The mixed voice

I’ve talked about the “mixed voice” and how to find your “mixed voice” before. This is a term created by Maestro Seth Riggs in his Speech Level Singing method years ago. It is also used by Brett Manning, Roger Love, Dave Brooks, and countless other top-quality singing coaches from around the world.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding this term in the singing community. Some singing teachers from around the world cringe when they hear the term “mixed voice”. I believe this stems from the fact that we physically do not actually have a “mixed voice,” and the fact that many singers do not actually know what it is, what it should feel like, or how to get it.

However, I believe all singing teachers will agree that we do have a chest register (or chest voice as referred to by SLS), and a head register (head voice as referred to by SLS). These are two terms that have been around for hundreds of years, and are commonplace in a singer’s vocabulary.

I tell my students that a mixed voice is simply the ability of a singer to ascend or descend in pitch between their chest register and their head register without constriction, and with the appropriate balance of both registers. Every singer knows about those whacky areas of their voice where singing gets a little tricker. This area, called the bridge or passagio, is where the larnyx and the body need to make careful adjustments in order to sing higher without constriction. In SLS, coaches do this with carefully selected scale combinations of vowel (resonance), consonant (cord closure), and volume (air flow).

I, frankly, like the term mixed voice for myself and for my students. For myself, it is a balanced sensation (or state) that I exercise daily with scales to keep my voice healthy, strong, and flexible. I don’t use the same blend of mixed voice when I perform because I prefer to sing harder at my gigs. That is a choice I make. I am self aware of my vocal limitations, and trust me, we all have them!

Do you have questions or comments. Please leave them below! Thanks.

4 thoughts on “The mixed voice”

  1. Thank you for an interesting and informative blog. I am look at strengthening my belting voice and your blog has helped clarify a lot of things for me. However I don’t fully understand how some singers belt incredibly high (F5) and how they practice to achieve this, if it is so “harmful” to belt without mixing. Like you say I also play it safe when exercising and training my voice then go and stage and just let rip, shouting like a maniac, because my “mix” voice just doesn’t give the power that I need. I don’t know if you can ever “mix” properly and sound full and resonant and edgy. Also, I don’t know if you agree that perhaps when a male singer mixes it can sound more like the resonance of chest voice, because they have naturally thicker vocal cords so they don’t thin out as much.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I am so pleased you are finding my posts interesting. I am passionate about helping singers discover their voice in ways that will help them achieve sounds they want in a healthy and productive way. Let me explain a bit more here.

      Belting properly without strain, and without blowing too much air through the vocal cords, is a coordination that requires many things to be lined up properly within the vocal tract.

      First, being able to “mix” doesn’t mean being able to belt properly.

      Female singers who can belt a F5 are actually not belting. That’s right, they are not belting. You see, proper and safe belting is an illusion. (The definition of belting that most coaches would agree to is simply a loud shouty voice). This is what you may be experiencing when on stage. And this is likely making you tired and hoarse as the night goes on.

      So consider this…good belting is not actually belting at all. It only sounds like belting.

      Three main things need to be in place for a female to achieve a F5 in a healthy belt sound:

      * Reasonably thin cords (some singer’s cords are considered thicker and stiffer when belting rather than thin…such as Carrie Underwood, Christine Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson).
      * The Larynx needs to be tilted and not too high.
      * There needs to be split resonance.
      * The singer is twanging. (Twang is a pharyngeal sound that is create when the vocal cords are stretched and thinned because of narrowing of the aryepiglottic sphincter. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENT OF BELTING.

      Some singers are genetically blessed with a voice coordinated in this way. You can hear the twang and resonance in their speaking voice. Sometimes this is due to the dialect of their culture.

      Note: This is why it is so important to have your voice assessed by a professional.

      A sound that can help singers achieve twang is the sound of a duck quacking. But, be sure you are doing this sound with thin folds (in other words you are mixing). For the female voice, I suggest trying D above middle C and higher. These quacks should not be “heavy”. They should be achieved at speech volume. If you are a good twanger, it will be edgy, buzzy, whiny, and unpleasant. If you are not a good twanger, they you are likely trying too hard to make the sound. You may be pushing. Your voice may be breathy and it may hurt (because your larynx is too high).

      A sound to help achieve the correct resonance is “ng” as in “hung”. It feels like a hum. The sound does not come out your mouth. (You can check this by plugging your nose while doing it. The sound should stop completely).

      So, to answer your question properly, you should be able to mix properly and sound full, resonant and edgy. My guess is you need to work on your “duck quacking”??

      Let me know how it goes 🙂

  2. I love your block! I’m now struggling hard to train my voice. And I really appreciate your block. I gave me so much and also lead me to many new idea! I did give me hope. I just got in to my mixed voice last week and I wonder what belt voice is. Many people in the internet said you can’t belt if you’re not a natural belter. But I desperate to know. Then I found your article. Thanks god. THANK YOU!!!

    • Thanks for your comments. Remember, singing better is a journey, and you need to sing and practise everyday. Mixing is essential to good singing. Belting is a unique and difficult coordination of mixing. It can damage your cords easily if you are not experienced. Read and learn as much as you can….and keep practising! All the best! Susie


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