What Do I Do About The Break In My Voice?
Regardless of how much experience you have as a singer, chances are that you have at some point experienced a break in your voice when attempting to sing up a scale. You may have noticed that in this area of your voice, you either start to strain, or that you need to make a rapid adjustment and flip into what feels and sounds like a disconnected type of sound, often known as falsetto. Your voice quite possibly displays a difference in tonal quality between the bottom register of your voice, often called the chest voice, and that of the upper register of your voice, known commonly as head voice.
Perhaps you have had directors, coaches, producers or teachers attempt to “help” you by telling you to stay in so-called “full voice” rather than flip. This is understandable, since the sound of a disconnected head voice (falsetto) is not something that is usually desirable in performance. However, pulling your chest voice too high isn’t in fact a full voice, but a strained voice. This pulling your chest voice too high only causes vocal strain, and potential vocal damage over time.
Rather than pulling your chest voice, or disconnecting into falsetto, it is advantageous for you to find another way: to learn to mix. Mixing is coordinating your voice in such a way that you are neither disconnecting into pure falsetto nor pulling your chest voice. Mixing enables you to sing above your break area and into your head voice in a connected, full-voiced manner with no audible flips, breaks or cracks. Mixing gives you the ability to sing these higher pitches without straining or damaging your voice.
Mixing is a balancing act. From the singer’s perspective mixing can feel as though the heavier mechanism of the chest voice and the lighter mechanism of the head voice are working together, in symbiosis, so that the work load is shared. These two muscular systems are antagonistic and thus don’t naturally tend to coordinate very easily. Training these vocal mechanisms to work in tandem so that the break areas of the voice can be navigated seamlessly is often called registration. The two registers of the voice thus sound blended and like one voice from the bottom to the top.
Like other types of artistic and/or athletic training, it takes time and daily practice to find, build and maintain a solid mix. A good singing teacher will utilize specialized exercises to help establish and build your mix. The well trained ear and pedagogical understanding of your teacher is vital, especially earlier in your training.
Self-study has limited value to singers who are learning to mix, because there is no feedback nor is there any expertise in prescribing and administering the exercises that are most necessary for your individual vocal needs. Nor is there an expert present to correct you when you are singing the exercises incorrectly. Just arbitrarily singing exercises won’t do you much good in building your mix, and can actually cause you to develop undesired muscular habits that can be very difficult to retrain at a later date.
As you become more proficient in your ability to mix, you will notice that you will have a lot more vocal power with much less effort. In fact, you may even notice that you don’t know your own vocal strength! You may even feel as though you are barely giving much vocal effort at all when your director tells you “Woah! Not so much power, that’s too much voice!” You will be singing from the bottom of your range to the top with an even timbre and a wonderfully free yet powerful sound. People will think that you are just lucky to have such an amazing voice; but you will know the truth: that you worked hard for it!
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