Picture a house

Realise that within your one house there are different rooms, and to get from room to room we have to go through the door. Your voice is no different. We have one voice… ONE voice. Your voice IS your house, but within this one voice there are many different ‘rooms’ (Bridges or Passagio or mixes) for you to go through in order to get from the bottom to the top. Picture this: you’re standing in your hallway; you want to go through to the living room with a big couch. Do you continually run against the brick wall in the hope you’ll bulldoze it down? Or do you manoeuvre the couch early enough so that you align it in the right angle in order to get through the door?

Take a moment to liken this to your voice. Your voice is your house and within your 1 voice there are different sections (rooms). Starting with the main 2 we have chest voice and head voice. Chest is at the bottom and head voice at the top. In between these two ‘rooms’ is another ‘room’… your MIDDLE! As in your ‘mix’…ture: literally a blend of the two, your chest voice and head voice. Think of porridge… Too many oats and you’ll get stodgy porridge. Too much milk and it will spill everywhere – get the balance right and you can scoop it on your spoon, without spilling, move it round the bowl without sticking and it tastes good!!! Especially when you add your own flavour. Get the balance right and you have porridge that works!!

Too many oats and you’ll get stodgy porridge. Too much milk and it will spill everywhere…

Within this context, your voice is no different. Get the balance right, discover your mix, and you’ll have a voice that works! A voice that is flexible enough to handle riffs, strong enough to handle the high notes whilst being stylistically versatile and individual. Why? Because you are mixing through to each room effortlessly. You are singing technically correct and your voice has no breaks, it just sounds balanced and even right from the Lowest note right through to the highest note…One complete, even and balanced instrument (voice), no glitches! For a singer… technique is the greatest gift, it opens the door to the freedom to sing stylistically and expressively.

It buys you freedom, the ability to make stylistic choices, adding your own ‘flavour’ rather than singing something in a certain way because you have no other choice but to.

The ability to ‘mix’ is an empowering skill, it is also something that you can learn! It is natural and can become inherent to you because it agrees with the way the body naturally wants to function. We all pick up bad habits as we live through life, so the only way to overcome bad habits is to replace it with good habits!

 


 

THE ‘MIX’-TURE –  A more technical overview

The “mix” is described as a blending of the chest and head voice. Mixing gives the student the ability to make transitions from the heavier parts of the voice to the lighter parts of the voice without abrupt changes in vocal quality, by “releasing” through the bridges of the voice.

The MIX or the releasing process is accomplished physiologically by transference from one muscle group to another, and a gradual reduction in the vibrating mass of the vocal folds. This means that as the singer ascends in pitch, less and less of the vocal cords are used to produce sound. At the highest pitches, very little cord mass is used; concurrently, less air is required for the cords to function.

A correctly produced mix ensures a smooth, uninterrupted quality of sound as the singer ascends in pitch. Some singers are born with a natural propensity to achieve this, others have to learn how to do this, but as a general rule, everyone can work to achieve this with the right amount of time, understanding and consistent practice.

The exercises I use cause the student to experience this gradual release by creating a new neuromuscular response in the vocal mechanism and brain of the student. The new patterns that are established create a voice that is free from muscular tension and interference from unhelpful extrinsic muscles.

HEAD REGISTER: To air or not to air… that is the question.

When the singer is in the head register the vocal cords vibrate with less mass. Consequently, singers learn that using too much air pressure is counterproductive to good vocalisation; for optimum function, the vocal cords require less air as the pitch ascends.

When too much air is used (by default as opposed to stylistic choice), trauma can occur, resulting in edema or swelling of the vocal cords.

Ultimately our goal as vocal instructors is to teach you good, healthy techniques so that you are able to competently and confidently express yourself, your vocal style and your vocal/musical ideas!

It’s important to realise that these terms : Head voice and chest voice are not accurate vocal science descriptions. The truth is that there is no such thing as head voice and chest voice and even mix, these terms only make reference to the sympathetic sensations that we feel when we sing throughout the vocal range, we only have “a voice” and that’s that…BUT… because we DO feel these sympathetic sensations, the terms head voice, chest voice and mix have been widely accepted as effective ways to communicate what is actually a very complex mechanism, so that singers can easily make sense of everything that they feel when singing.

Joshua Alamu

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