Published on April 8th, 2011 | by Hugh Hession0
Getting past the break–How to connect your chest and head voice as one
I have been getting many requests to write a post on how to effectively connect the chest and head voice registers, so they sound as one. Today is your lucky day!
Anyone who sings is always interested in how to expand their range. I’ve written several posts on this topic, but I find that it’s not always something easily understood, so I figured I would spend a bit more time to help smooth out that area where your voice cracks…otherwise known as the bridge, or passaggio. It’s that note where you can barely sing from your stronger chest voice register while transitioning (usually quite awkwardly) to a falsetto tone. Don’t worry. It’s a common problem. You aren’t alone.
Finding your bridge, or break
So let’s start by finding your break. Using a piano or guitar, start on a note that fits comfortably in your range and keep moving up a step, full voice singing “ma,” until you get to the note where you feel squeezed and transition into your falsetto. Remember to match the pitch!
Here is an example starting on the middle C4 and moving up an octave. I over- exaggerated for our purposes here so you can tell what I’m doing.
Does this sound familiar? Now that you’ve found your break, you know the point that you need to smooth out.
Learning how to adduct your vocal cords
To effectively smooth over your bridge from chest voice into a powerful, head voice tone, you need to have an understanding of how to adduct your vocal cords or zip them up. This is the part where many get confused because this is not your falsetto. Understand that getting into you head voice is like switching gears. You can’t just keep forcing your chest voice to get there because ultimately, you’ll start screaming and damage your vocal cords. Don’t go there.
A couple things to remember here. One is that you will be using less air. The other, is that you will be using less of your cords. Again, this is not a forced technique.
Understand that the head voice tone is very pharyngeal – meaning that you will feel the sound coming from the back of your throat. Yes, the head voice does resonate in your head region, but from a technical standpoint, it’s the pharynx where you will be manipulating the actual sound.
You have to get closure to the cords. Once you do, you’ll feel your pharynx really kick in. Say, “hey – a – a” (long a’s) as demonstrated on the audio clip below. I engage my head voice at the end to show you how this technique helps you to segue into your head register much easier…thus putting you in the right “gear.”
Two exercises to “get into” your head voice
The “NG” exercise with a siren (say “ming” or “bring” and emphasize the “NG” consonant). This exercise will really help you get in that place where you will be able to feel that pharyngeal area at work in the back of your throat.
The next, is the lip-roll or a tongue trill on a 5 note scale. It is very effective in working out that frustrating break. It is important to make sure that the 5th note on your scale is the note you go into you head voice with.
Work through your break!
There is no getting around it, you have to work through your break to smooth it out. The only way to do this, is to use scale exercises to work through it and create that needed muscle memory so it will happen automatically. I wish I could tell you there was any easier way, but there just isn’t. It takes work and everyone is different in regard to how long it takes to really be effective at connecting both voice registers.
Once you are well into your scale regimen, find songs by artists who use their head voice frequently, and begin to practice those songs. Adam Lambert, Nickelback, Queen, Rush or whatever your flavor is. It’s used in all genres.
To leave you with, I recorded a typical rock yell with head voice (common on American Idol/Steven Tyler)! Check it out.
Get to work! Talk to you soon…