Foundation 101 | Part 5
The final part of this singing course is advanced chest and head connection and your second vocal break. The second vocal break occurs for a similar reason to the first, but actually requires narrowing of each of your vowel sounds instead of a wide resonant space. Lets talk about chest and head first.
How to connect chest and head voice
Your registers are a direct result of vocal fold weight and vocal fold tension – full chest voice is a result of TA engagement (thryroarytenoid), which contracts and thickens the vocal folds. Full head voice is a result of CT engagement (cricothyroid), which stretches the vocal folds. Now, if you sing a low note in chest voice, and then you sing a high note in head voice, you’ll be able to identify two separate areas of resonance, likely around your teeth or mouth for chest (don’t forget resonance placement!), and high up in the back of your head for head voice. Now, these two muscles are actually designed to work in tandem and allow you to use vocal fold weight and vocal fold tension in a sliding manner like a gradient, meaning that you can (and should) connect chest and head voice in a full and powerful tone without any breaks.
For the purpose of this foundation tutorial, we’re going to refer to chest and head voice as the two types of resonance and simply focus on making a connection between the two types of resonance
By starting out with the two smallest vowel sounds EE and OO, and singing with a dark timbre, or a ‘hooty’ tone up into the soft palate, the connection between chest and head will be very easy to develop – this is your first goal. This isn’t the vocal tone that you want to sing with, no doubt, but it’s an important stepping stone you must take first to set up your vocal mechanism for a healthy bright and powerful tone as your voice progresses. A bright vocal tone is created as an extension of a dark tone, not in spite of a dark tone.
The second break
The second break occurs at the top of your middle voice in the central area above your first vocal break. While this is also due to a lack of appropriate resonant space, the second break requires narrowing of each of your vowels to ascend with connection and power. The best sound for developing a narrow vowel sound is the French OU sound, which occurs when you almost close your lips at the front in a small circle like a pin head, and you shape your tongue like an EE in the back of your mouth. If you sing this sound high in your range, you will notice that you achieve a full and resonant sound in full voice – pretty cool, right? Obviously, this sound isn’t useful in a practical sense, but it illustrates the mechanism of narrowing your vowel in the back of the throat.
The middle voice
the middle voice is the central portion of your voice where both types of resonance, chest AND head, resonate in tandem. This area is one of the most difficult, but most important part of any singer’s range, and is often the range and portion of the voice that professional singers are known for singing with prowess. The middle voice has a specific tonal quality – pleasant and assertive. If you intentionally sing with a pleasant, but assertive tone through the middle portion of your voice, you can make a powerful connection between chest and head voice while also navigating your first and second vocal break.
Over time, this exercise will help you smooth out your two vocal breaks and make a fluid and powerful connection between chest and head voice just like your favourite singers.
Understanding how the aperture of your mouth affects your resonant space is key to narrowing your vowels properly and singing without strain. Many singers feel the temptation to widen their mouths into a bright smile as they ascend in range, but the opposite is actually true – as you ascend on each of your open vowels, your mouth should become an oval aperture from top to bottom. Of course, this does differ to the closed EE and OO vowels that have minimal opening at the front of the mouth. Remember, the key to these closed vowel sounds is to sing with appropriate resonant space and developing a strong connection between chest and head resonance.
At the end of this lesson you should now be able to connect chest and head voice more efficiently while also navigating your second break by narrowing each of your vowel sounds in the vocal tract. Remember, singing is a process of balance that takes time, patience and consistent practice.
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.