest voice, but some resonance begins to travel up behind the soft palate into the head.
Finding the mix is important for singers of all styles. Over time the mix can be built into a very solid and full sound. The mix is versatile. It can be used to sound like an extension of the chest voice (i.e. a belt), or like a downward extension of the head voice. Either way, the mix offers an amazing opportunity for the singer to move through their voice with no apparent breaks of any kind.
This blog is not owned or operated by Speech-Level-Singing International, it is owned and operated privately by Guy Babusek. The views expressed herein are strictly his own.