Vocal Registers – Chest Mix

Weekly Teaching Tip – Sep. 19, 2016
by Piotr Markowski

It is widely known that one of the hardest moments for vocalists is the one when they hit their first bridge and try to sing over it. Proper technique requires the singer to make a clear division in resonance. This is also a challenge for the muscles controlling the vocal folds (TA/CT), which must cooperate especially at this point, so that the folds gradually become longer and thinner. Of course, if the vocalist does not allow for this process to happen, the voice will most likely break.

My students are usually beginners and they make the most mistakes in this area. More experienced vocalists know this spot well and they are aware of the feeling accompanying good sound, so they can go up without trouble. For beginning vocalists trouble starts much earlier. I noticed that they make the most mistakes in the area defined as CHEST MIX – lack of precision when singing in this area will cause problems when vocalists try to reach over the 1st bridge (in general, for women it is the range from E4 to Bb4, and for men – from B3 to Eb4). When does this area become difficult for vocalists? It happens when they think they are still in the chest register and don’t think what goes next. Thus, they allow themselves to make mistakes. As they hit the first bridge, it is usually too late for any processes which allow you to sing higher and better. You start stretching vowels and adding muscle power – in the whole body – and we all know where this is going. As a teacher I try to make sure that within that register they start feeling the head register and are very precise. I mainly watch that their vowels are appropriate and that words are uttered correctly. I usually advise them to think of three arrows.
#1 – One of them goes down, and their feeling stays there (shwa).
#2 – The other one comes from their mouths and they utter the words of songs and exercises in that direction.
#3 – The third one is the feeling of resonance, which they must simply allow.

This thinking is always beneficial for them, because it gradually starts the process of dividing resonance. This improves the work of vocal folds (good TA/CT cooperation). At this point, vocalists are usually very surprised how easily they can hit the first bridge and go above it. This is thanks to having prepared this process before. It becomes easy for them. They gain confidence, and, what is more important, in subsequent attempts they are more and more relaxed, which in turn makes the process easier. Dean Kaelin in his book entitled “Teaching Good Singing” defines this moment as „the approach to the bridge”. It really is true, and it works. What happens on the bridge is always the result of what happens before the bridge. In the chest register many mistakes often have no consequences, and the vocalist can afford to make some. But he must watch himself in the chest mix. It is very important for teachers, especially when working with less experienced vocalists, that they hear this and make sure that the vocalist feels a good spot in this register. This makes singing much easier.
Piotr Markowski

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