Balancing The Registers In Your Voice
Most every singer has noticed that when they sing in a lower part of their range their vocal quality has a similarity to the way they speak; yet as they move to higher and higher pitches there is either the tendency to begin to yell and strain, or to suddenly flip into an entirely different vocal mechanism that sounds very different from that which they were using in the lower part of their range.
There are two distinct muscular systems which are in operation while you are singing. The system that governs the lower and louder pitches is traditionally known as “chest voice.” The reason for this label is due to the vibrations that are often perceived in the singer’s body when singing using this mechanism: there is often a definite rumbling feeling in the sternum or “chest” area.
The system that governs the higher and softer pitches is traditionally known as “head voice.” This is due to the fact that the singer will very often encounter vibratory sensations in the skull, nasal and “head” areas of the body when employing this mechanism, especially at higher pitches.
One of the most common reasons people seek vocal training is so they can learn to coordinate these two systems which usually appear to be antagonistic to one another. The old school of Italian Singing took a very long time in balancing these registers so that there was ultimately a perfect coordination between them, resulting in a vocal production wherein these two registers appeared to be joined into one “full voice.”
As time went on and vocal styles changed from those requiring a purely balanced sound, other techniques developed. As a result, many ways of training the voice have left singers with a less than smoothly “mixed” sound in their voice. Some different ways of dealing with the registers in the voice are:
- Pulling the chest voice much higher than is healthy (resulting in an alarmingly common rate of vocal fold hemorrhages, nodules, and other vocal damage);
- Singing with an audible break, or yodel when moving from low pitches to high, making the voice sound like two separate and distinct voices;
- Singing in head voice alone, which makes the voice sound very lifeless and quiet especially in the lower pitches (this is more common in women singers. Some so-called “classical” methods of training will employ this method when training women singers);
- Using whiney, artificial sounds in order to simulate a mixed voice. This is often used in character singing in musical theater, as well as some gospel, R&B and Rock music. It is more desirable than pulling chest, however it is not a “finished” sound and many singers get stuck singing in this mode and have not been trained to move beyond it, and therefore are unable to sing in styles wherein this twangy sound is inappropriate.
When training your voice, it is desirable to learn to blend your registers in the traditional way, by using exercises and vocalises that slowly and steadily build coordination over time. This way your voice will always be ready for any pitch, word, dynamic and musical phrase and style that must be sung.
When singing in a balanced way such as this, you have at your disposal power, beauty, emotion and musicality, all within a very healthy practice of singing wherein your beautiful voice can last your whole life long.