Note: This post will use the term ‘male’ to indicate persons assigned male at birth, regardless of current gender identity. This is because a testosterone-dominant puberty strongly influences the development of your voice, even if hormone replacement therapy occurs after puberty.
Mixed voice is confusing because it is a spectrum! Your TA muscle (chest) and your CT muscle (head) work together ALL the time– literally it’s a push and pull operation. TA bulks up the chords so they get thicker, CT pulls the chords longer and skinnier so they get thinner and you can reach higher pitches (there is arguably some degree of tilting the voicebox forward that happens here, too, but let’s keep things simple, shall we?). Essentially, we almost NEVER isolate TA or CT activity alone. So– everything is a mix! We’re really just talking about Dominance.
If you have a male voice and choose to sing popular styles of music or contemporary musical theatre, you’re probably familiar with the sound of mixed voice, whether you recognize it or not. Many male pop singers default to a chest-dominant register for the bulk of their range, but also use a flexible mixed voice to carry them through their mid-to-high range, switching to falsetto (head voice) for contrast or emotional emphasis. This means we can hear a variety of vocal colors throughout a single song, making the experience of listening to a skilled singer far more interesting and emotionally engaging.
So, mixed voice is an important component of most contemporary singing. But, how do you find yours? It’s all about balance! Make sure you are maintaining good equilibrium between your airflow and the amount of physical pressure you experience in your voice. If you feel too much pressure, or too much air, examine what tensions you can reduce and/or what positive physical energy might help you disperse the effort. Sometimes the difference between singing in a chest-dominant sound vs. a head-dominant sound is a simple matter of volume; consider singing “problem” spots more softly and see what effect the change has!
Let’s take a listen to Cardon Voice student, Chris, who lovingly agreed to share this demonstration with all of you! Chris shared this performance of Jet’s “Look What You’ve Done” during a Cardon Showcase– bonus points for accompanying himself on keyboard!– and hsi teachers applauded his use of register changes to bring color to the performance. Let’s listen to clips that highlight his use of chest-dominant mix, head-dominant mix, and falsetto:
Chris moves through these different registers fairly seamlessly, thanks to his study of vocal technique. He has obviously spent some time working out his head voice to help it counterbalance his strong chest voice. Through careful training, he’s found a reliable mix in his range, helping him sing from low to high without feeling like he’s dealing with two voices. As many singers can attest, it is very tempting to muscle the chest voice higher than your natural transition point in the name of louder, powerful high notes– however, attempting an approach like this without a solid understanding of breath support and/or without working your full range for flexibility (by strengthening both chest voice AND head voice first) can invite plenty of uncomfortable tension and put you at greater risk for vocal injury. If you’ve noticed your voice straining and cracking while trying to sing high, re-focus on your breathing and support! Take a step back and work on balanced, breath-driven singing throughout your range before you tackle belting. It’s likely you’ll discover your mixed voice through this approach and maybe reduce your overall reliance on belt technique, too! Belting should never become your default setting since such high-energy singing can be hard to sustain for long. Instead– get to know your mix!
Want to read more about mixed voice from a female voice (AFAB) perspective? Check out this related post.
Now that you’ve heard a clear example of what to listen for, can you find your mixed voice? Lessons provide active practice and instruction on using your voice in a variety of modes so that you can access your full palette of vocal colors in your songs. Want to learn more? Schedule a complimentary consultation today.