I am going to talk a little bit about a vocal register that is very important in order to achieve certain singing skills such as bridging vocal registers, smoothing out vocal breaks, extending a vocal range, singing with power, accessing pitches in your “troubled” area, and many more.
Yes, you have guessed right – I am going to write about the “mixed voice”.
Mixed voice is important but confusing at the same time.
Many new singers struggle to understand how to sing in mixed voice.
Hopefully, this article will shed some light on the topic and improve your understanding.
If you are not familiar with terms such as chest or head voice, please first read my blog post called Everything You Need to Know About Vocal Registers.
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What is Mixed Voice?
The names of voice registers are simply based on the place where you feel the majority of resonance when you sing.
When you sing in your chest voice, you should feel the most vibration around your lower neck and sternum (chest).
Put your hand on the upper part of your chest and feel the vibrations.
When you sing in your head voice, you should feel the most vibration around the upper half of your face, even at the top of your head or back of your neck.
When you sing in your mixed voice, you should feel more vibration around the lower half of your face, the roof of your mouth, chin, and upper neck.
Mixed voice is simply a mix of both chest and head voice.
The middle register (also known as medium or mixed register) “lies” between the chest and head voice.
It really does not lie anywhere but if you imagine your voice as one continuum from the lowest pitches to the highest pitches, mixed voice occurs where your head and chest voice overlap.
The colour of mixed voice is a mixture of both head and chest registers: it sounds warm and rich but it is not as dark as the chest voice and not as bright as the head voice.
If you let too much air out of your mouth, the sound becomes more “chesty” so try to keep the sounds “narrow”.
There is also one more aspect to mixed voice: the amount of compression.
Mixed voice employs just the “right” amount of compression – not too much (so there is no straining or pushing for higher notes) and not too little (so the sound is connected, not airy).
It is important to know that the vocal cords in mixed voice have similar posture to those in the head voice: they are zipped up along a large portion of the vocal cords and only a portion of the vocal cords vibrate.
This register allows a singer to sing higher frequencies (higher notes) with a deeper and fuller sound compared to the head voice.
The mixed register is very popular in some singing programs (read below).
Why Develop Mixed Voice?
If you are not a trained singer, you probably prefer one register over another – maybe you like to sing songs that require more of a chest resonance versus a head register.
If you develop your mixed voice, you eliminate so called vocal breaks (transitions from one register to another).
You also improve your vocal range as you join chest and head registers into a seamless continuum.
By developing your middle voice, you also give your voice more power.
Here is a video that I found extremely helpful in understanding what all the registers are and what they sound like.
Click here to watch vocal coach Justin Stoney talking about “The Mix Voice”:
How to Sing in Mixed Voice
Find the Break
First of all, you need to get to know your voice.
Figure out your vocal range and try to identify where your vocal break occurs.
These are the pitches where the voice of a new singer “flips” from one register to another.
For some beginners, the voice may not “flip” but there is still some perceived difficulty to singing clearly without changing the character of the sound.
The pitches around the break should become the focus when developing your mixed voice.
The first break may occur on these pitches:
- Bass: around A3 – B3b – B3
- Tenor and Alto: around E4 – F4 – F4#
- Soprano: around A4 – B4b – B4
The second break may occur about half an octave above the first break.
You can use this video to find your vocal range and vocal break (passaggio).
Developing the mixed register is a complicated matter and may confuse beginners.
The key is to focus on the place where resonance occurs and how much pressure you put on vocal cords.
Where do you feel vibrations?
What is the voice quality you produce (strained, airy or connected)?
You can discover your mixed voice only through experimentation.
So go ahead and play with your voice!
Exercises to Develop Mixed Voice
First, let’s see a video, in which vocal coach Kerri Ho talks about mixed voice and introduces some mixed voice exercises to strengthen this register.
Here are some additional suggestions about how to practice mixed voice:
1. Lip rolls with an underlying “uh” sound.
To read about lip rolls, please visit my post called Lip Rolls Answered.
I explained the lip roll exercises there in great detail.
2. Scales and slides using M, N and NG sounds.
You may know some vocal exercises where you practice ascending and descending scales using “nay” or “sing”.
They may sound annoying but they help you keep the vocal cords together when singing in upper register.
That is all for now. I hope that you have a better understanding of how to sing in mixed voice.