One of the questions I get asked most often is “how do you sing in a mix?”
A lot of people are very confused with regards to singing in a mix. It is a part of singing that is shrouded in mystery for so many people.
I would like to demystify this concept for all of you and lay it out as clearly as possible.
I want to just put this out there - The best way to learn how to sing in a mix is through singing lessons. Singing lessons with a vocal coach give you real-time feedback on the sounds you make which is the easiest way to guide you to finding your mix.
With the point of balance that is achieved in a mix, you can powerfully execute any song, in any genre.
However, a misconception that hinders most from achieving a mixed voice, is the belief that it is an isolated voice that you have to find.
There’s no special voice hidden deep inside you. Your mixed voice is simply a blend of the two registers of the voice; head voice and chest voice.
Now this begs the question: “What is chest voice?”
Chest voice occurs when the sound is resonating mostly out of your mouth and only very little out of the head and nasal cavities.
Now this begs the question: “What is head voice?”
Head voice occurs when the sound is resonating mostly out of your head and nasal cavities and only very little out of your mouth.
Now you’re thinking, wait Adam, if there is always a percentage of chest voice when singing in head voice and vice versa. Aren’t you really always singing in a mix?
Answer: Yes, This comes back to my earlier point. Mix is not a mystical place in your voice which makes all high notes easy. It is a description of mixing the vibration from your mouth and nasal passages to create a balanced sound on each note.
So every note will have a different ratio of chest to head vibration. For example, A2 will be much more chest than head like 90/10, A3 with be more balanced 60/40 and A4 will be more head dominant 20/80.
This blending of vibration, is how successful singers manage to sound so powerful when singing high notes. If you’re still in your early practicing stage, then one of your current limitations is most likely that your voice starts out strong on low notes, but audibly weakens on the higher notes.
Learning to sing in a mix is a very useful skill that allows you to develop your singing in any genre. Not only does it give you a more powerful tone, but it also eliminates strain because you are allowing for the proper transition to happen naturally. Singing in a mix will eliminate the feeling of yelling or stressing your neck and chest muscles.
The Relationship Between your Head Voice and Chest Voice
It is important to note that there are separate muscle groups responsible for chest voice and head voice.
The thyroarytenoid muscles (TA) are responsible for chest voice and the cricothyroid muscles (CT) are responsible for head voice.
When we are singing in a mix, these muscles work together to produce a sound that is both powerful like chest voice and released like head voice.
The good thing is, we already use both of these voices simultaneously in our everyday speech. But in singing, due to the increased demands of volume and pitch, both voices don’t connect as easily.
I’m sure you have heard or experienced a crack or break that occurs when you sing from a low note, and try to transition into a higher note. This is what usually happens when you try to take your sound from the one produced in your chest, to the one produced in your head region. Unless you’ve perfected that transition, the break is bound to happen.
This ability is developed through practice so let’s get to some exercises that will help you develop your mix.
1. Sing above and below your vocal range
You will have to identify the notes you normally sing at both with your head and chest voice. Once you do, practice going as high, and as low as possible.
2. Identify your vocal bridge
Find out which notes your voice breaks or flips on right now.
3. Engage in vocal activities
You build your voice muscles, frequently sing the notes within the range of your bridge. Do this over and over during the day.
4. Vocalize your vowel sounds
Try all of the different vowel sounds in this range of your voice.
How to Connect Head Voice and Chest Voice
The most important step in this connection is the shift of musculature. Because the head register has different muscles operating from the chest register as mentioned above, you need to learn to have both operating simultaneously to achieve a balanced mix.
This is the reason for the break you hear every time you attempt a mix.
You will also need to perfect your change in resonance. To practice this, you should understand how your sound is produced. With chest voice, a sound is produced when your vocal cords vibrate fully. When that sound is produced in your chest, it builds up as it travels through the throat and then, the mouth. To control your resonance, you will need to use your lips, tongue and jaw.
While singing, as you transfer from one register to another, several muscular shifts are made to shorten your vocal cords and lengthen your tense cord. This is how the sounds blend, and with no audible break. At this moment, it will feel like you’re letting go, but also not. When you master this transition, it will be easier to raise your pitch as high as you want it to go.
One mistake many singers make at this point is rushing through their break. This is a mistake. You must go slowly through your bridge to allow the muscles to make the necessary adjustments. When you feel the notes, you can identify the point where the shift happens, and work on adjusting your transition. Once you’ve practiced the transition point over and over again, you can return to your regular singing pace. And try to see if you can still achieve the mixed voice.
3 Exercises to Strengthen your mix
1.Controlled voice exercise
To achieve a balanced mix, your vocal cords must be well coordinated. To strengthen them, frequently practice this exercise:
Start with your head voice, and take it down as low as you can before you transition to your chest voice.
Reverse this process, and start with your chest voice, take it to the highest point, and transition to your head voice. This exercise helps by perfecting your mix. The better you are at transitioning between voices, the easier it will be for you to find and maintain your mixed voice.
It will also take you through the full range of notes you can achieve, rather than practicing in your comfort zone.
Repeat this process over and over for better transition.
2. Octave leaps
Octaves are helpful at tracking your changes when trying to transition from one register to another. Slide gently and slowly through the octave and allow your muscles to make the necessary adjustments. Don’t force anything!
3. Singing the Arpeggios
Each arpeggio is a cord with individual notes. To practice your transition, you can sing using the Do-Mi-So cord. Keep practicing the Do-Mi-So-Do-So-Mi-Do over and over as often as you can. You can do this until you notice that you’ve achieved a smooth transition.
Important Tip to Achieving a Mixed Voice
The process will definitely get tiring. You have to be ready to try and fail over a hundred times. The good thing is, every time you try (correctly), you make a bit of progress, even if you don’t notice it at first.
It takes most singers a few months before they can register their success with mastering their mix. Singing lessons are very important, as you need trained ears to assess your efforts.
The other important tip is to never stop. Regardless of the level of improvement you’ve achieved, you can always do better.
This is why you can’t completely master your mix. There’s always another level to aim for.