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Secrets to the mixed voice (Pt 3): Strengthen your mix for confident vocals.





3 tools for a dependable mixed voice.


"I don't know how I did it, but yesterday as I was cleaning my room and singing along to 'Mean Girls', I belted the high E!" --Ensley, Singer Songwriter

Does this sound familiar?

Have you ever hit a note perfectly and effortlessly one time and then on the next set felt like you were about to crack?

Do you feel like when you imitate someone else you can mix that C# but on your own you uncontrollably flip to head voice?


This quote is from one of my regular students who has a great voice. She typically stays in her low range singing country songs. Well lately she's had the opportunity to do some musical theater. She loves it, but finds herself 'out of her range'.


It's not. It's just out of her comfort zone. Probably only a whole step higher than where she normally sings. So we started working on it.


Every lesson, we repeat certain exercises meant to almost mindlessly strengthen the mix by focusing on 3 things....


  1. Resonate consistently

  2. Steady Airflow

  3. Thinner Vowel Shape


And here's why these work!

They all work together really, but if I had to break it down I'd say...

RESONANCE is the glue that helps bridge the gap between the chest and head voice registers.

The registers are controlled by 2 separate muscles (Thyroarytenoid and Cricothyroid) so you can't avoid the shift but using your resonators helps your sound stay consistent and prevents you from going to a breathy/airy sound in the head voice.

HOW?

When you fully resonate your vocal cords are FULLY vibrating together.

When you DON'T your cords are partially, vibrating together which can give you a breathy or airy sound and thus also creating a break in certain parts of your range.

The more you get used to fully resonating through the break, the more you will be able to manipulate the 2 registers or muscles to create more of a mixed voice between them.


When you In a way it also pulls your 2 seemingly different voices closer together so they sound like one voice.

(Lot's more about that but that's a simple version!)


  1. Resonate - When you resonate consistently your vocal chords are more steadily vibrating and you can assure that you are is full tone and not breathy. If we sing with any air being wasted and 'escaping' through the chords when we are in our middle range it will more easily engage head voice and/or falsetto. You can think of resonance as the 'edge' that can pull up through the middle ranges in order to glue it all together. When you have that resonance or edge all the way from the bottom or your chest voice to the top of your head voice, your sound will be more consistent rather than sounding like 2 separate voices.

TIP: There are a lot of exercises that focus on singing 'forward', 'in the mask', 'behind the eyes', and etc. But it's important to remember that our sound actually resonates in the vocal tract and not anywhere in your face or head. It's just where we feel the sensations and so that is why when you seemingly direct the sound this way, you are assured a more resonant sound. Just don't go so far in that direction that you sound 'nasaly'. You can check it by pinching your nose while you sing... if it stops or distorts the sound, you are literally singing through your nose.

  1. Airflow

  2. Thinner Vowel Shape - allows for some manipulation: Chest voice loves... The amazing Dr. Inge Titze explains it this way, " , but also will allow for you to have a natural lift in the soft palate, or as I like to say to my students 'space between your molars!'


If you practice keeping all of these things consistent all the way through your range and over your break, you can develop a mix because your voice should be free of tension. The chords will vibrate fully through the mix so you don't have to skip over the break, the chords will, like an accordion unfolding from thick to thin more evenly and smoothly... not jumping over the break. NOW, there is physiologically a whole heck of a lot more going on but I like to explain things to my pedagogical students in a way that is more just the way we feel it as singers rather than know it as pedagogists. BUT if you want to geek out a bit more on the whole thing (not a bad idea either!) then check out Dr. Ingo Titze's writings here.


Now... just know the 'what' is only part of the solution.

You have to create a new muscle memory while tearing down the old one.

This takes repetition for most singers.

You can absolutely have break through moments like my student while cleaning her room.

And either you take that as the starting point and work from there to make that note reliable by giving it memory.

OR

you work on the technique now and your break through moment will come... like my student!


She still doesn't know how she hit that high E in her mix, but she would have never been able to hit it before the work she's put in with the mix-specific exercises we've done over the past few months... creating new muscle memory and vocal habits. I know this because she's tried!


Here's what happened...

  1. The exercises and vocalizing in repetition have opened up or awakened that part of her range in a safe and healthy way.

  2. When she isn't trying to hard and singing from a place of freedom (aka not getting in her own way) she can now hit it and the new muscle memory engages!

  3. She may try again and unknowingly add tension because she is trying too hard and the old habits come center stage. This time she can't

  4. But every time she gets closer and as her old habits die, the new ones will take over.


What is her new muscle memory? What has she gained from her vocal work outs?

  • Consistent Resonance

  • steady Airflow

  • Natural Space

...the 3 tools essential for a consistent, reliable healthy mix!


Now...


give yourself grace... everyone grows at a different pace and in a different way.

Some of you are more analytical and thinking mechanically helps you get what you want vocally.

Some of you get to the point of thinking to much and block your new habits by trying to control too much.

Some of you are right in the middle or a combination.


It's important to know how you and your voice works, but more importantly...

it's important to start exercising, focusing on those 3 tools I mentioned, because no matter how you work, the proof of the discipline is in the vocal pudding!


I promise if you put in the work focusing on those 3 tools,

you will one day turn around and forget how it even felt strained before!

you will not have to lower your keys anymore.

you will be able to say yes to that next gig with confidence!


If you need some help and don't really know the best exercises that sharpen all 3 of these tools consistently, I can help. I have pro level warm ups that I do myself and with my studio and they are built to do the work FOR you! All you need to do is commit to the repetition. If you are ready to commit 15-30 minutes a day to to gain a new level of confidence (to gain control over your mix), check out these options: WARNING these are NOT your ordinary random youtube warm ups!


That's it for now! I hope after this 'Secrets to the mix' blog series has helped to uncover the mystery of the mix and encourages you to put up your phone, or close your computer and spend the next 10 or 15 minutes investing in your voice and music!


Happy Practicing!

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Hey! I'm Karen.
I am a vocal coach
and pro singer for Disney and the Los Angeles film and tv biz... and have been prepping singers for pro level singing for over 20 years.


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