How to sing in mixed voice
Singing in Middle voice, or “Singing in Mix” takes a little bit of work and the right approach – but with this simple guide here at Bohemian Vocal Studio, you’ll learn how to sing in mixed voice in no time at all! Middle voice is the secret sauce of a powerful and professional singing range, and it’s the missing link in beginner’s singing voices that makes them question “why can’t I sing well?” when in fact they simply lack the coordination that I’ll show you in this very singing tutorial.
What is mixed voice?
You’ve likely heard of the two main vocal chord coordinations – or, registers, that singers use, right? What if I told you there was another mystical, often misunderstood vocal register that actually sat BETWEEN these two main registers and ‘bridged the gap’ so to speak between Chest Voice and Head Voice? Middle voice is an alternate setup for your vocal chords that is neither ‘full length’ (chest) or ‘fully shortened’ (head) and lies anywhere in between the two.
If you find you only have a choice of “yelling” or singing in a light “falsetto” voice, with no middle ground, then indeed you’re avoiding your middle voice altogether and you should start building it right away. Middle voice is a coordination between the muscles that respectively allow your chest and head voice – allowing you to sing with the depth and richness of chest, and the extensive range afforded by head voice.
Why should I learn how to sing in mixed voice?
Mix/Middle is actually a natural coordination for your vocal chords, so to avoid it specifically is to do something extremely unnatural with your vocal chords – in fact, if you’re singing high in your chest voice and handing over to a weak head when your voice breaks, then you’re likely putting your voice in very real danger of strain, or worse, permanent damage.
As you ascend in range, you should start to ‘zip up’ your vocal chords the higher you go – this allows you to regulate pressure rather than FORCING your ‘full length’ vocal chords to vibrate at a faster speed (ie: higher pitch). You’ll obviously get to the point where you a) can’t create any more pressure b) your vocal chords can’t handle the pressure.
- Build your vocal range and connects your registers
- Builds a bridge between “chest” and “head”
- Allows you to Belt! Your middle voice is also known as the “belt” register
- Releases the strain you’re causing by pushing your chest voice
- Strengthens your currently weak “head” register
- Sounds INCREDIBLE
- Is natural, normal, and healthy for your voice – as opposed to stretching your chest voice or lowering your head.
How do I sing in middle voice? Learning how to sing in mixed voice is actually pretty simple, but it’s dependent on a specific approach, the health of your vocal technique the strength of your foundation.
The foundation of your voice ALWAYS starts with posture, setup and breathing. No matter your approach to singing, or the style of singing you wish to achieve, building a healthy and strong foundation is absolutely impirative to learning how to sing in mixed voice – and it’s absolutely priority if you with to have a healthy and POWERFUL singing voice.
Step #1 – Foundation, Foundation, Foundation
Building your foundation is the first step you need to take for ANY vocal technique or singing approach – without a proper foundation, your advanced techniques will fail and you’ll be putting your voice at risk again. Your foundation actually starts with POSTURE:
- Head Up
- Shoulders Back/Down
- Sternum Up (ribs out)
- Chin Parallel with the floor
- If you’re standing, keep your feet about shoulder width apart and natural
- Release any strain and stand strong, but comfortably
It’s very important that you set up your posture properly each time you sing so that you ingrain healthy habits and healthy technique rather than ‘guessing’ each day and experiencing inconsistent practice because of your inconsistent foundation.
It’s totally fine to be ‘fluid’ and move about while you’re singing, just remember that the foundation of your posture is Head up/Shoulders Back/Sternum up/Chin Parallel with the floor and your voice will get stronger and stronger each time you sing – rather than practicing incorrectly each time you forget your posture.
If you’d like a little help setting up your posture properly you can book a session with me personally or check out my free foundations short course.
Step #2 – Breathing 101
The way you breathe for singing is very different than to regular speech or casual breathing – learning to engage your diaphragm is super important for a powerful, healthy voice.
