What Is Mix Voice (And How Do You Get It?)
You've heard of chest voice and head voice before - but what about mixed voice or 'mix' as it's commonly know? What is mix voice and how do you develop it? Let's find out.
Mixed voice as a term is actually used in many ways by different vocal approaches and singing teachers. Some use the term to refer to a blend of resonance between chest and head voice, and others refer to mix as a physical balance between the TA and CT processes in your vocal mechanism. Before we get started, let me explain that I use the term in both ways depending on the situation and singer - so we'll go through both versions so you can sing in mix voice no matter the approach you're using.
What Is Mix Voice? (Type 1 - Resonance)
This is my favourite way of using the term mixed voice, and it's also my favourite way of singing. Instead of focusing on the physical too much, instead, focus on the resonance that you identify from each register. For example, if you sing a relatively low note - you'll most likely feel resonance near your front teeth, or if you're just getting started and haven't yet developed placement, then you might literally feel vibration in our chest. For now, it's not important where you feel the resonance, only that you identify it. Now, let's sing a high note - not a pushed, yelling high note, but a light, bright "Bee Gees" style head voice note. No doubt you'll notice that this is a different form of resonance that has moved away from the chest/teeth area and into 'the head' (hence the term Head Voice), most likely between the eyes or even the back of the head.
Great, you've identified chest resonance and head resonance. Now, to create mix, all you need to do is allow some of that light bright head resonance to occur as you move through the middle of the voice - this will result in partial chest and partial head, which actually sounds JUST as a powerful as your full chest voice, but has the added benefit of being free from strain and tension and also allowing you to enjoy the extensive range afforded by your head register. Pretty easy, right?
This blend of resonance is the reason that 99% of vocal courses and vocal methods out there encourage you to start with semi-occluded sounds like lip trills, N, NG, M etc - what they're actually trying to get you to do (even if they don't explain it that clearly) is create a connection between chest and head voice and developed the blend of resonance we just discovered. Yes, Mixed Voice is part of every singer's voice and is simply the natural form of your resonance through the mid section of a healthy singing voice.
"Singing higher chest voice notes" is really a misnomer and refers to mixed voice. Belting also makes use of your mixed resonance. Rock, Pop, R'nB and even Classical singing all make extensive use of mixed resonance. Ergo, stop trying to push your chest voice as high as possible, and stop 'flipping' into falsetto - create mixed resonance instead.
What Is Mix Voice Type 2 (Balance In The Vocal Mechanism)
The second way that the term Mix Voice is used is to describe the use of the TA and CT muscles when you sing. The Thyroarytenoid (TA) contracts the vocal folds and makes them shorter and thinner - this is also sometimes referred to as Chest Voice or Chest Dominance. The Cricothyroid (CT) stretches and things the vocal folds, with the added result of partially tilting the larnyx - this is sometimes known as Head Voice or Head Dominance.
The key to developing mixed resonance when an approach is highly scientific and 'physical' is to balance the feeling of both weight (TA) and tension (CT) in the voice. This then links to the first description of mixed voice by, you guessed it, creating mixed resonance.
Developing Mixed Voice
You've probably seen tons of YouTube videos or tutorials where people swear by exercises like "MA MA MA" for developing mixed voice; you've tried them a million times but they Just. Don't. Work. Now, the reason that they don't work is that they're actually designed to strengthen and elongate your mixed register, not help you find it. This might seem like semantics, but it really is one of the most important definitions you need as a singer - how can you 'develop' something that you don't yet have access to? The key here is to first find your mixed resonance by connecting chest and head voice with small sounds like lip trills, N, NG, M and 'hoot' resonance sounds on an OO and EE vowel. These basic exercises as KEY to finding mixed voice, at which point you can then develop it further and create the voice you truly desire.
The approach that I personally used to created mixed voice and grow the extensive range I'm well known for (yes, even as a Baritone!) is now available to you in the Foundation 101 singing course, which is designed with 20 years singing experience and a decade of vocal coaching expertise under my belt. In the course you will learn;
- How to connect chest and head voice
- How to form vowels correctly
- How to create and manage resonant space
- Wide and narrow vowels
- How to sing semi occluded sounds correctly
- How to sing open vowels correctly
- How to place your voice correctly
- How to warm up effectively
- How to create and develop mixed resonance
- Balanced onsets
- SO much more!
The most important thing you will ever do as a budding singer is to set up your vocal foundation correctly. Foundation in singing really is just like the foundation of a house being built; the rock solid base that your walls and roof (range and tone) are to be built upon. Foundation includes each base element of your voice from important processes in the mechanism like balance between the TA and CT muscles and balanced onsets, as well as the more figurative aspects of singing like blended resonance and placement.
If you want to forge ahead now and create mixed voice, this Mixed Voice Singing Lesson really is one of the best tools you'll find for developing your mix. You can also take your singing that extra step further with by jumping straight into the Foundation 101 singing course.
Here's just a few examples of what I'm achieving with the Foundation 101 approach, yes, even as a Baritone - Just imagine what you are going to achieve when you find your own mixed voice!
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.