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Mix singing is a key way to move smoothly through your vocal range. However, this skill is often misunderstood and tricky to develop.
In this episode, John discusses some of the common problems singers have when developing their mix and ways you can break through to a seamless voice.
In this episode, we’ll discuss the following:
- What mixed voice means
- The common problems singers have when developing their mix
- Ways to break through to a seamless voice
What is Mixed Voice?
Mixed voice drives singers crazy. It gets voice teachers in arguments and keeps them in business.
The mix is the area of the voice between your lower and upper register. It’s an area of natural instability and transition. For singers, you must learn to negotiate this transition to produce a good singing voice.
There are debates on where exactly it will change from voice to voice. For women, it usually starts around the G above middle C, or A flat above middle C and ends by about the D Five, the D. For men, that mixed voice will tend to start on the D or E flat above middle C and leaves that by the A flat above that, A flat 4.
Important Note: It can be a little different for each singer and the vowel you’re singing.
But essentially, two things are happening there.
1. A shifting muscle
Singing involves two important muscles – your TA or thyroid arytenoid muscles and CT or cricothyroid muscle.
- The TA is dominant vocal fold muscles that, when they contact, make the chord short. They are more engaged in the lower tone.
- The CT, on the other hand, are muscles that pull, stretch and thin the vocal folds, creating higher tones.
Through the mix area, you’re going from a dominant TA, or the muscles within the folds themselves, to a dominant CT, the muscles outside the vocal folds that stretch and thin.
2. A shift in resonance
Another thing that happens is you’re also going through a change in resonance, where the voice is the energies being boosted and the interaction of the sound wave with your resonators. In those handovers, you get into this instability.
Your lower resonance boost in your chest voice is more associated with the throat. As you ascend, it becomes a more mouth-dominating resonator.
The shifting muscle and the shift in resonance completely plays against the goal of smoothly going through this transition or finding this mixed voice.
Common Problems When Developing Mix (and How to Avoid Them)
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Here are the six common problems singers may encounter as they try to develop their mix:
1. Fighting between two voices
The voice falls to one of two common settings – go to whop/fall apart or go to the yell. Oftentimes, you might find yourself in a tug-of-war between those two voices.
There are different shades of mix. The closer you go to whoop, it’s a lighter, gentler mix. The closer you go to yell, it’s a more intense belty mix. That place just under the yell is a mixed belt.
People sometimes think that mix has to be this light or weaker sound. But it can also be very intense.
The danger, though, is that if you go all the way to the belt or the yell, the shout mechanism will kick in. The nervous system will jam up, and you may find yourself in a vocal crisis because the chords are just slamming together and muscling up.
What you should do is find the area between the falsetto and yell.
2. Controlling vowels
Very often, singers go in on vowels that are far too wide. But that doesn’t mean all your vowels must be closed down. Instead, you are better off with more narrow or rounded vowels when you are first finding it.
So, work on those more rounded, more centered vowels first. Also, avoid those wide open vowels like Uh and Ah as they engage that shout mechanism too much.
3. Issue with the vocal folds
When you shout, your vocal cords or folds are going to be over-engaged. They will then compress and squeeze. Also, you are more like to engage too much of that TA muscle.
Give up some of that TA and let the CT begin to take over. But you want to isolate vocal fold closure, which can be done well on those semi-occluded sounds.
The straw is really good for that phonating. It will give you a little bit of back pressure that will help the vocal folds come together and maintain their position for holding back the air without you having to over-muscle and get over-involved. That is a great way to begin to build that balance of muscle.
4. Trying to rush the whole process
People get impatient, and as a result, their voice cracks. And vocal breaks can be very frustrating.
And when you get frustrated, you may fall to those extremes of the whoop and the yell. Therefore, keep your patience.
Moreover, don’t get too cautious and avoid trying to copy your favorite singers.
5. Not using unfinished sounds
An unfinished sound is when a note starts to decline in pitch before the intended pitch is reached. Things like the dopey sounds or low larynx “ahh” sounds and the witchy “ne ne ne” or pharyngeal are examples of unfinished sounds.
Unfinished sounds can convey a sense of raw emotion or convey a sense of atmosphere. So don’t be afraid to use them. However, they should be used sparingly and only when they add something to the finished product. You don’t want to get stuck in them.
6. Not paying attention to sensations
Singers who ignore sensations usually have more trouble. But with pretty well-defined mind-body awareness, you’re likely to do better at this.
When you find vocal exercises that work better for you, pay attention to the sensations. What are you feeling? Where is the sound going? How is it traveling? Where do you feel it most intensely? How does it change as you go from the lower notes to the higher notes and back again? Then, start cataloging these sensations and make sure to listen.
It’s a combination of listening and paying attention to the sensations. Get these dialed in so that when you sing a few notes, you already know what that experience will be like. No hesitation, no question mark – you know instantly what it’s going to be.
To find your mix voice or ensure a great blending between your chest and head voice:
- Don’t fall to the extremes of whoop or yell
- Control your vowels
- Pay attention to your vocal folds
- Be patient
- Use some unfinished sounds
- Pay attention to sensations
To learn more about how to sing in mixed voice and get more mixed voice singing techniques, please visit my website johnhenny.com. Sign up for my email list and check me out on YouTube, John Henny Vocal Studio, for more voice concepts and better singing tips.