If you sing popular styles of music or contemporary musical theatre, you’re probably familiar with the sound of mixed voice. Most pop singers rely on a flexible mixed voice to carry them through the bulk of their range, applying head voice or chest voice as effects for contrast. So, mixed voice is an important component of most contemporary singing. But, how do you find yours?
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.
Let’s take a listen to my student, Diane, who lovingly agreed to share this demonstration with all of you! Diane sometimes struggles to find (or stay in) her mix, so she recorded this video to ask me about degrees of mix that she found during a practice session. (Don’t you just LOVE dedicated singers??)
Diane’s head voice is absolutely a CT-dominant sound. However, at the time she recorded this, using head voice at all was still pretty new to her. As you can hear, it’s still sort of unfocused and breathy because her coordination in higher pitches still needed some strengthening. When a ‘belter’ starts using head voice at first, it can feel pretty uncoordinated; they need to feel out how much air to move, and how much “sub-glottal pressure” is appropriate– that is, how much air pressure to build up underneath your vocal folds– not to mention how to support the sound with the lower body (something they should be doing in their belt voice, too).
Diane’s second option, “belting”, is definitely a TA-dominant sound, but you can also heat that it’s a bit strained/”reaching”– probably not very comfortable or sustainable for a long period of time. When Diane started studying singing, this was her default pattern– all loud and strong with little room for maneuverability. A lot of singers start lessons in this place– as competent singers who maybe recognize the limits of their technique and the potential risks involved with singing this way all the time. If you can redistribute some pressure lower in your abdomen (i.e. “support” your sound), this super heavy TA sound can have a place in healthy singing, but if you sang this way all the time, it would be exhausting and you’d probably experience some swelling in your folds that could make a weekend of shows a daunting task.
Of course, getting to her balanced mix was a very happy day for Diane– she now has access to blend her chest and head sounds for optimal flexibility and power. Both TA and CT are engaging and sharing the burden, and her air is flowing more seamlessly as a result. All of this equals happy vocal folds. Plus, this only sounds BETTER through a microphone— this is what the pop stars are doing, like, 80% of the time. This is the vocal zone we all want to live in: strong and consistent, but flexible and comfortable as well. We can amp this up for powerful moments and move into the “belt” territory for a moment here and there (hopefully with more support), or create sensitive intimate moments with more head voice tones, and always know that our voice is working with us, not against us. There is no more power struggle!
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.