How do you breathe from the diaphragm? A better way to think of it is breathing WITH the diaphragm – using the diaphragm to breathe with. You can try it yourself by setting up your healthy posture like above, then breathing in sharp and low, just like you would if you were breathing through a small straw. You should feel the sensation of breathing as ‘low’ in your belly rather than high in your chest. It’s very important that you keep your ribs wide as you do this so that they don’t force the air out like bellows when you sing – so remember your posture steps each and every time you practice singing.
Now, the way that your voice works is via air PRESSURE rather than air FLOW – so your next steps are going to be resonance and placement. This is all included in my free short courses Breathing 101, you can also book a Skype session with me today if you’re having trouble supporting your voice correctly.
Step #3 – Resonate!
Keeping in mind that your vocal chords work via vibration rather than flowing air, try to imagine your voice as ‘stationary’ up in your head rather than flowing out of your mouth like when you speak. Your voice should BUZZ with resonance rather than flow out with an airy or breathy tone.
Learning how to sing is somewhat of a psychological process, so just think “buzz” instead of “airflow” when you practice and try to hold back your air when you’re singing so that your voice is stationary.
This brings me to step four;
Step #4 – Place your voice
The lower your voice type, the harder it is to sing with a naturally consistent placement – this is why you may find vocal coaches with higher voice types (tenors/females) haven’t taught you anything about placement before, but it is VERY important, and it really is one of the key ingredients that I myself have used to take a <1 octave baritone singing range well up into the tenor range and beyond – singing high notes is super easy when your voice is creating the right frequencies rather than flopping around in the bass range, let me tell you!
Placing your voice is another figurative aspect of singing, it’s not that we’re actually ‘moving’ or ‘relocating’ our voices, we’re simply telling our vocal chords to vibrate at a higher freqeuncy by focusing in on a specific area along the vocal tract. This is why you likely have a more difficult time warming up in the mornings as opposed to the afternoons – the connection between your brain and vocal chords hasn’t really been made for the day first thing in the morning, so they just vibrate at ‘whatever’ frequency rather than with a consistent placement.
If you’re having trouble placing your voice, no sweat! Check out the free video lesson below for an excellent way to place your voice – don’t forget you can also book a session with me personally today!
Step #5 – Release your registers
This one is also covered in my complimentary warmup course “the lazy warmup” – in essence, you need to connect your full vocal range without any stylistic inflections like belting or “this is my sound” or any misconceptions you might not even be aware are occurring in your singing voice – the best way to do this is either with a lip trill, or even gentle humming. You need to sing through the center part of your voice with the lip trill/hum and bridge your chest and head registers without a break, and do so consistently before you’ll be able to learn how to sing in mix voice properly.
If you’re having some trouble making the connection, this is where Step six comes in:
Step #6 – Tune your resonance
This is also known as vowel modification, but it also applies to lip trills, hums, NG’s, N’s – any resonant sound that you sing with needs to be tuned to the proper frequency and correct vocal tract width. This does usually take some work with a professional vocal coach to achieve with fluidity, but in essence it’s a pretty simply concept.
As you get towards your first vocal break, you likely need to widen your vowel somewhat so that your resonance pings in the right resonance chamber and releases from a locked chest coordination. Now, this is never a fixed rule – the way that I tune my vowels is likely very different to what you need to do, so don’t just follow another singer’s footsteps here, it’s really important to understand what is happening in your voice so that you can make the educated choice to either widen, or narrow your vowels as you ascend.
A simple way to do this is to send your vowel figuratively up into your soft palate, you’ll feel a ‘wider’ vibration. You can even change your vowel slightly towards an “OH” sound too, but this is somewhat of a layman’s way of modifying your vowels, so I do encourage you to book a session with me so I can show you how to do this properly instead of guessing with vowel sounds.
Beyond this point, you need to narrow your vocal tract back into a neutral space, then fully narrow your tract as you ascend and release into your head voice around your top vocal break. So, in short:
- Onset – Neutral/Narrow
- First break – Wide
- Second break – Neutral/Narrower
- High range – Fully narrow with a release into your head
Again, it’s a pretty simple concept, it may take some professional guidance – but this is another important key to how I’ve build my voice, it’s also a very large part of my teaching approach that involves tuning vowels and resonance individually for each student’s unique voice.
