Thursday, March 22, 2007

Vocal "Breaks"... how to eliminate them

There are times you want a vocal "break"- such as when you want to yodel or "flip" a little vocal cry (think Emmy Lou Harris). However, most of the time these breaks are unwanted and happen when vocal strain and tightness impede smooth movements in the vocal apparatus. In these cases, your chest voice gets thin, loud and harsh and then finally when you go a bit higher, you find yourself in a weak, useless head voice.

Here are some tips to smoothly blend your chest and head registers so that you seem to have one rich, mixed vocal register without breaks (those unwanted cracks in your voice):

  • Try "pulling" your words from your nose when you're in middle voice. Then when you cross over to your upper register, "pull" your words from your mouth. This may seem unnatural, but will serve to mix your registers together so you can't tell from listening where you "crossover" from chest to head.
  • If you can't remember to do this at the right time, try touching your nose when in chest or middle voice to remind you to pull from your nose. Then when you cross over to head voice, touch your mouth to remind you to pull from there. Pretty soon you will be able to do it without having to touch your face.
  • Try the blending steps exercise in my Power, Path & Performance course at . You will sing three notes in chest, the same notes in head voice, then the third time you'll sing the same notes in what I call a "land between the two registers", or a blend of head and chest. Do this at least once a day.
  • BACK OFF THE PRESSURE!!! You can't blend your voice if you're singing too hard. How can you tell if you're doing this? YOU CAN FEEL YOUR THROAT STRAIN! Back off pressure, then add passion (crisply form words with the right emotion).
  • Make the beginning of the yawn kick in right before you think the break will occur. You should feel eyes, nose and sinuses expand.
  • Touch two fingers VERY LIGHTLY to your larynx. Now sing the phrase, but don't allow any tension near your fingers. If your shoulders, jaw or tongue gets tight, you will become aware and will be able to relax much faster with your fingers here. Notice that you WILL feel your larynx move... if it's working without interference with outside tension, it will actually tilt up and back allowing a smooth and unbroken vocal line.
  • Bobble your head on your shoulders. Think James Taylor, Aretha, Alanis Morrisette, Christina, Wynonna. Part of their vocal magic comes from flexibility at the neck and shoulders. This also allows the larynx to tilt.
  • Be sure to "lift the lid" but "leave the pan on the stove". What I mean by this is: Lift the inside of your soft palate and back of your nose, but don't lift your shoulders or tighten neck muscles. When you lift this way, you will actually feel your neck getting longer- not shorter. "Talk with your eyes" with relaxed shoulders you will help yourself do this.

Let me know what works for you! Click on the comment button below this post to leave your thoughts.