Published on April 12th, 2010 | by Hugh Hession2
Blending your head and chest voice to increase your vocal range
If you recall on my post regarding “What is Head Voice,” I utilized some videos by Kevin Richards (RockthestageNYC) showing the difference between falsetto and head voice and additionally, how to access your head voice. Admittingly – though I am the guru on anything music business -Kevin’s knowledge on vocal pedagogy far surpasses mine, which is precisely why I used his video’s as an example. However, I am a vocal instructor for beginner students and I teach the concept of accessing the head voice including mixing or blending the two registers of your voice to expand range.
Remember, Falsetto is Not Your Head Voice!
Just an FYI: You will rarely find “formal” vocal instructors teaching how to access the head voice. In fact, many of them don’t acknowledge it and often refer to the falsetto as the head voice. IT IS NOT! In fact, the falsetto is not a register of your voice – it is merely a tone and technique for style. It is very weak and airy sounding and only the edges of the vocal folds are vibrating through the air that passes through, because the folds are not making contact. It is a great effect and many recording artists use it, especially R&B singers.
Using Both Registers As One
Most great singers are good at using their “mix” – meaning a blend of both their chest and head voices to expand their range. The late Freddie Mercury (Queen) was a master at it. In fact, most people can’t really tell the difference when a great singer is going in and out of those two registers, because it sounds as one. That is exactly the point.
Where to Start
So the question is, how do you do it? As I explain in my video below, you first have to find your break or what is often referred to as your bridge (in classical terminology, often called passaggio). This is the point where your vocal cords start to squeeze and you can’t go any higher. It’s at this point, that the falsetto wants to naturally take over, but that is not what you want. For a male singer, this typically begins around E above middle C or F, F# and G. For a female vocalist, it’s around Ab or A, or B, Bb above middle C.
The goal is to be able to connect from your chest voice, to head voice seamlessly – meaning there is no break up between the two vocal registers. Like any skill, it takes practice and strengthening. However, please don’t misinterpret strengthening for singing harder to get past the break. In actuality, you will use less air pressure when you switch gears from chest to head.
After some time, you will notice the bridge start to smooth out. You will also begin to develop muscle memory; which essentially is the alliance of a specific motor task into memory through repetition. It’s at this point, that you don’t have to think about it.
In my video example, you will see how I slide from chest to my head voice without a break. I’m obviously utilizing more of a “rock-n-roll” tonality, however the head voice can be manipulated to sound differently, depending upon the genre.
As you heard, I used Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” as an example for mixing the two voice registers together. The original key is actually 1/2 step above what I’m singing it in. I don’t actually start mixing my voice until the back up “Wanted” that Richie Sambora sings. It’s at that G# above middle C that my head voice kicks in (right at the breaking point) and then smoothly transitions back down to my chest voice. Remember, depending on your range, your break could be higher or lower.
By learning how to connect your head and chest voices together, you will not only expand your range without losing power, but you will also save your voice and protect yourself from getting vocal nodules. Some of the biggest vocalists in music have unfortunately experienced this, due to vocal wear and tear.
For specific exercises on how to connect your head and chest voices, see my post 3 Exercises for Increasing Your Vocal Range.