Episode 23 – Mixed Voice Woes | Sustaining Longer Phrases


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On to the questions and answers for today!!!

Question 1
John Washington – “Just discovered the site following your interview with Ian Davidson. I had numerous private lessons with Ian and he pretty much got me singing well enough to feel confident that soon I will be out peforming acoustic ballads – for fun. One of the issues I have is concerned with the ending of words at the end of a line. For some reason I don’t seem able to always finish of the word and it almost, to me, sounds like my voice looses its tone and power. This might be a confidence thing, or it might be that I don’t study the components of the word fully to see if it needs modification. I wonder if you might do something on this aspect.
Is it a confidence thing? Or maybe your breath use during lines? Having worked with Ian Davidson, chances are it’s not that as a coach he’s on top of that. But, if you run out of breath at the end of lines you lose energy, and also may squeeze or clamp down to make it to the end. The psychology of singing to the end is also quite interesting, as we find it easy to jump around on pitches, words and notes when we speak. Putting that into song is a similar thing, but adjusted slightly with more sustain. Many singers seem to completely separate singing and speaking, but things work better when the singing voice is treated like an extensions of the speaking voice. But make no mistake, sustaining can be hard. To get off notes people may style off them with a little ole riff. But to build confidence we must face it head on. Face the demon (as Steve says)!!! It’s scary, and it may crack, bend, scoop up or down. Get through that uncomfortable feeling though and you’ll eventually be able to refine the technique and improve your ability to sustain. Using ballads in particular, as they have long phrases by default. That will gives you more opportunity to sustain and practice it. Depending on the genre, vibrato can also be something to add, which helps to relax and ease the sustain. Messi di voce is also something to work on. That is the ability to crescendo and diminuendo across a phrase or sustain, but could help refine the control needed to end phrases well and in control (listen to the podcast for suggested exercises).
Question 2
Colin – “A passaggio problem: 
Dear Chris and Steve,
I love your podcast and have listened to them all. After four years of lessons I finally discovered my mix voice. A half year later I have this strange problem that I hope you can help me fix. Before I found my mix, my natural break was high B flat leaving my high B tenuous and prone to cracking. My teacher, who is awesome, made me work hard on singing my upper mid range as piano as possible to make my ordinarily forte high notes more metzo-forte, so they wouldn’t crack. In doing so I discovered that I could flip into my mix. Now I warm up to a mix at high E flat and as a result my high B and C well below are pretty reliable. Here is the problem though. When I do my scales up through my break, the upper end of my chest voice disappears into a mix voice. For example, when my top note in mix is E flat and my bottom note is an A flat, which is well in my chest voice range, it stays against my will in mix. How can I develop the flexibility to pop up into my mix and drop d own into chest at my break, preserving the best of both? Thanks.
For good coordination, we need to consider tension balance between 2 muscles used within the vocal cord structure. The Thyroarytenoid (TA) and the Cricothyroid (CT). As you ascend in pitch, each note has it’s own coordination between these two muscles. If a singer isn’t aware of the adjustments and how to make them then it’s hard to get the desired results. Resonance and vowel shaping also affect coordination ability, and can help or hinder the situation when moving up and down through areas in the voice. In this case, Colin is using a setup that is great for the upper and middle ranges, but is remaining in that setup through chest voice. This leaves chest sounding a little light. This is typically the byproduct of working head voice a lot, and so we must remember to reconnect the chest voice to the rest of our voice in a training regime, even if it was the root of our problems in the first place!Returning to using chest voice with firmness may help Colin in this case. We can spend so much time abusing chest voice and straining that we can train ourselves out of it. Also, when it comes to mixed voice, we attach ourselves to sensations when we first feel it. It can be so obvious when it happens that we try and recreate it over and over. This separates it as a sensation or register in singers minds.  “I MUST feel the mix!”. A few of us have been there right? But a great mix comes with very subtle sensations, rather than an extremely noticeable shift. Colin, you may be trying to feel a mix so much that you are switching out of a chest voice setup early. Use your voice teacher to guide you, but a potential exercise is BA-BA-BA (as in BAT), on a scale of your choice, to try and take more chest quality into the middle register. Either way, an open vowel will encourage the inclusion of the chest-like resonance into the middle, and help to engage the TA muscle, which is also responsible for a chesty quality.Hope that all helps follow Naked Vocalists! Listen to the podcast for the full breakdown and advice.