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Secrets to the mixed voice (Pt. 2): Why anyone can develop their mix.

Updated: Nov 14, 2023


Frank Sinatra, Professional Singer in the recording studio

If you've ever felt like you DON'T have or need a mixed voice for some reason... maybe you trained classically or maybe feel that the mix is reserved for contestants on "The Voice"... whatever the reason this post is for you!




First of all... no.... I'm not saying that the amazing Frank Sinatra wasn't sure where his mix was.


I will say that in the current musical climate there is more of a demand and even expectation for an edgy, powerful, belty sound than back in the golden age of standards. And even though in the past we've always had our "Tony Bennetts" that had more powerful belty full voices, it wasn't the norm as much as it is today.


This is why I teach the mixed voice!

As a pro level singer, you will most likely be called upon to use different sounds, styles, and sounds on the stage and studio. Knowing who you are as an artist is a good thing, but so is having enough diversity in your vocals to be able to challenge yourself, try new things, and yes... get hired for all kinds of different gigs.


I found my mix AFTER I studied as a classical soprano. One style or technique has not replaced the other. But having experienced the diversity it takes, the modification needed in my technique, and also the frustrations of learning how to strengthen my own mix makes me grateful as a vocal coach that I can teach this useful vocal tool to the singers who come through my studio!


If you want more info on what a mix feels like and how to find it if you haven't yet, check out my recent post: Identify your mixed voice, gain more control and range.

I mentioned there that recent studies are questioning whether there is a physiological mixed register.

But here's what I say...

Regardless of whether there is a legitimate separate mix register or not, most singers FEEL a mix!



Developing control in the mixed register

Many of the singers that I coach are pro-level and have already been performing, using their mixed register.

Sometimes they don't know that that is what it is.

Sometimes they've developed bad habits, ie: pulling a bit too much belty chest voice and causing strain.

Sometimes they only use their head-voice mix (more on that below) and not their more powerful mix with chest voice blended in.

Here's the good news....

There are actual muscles involved which means that you can create

MUSCLE MEMORY!

Put your 'music-geek' hat on here because I'm going to make you think!!


The Thyroarytenoid Muscle (CT) - the chest voice or thickening muscle and the Cricothyroid Muscle (TA) - the head voice and/or stretcher/tilter muscle.

When you are using mostly CT muscle (primarily low notes or speaking/chest range), your vocal folds are thick and short.

When you are using mostly TA muscle (primarily high notes or head voice), your vocal folds are stretched thin and tall.

Here's the kicker... Your TA muscle is also responsible for giving your larynx a tilt and keeping it in balance.

If you try to go too high with primarily the CT muscle without allowing influence from the TA muscle, (ie: the mix), then the larynx is either pushed way too high or 'muscled' by other throat muscles that have nothing to do with singing causing strain, fatigue, and possible damage. Not to mention the fact that your pure head voice could do nothing but potentially get weaker and breathier.


And the longer you do this it really becomes a bad habit... bad muscle memory.

Remember the good news?

ANYone can create good muscle memory and put your larynx back into a balanced, non-strained place with discovery, practice, and repetition.... because there is actual muscle involved.


So I always teach developing a healthy mix. A healthy way to get a bit more power or edge up on your higher notes whether it's from the head voice side or the chest voice side.

Remember when I mentioned Tony Bennett at the top here? He sang practically until the day he passed away... and he was 96. This gives testimony to having a healthy technique!


That brings me to this...


Not just for singers on 'the Voice' or broadway?

Absolutely not.

Think of an Irish tenor singing "oh Danny boy" ...

that's a lighter floaty side of his mix. Listen to how his high notes have a hint of edge. He doesn't go to full falsetto. If he did there would be an unconnected airy quality. Start around :53



Think of Pavoratti singing Nesum Dorma ...

Can you hear the mixing quality he has on his high notes? He definitely has more full chest mixed in on his high range. To say he could give a master class on legit-style mixing is an understatement. You can scrub to the end or just enjoy his iconic performance all the way through.



Think of 2023 Grammy award winning Samara Joy...

She's amazing. Such a beautiful blend of a classic jazz style with some contemporary techniqes and phrasing. Crazy mixing everywhere! Start at :31 for a great lick!



Once you develop the mix it really can work like a dial giving you either more on the head side or more on the chest side the more you work on it and balance it out with your natural head voice and chest voice.


Levels of the mix

Students have asked me if they have different mixes.

Well... Yes and no.

Yes in that sometimes it feels like you have different mixes because the 'weight' of the voice changes as you ascend and descend through that middle register.

When I'm working with my students I refer to vocal weight a lot. As you leave your full chest voice range and approach your mix you can feel the weight of your voice get lighter. NOT, however the energy and NOT the resonance or buzz/twang you feel in your mask. (Check out my recent post "Identify your mixed voice, gain more control and range for more on that!)


As you go through your mix range and approach your head mix, you should feel even more weight drop off as you go higher until you are fully into your head voice with practically no weight, but keeping the same forward resonance. So it makes sense that the closer you get to your head voice your mix could start to feel like a different mixed register: a more 'heady' mix.


Even though you can think of them, and feel them in a way as different registers those middle registers are all part of the mix. Ultimately you want them seamlessly shifting.


And the way you get that is ... yup... practice.


Here's something to try:

To engage the more weighty chest-mix...

Try sliding from your low notes to your high notes on a "hey" - like you're yelling across the street.


To engage a lighter head-mix...

Slide down from high to low notes on a "waah" - yes like a kid's whine!

  • How well can you smooth out the break?

  • How much can you pull the edge of your chest voice up through the middle?

  • Try slowing it down through the middle or 'break', what do you notice and feel?

  • If you have a big break, try connecting it with a vocal fry or a squeaky door sound. (if you don't know what a vocal fry is... do yourself a favor and watch this (and excuse the french!)

  • Try it while giving your soft palate a little stretch over the break.

  • Make sure you keep the same resonance, buzz, or twang feeling in the eye and sinus area.

(Reference my previous post, "Identify your mixed voice, gain more control and range" for some tips on what the mixed voice should FEEL like.)


The moment I actually discovered my mix was in my car... doing slides like this. No joke.

As I was also working hard with my vocal coach, I kept doing slides, making new discoveries and feeling new sensations until it started to lock.



I want to help you develop your mix

Here's 3 ways how...

  1. Dip your toe in... check out the link on the side bar to sign up and get the free mini-warm up to try out how I work and how my warm - ups work!

  2. Ready to try out the waters... I have full warm-up routines that are by voice part, with full instructions or without, and adaptable for what you need. Check out some of the testimonials and see how they are FAR BETTER than those random warm-ups you've been using from youtube!

  3. Jump in both feet... Stop putting off your dreams and goals and go for serious growth. My course will develop you as if you were right in my studio but on your own time and in one full digital course. This course is proven, effective, convenient, and affordable. If you want to know the how, the why, the what, and the when of vocal exercises... this is for you. If you want to be able to fix your vocal problems while on the gig... this is for you. If you want to propel yourself forward as a pro-level singer, this is for you.


Check out what my current and previous clients have said about all of my offers... https://www.kwsvocalstudio.com/testimonials


If you are serious about your musical career and journey and

you want real control over your mixed vocal register to give you more range, control, and ease in your singing...


Let me know in the comments what songs you are working on and how this has helped!


Happy Practicing!

Image by wikiimages from pixabay

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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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