What is mixed voice?
Anybody who has studied singing to a basic extent will be familiar with the concept of vocal registration. The chest and head voice can usually be grasped and produced fairly easily. Mixed voice, however, is a register that can be both elusive and highly difficult to master.
Many of the world’s best singers have mastered the mixed voice, giving them a huge range, amazing dynamic control and a kind of vocal freedom envied by most singers. Artists such as Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, Adam Lambert, Josh Groban, all have a handle on this technique.
So what is a mixed voice? The mix is a co-ordination where the vocal chords are adducted (in the same way as in head voice) but where the resonance is felt in both the head and the chest simultaneously. This blending of resonance is facilitated by the pharyngeal resonator (remember the munchkins?) and is what allows a smooth transition through the bridge or ‘passagio’.
When a singer approaches his or her first bridge, there are only really three options:
- Use brute force – This usually means pushing more air through the vocal chords, adding strain and essentially yelling the notes. Not only is this displeasing to the ear, it is also highly unstable and can cause damage.
- Flip into falsetto – This is where the chords break apart and vibrations are only generated on their outer edges. The result is a weak, airy sound, which can be used stylistically, but isn’t very useful otherwise.
- Mix – This is where the chords zip up and the head resonance comes into play. It is smooth, no energy is lost and there is no risk of vocal damage. There can be both power and freedom at the same time.
The mix combines the gutsy, low end of chest voice with the bright, free quality of head voice. It can create the illusion of a high chest belt without the instability or risk of fatigue or vocal damage to the singer.
The implications of mastering the mix are therefore huge! For professional singers who are under pressure to deliver every night for a show, they can sing the most demanding songs both consistently and safely. For artists who will only write a song in a certain key because they are limited by their current range, they can expand their comfort zone. The bottom line is that mastering the mixed voice is an invaluable practice for anyone aspiring to be the best singer they can possibly be.
I understand that the mix can be puzzling. Therefore I strongly recommend hiring a good vocal coach to help you as you work on developing it. Reading about it is great but every singer is different and a professional tutor can give feedback and direction tailored to your specific needs.
As a semi-professional singer, I am always working on my mix and my voice in general. For anyone who truly wants to get the most out of their voice, developing the mix is essential. I will be writing another article very soon that will focus on why most people struggle with the mix that I hope you will find useful.