Classically the idea is that you change your vowel sounds very subtely into “OH” for a wide tract, and “OO” for a narrow tract – but this approach only works for some accents and voice types, so make sure you actually know how to tune your vowel correctly before mangling those vowels, which brings me to the next step:
Step #7 – Vowel mechanics
Do you know how to sing vowels? Like, actually HOW to create them using your vocal tract? Surprisingly, this isn’t a commonly taught technique (mind boggling, I know), but learning how to create your vowels properly with the right tongue shape and right tuning for each sound is an absolutely MUST if you’re going to sing with power and connection.
Vowel sounds, like EE or AH are actually an ‘overtone’ of sorts, where your vocal tract size and tongue shape “EQ’s” your freqeuncies to create a particular overtone in the form of the vowels we hear, so you donn’t actually ‘pronounce’ your vowels when you sing, you SHAPE them.
You can try it yourself – sing a small, bright “EE” sound, like the word “FEED” – can you feel how your tongue moves UP at the back of your mouth towards the hard palate, somewhat like an “NG” but without actually touching the roof there? That’s the natural position for an EE vowel, and coincidentally is the basis of the AYE/EH vowel too.
Now, if you want to create “A” based vowels like “AH” and “AA” like “Car” and “Cat”, then the basis is actually with your tongue lowered completely against the base of your jaw and ‘concave’, so slightly down in the center, up a little at the sides. Try it yourself by singing an operatic sounding “Lah Lah Lah Lah” scale, can you feel how your tongue actually pulls down, completely opposite to the “EE” sound you were just doing? Now, if you make a concerted effort to lower and concave your tongue as you sing this scale again, that strain and pulling will dissipate, and you’ll find a MUCH clearer and strong vowel, right?
Tuning your vowels is a must when it comes to creating the right vowel sounds too. You can feel it out yourself, but the same principal applies – you’ll likely find that your EE sounds are overly narrow, and your AH vowel is way too wide, so you need to tune each vowel individually – you can get help with this by booking a session with me today!
Step #8 – Build your middle register
Now that you’re able to connect your registers and sing with tuned resonance, building your middle register so that it covers more of your vocal range is a pretty easy thing to do. It’s important to understand what’s happening in your voice from this point on, so make sure you’re getting professional guidance along the way. There’s a few different schools on where you should transition between your vocal registers, but personally I choose to ignore them all and build middle voice naturally in my own and my student’s voices. No two voices are alike, so telling two different students, with two unique voice types to “sing higher in chest” is a recipe for vocal damage, so run screaming from any ‘opinion’ based technique like this.
For example, In my own voice, I transition towards my middle register (so, I release from my chest towards a partially zipped coordination) around my first break, which is around a C3 or so depending on how I’m singing, then this persists until I hit my top vocal break which is somewehre around an F4-A4 and start releasing towards my head register from this point. This doesn’t mean that I’m releasing into a weak sound, it just means that I’m not “locking” my chords anywhere along the way – they’re always in a constant state of register change, meaning my voice is fluid and connected no matter where, or HOW i sing.
There’s quite a few simple exercises you can try to build your middle register into a powerful singing machine that is connected, resonant and vast – the most common is the ‘cry’, which is basically forcing your voice into a heavy middle voice high up into your upper registers, without strain of course. As you ascend in quarter steps towards an octave in your middle range, try to ‘sob’ on your highest note, like an annoying, operatic mournful ‘cry’ sound, you’re likely to find that you can actually sing VERY powerfully way up to a high C, no matter your voice type if you’re using this method. Then you simply need to build the same power WITHOUT the cry so that you can use it in your natural singing tone – clear as mud, right?
The best way to build your middle register is to take it slow, seek professional help and follow each of these steps EVERY TIME you practice. Remember, consistency is key to a powerful singing voice! If you’re ready to power up your singing and learn how to sing in mix voice, you can book a session with me today.
Feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
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.