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Mix Voice - What is it?

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Insight
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Hello all,

What is mix voice?

How do you access it?

I've been experimenting for a while and all I've found is that I have a chest voice, and a head voice/falsetto. I can ascend into the head/falsetto without a break if I apply some kind of mild tension in the throat (not locking up, obviously. It feels like I'm making my throat smaller) as in those "siren" exercises, but I have doubts about whether that's a proper technique above the break because my ability to pronounce words becomes pretty limited.

I've heard that mix voice is a blending of chest and head/falsetto, but I am lost as to how I'm supposed to accomplish this. I can get a sharper tone in the head/falsetto voice by increasing air pressure and applying that same mild tension I mentioned earlier, but again my ability to pronounce words becomes limited, and I lose any control I have if I let go of that tension.

Another thing that makes me question it is because I can apply a gritty tone in my chest voice, but my throat has to be pretty relaxed. It's pretty much impossible to make that tone in the head/falsetto voice while that tension is there, but without the tension it becomes breathy (as in typical falsetto), and a gritty BeeGees-like voice sounds silly to me.

I can post audio examples of myself if it'll clarify what I'm talking about.

Any ideas?

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As you ascend in range, your cricothyroid muscle needs to become active to go up. If you keep a good balance between the tension in the cricothyroid and the TA muscle, we talk of mix.

Some people will use soo much chest that it throws their voice of balance and causes tension and constriction, some people will use too much head that it will throw things of balance.

So basicly mix voice is about finding a good balance. There are different degrees of a good mix. Martin would make a overdrive clip that I would call a very heavy mix, yet a balanced one. Then there could be a lighter one too, still on the chesty side, that maybe can described as a medium mix, furthermore you have a light mix which sounds heady.

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Hi,

'Traditional' pedagogy has it that there are three 'main' registers in the voice, which are variously called chest, middle and head (which don't really work as descriptors these days) or bottom, middle and top - or dozens of other descriptors, including simply 'head and chest voice' - which is one reason why there's so much confusion!

McKinney (The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults) calls these 'main' parts of the voice 'modal' voice. Falsetto, Whistle and Fry are considered 'auxiliary' registers, in his terminology. The three main registers were identified by Garcia in the mid-1850s after he invented the laryngoscope (although this invention is also credited to a British doctor).

The most interesting book (for me) on registers is Jerome Hines' 'The Four Voices of Man'. He's a classical singer but writes a lot that would interest a rock or MT singer :-) He too talks about the 'middle register' but notes that mix isn't the same as middle if you are male: in the female voice 'mix' is middle, whilst in the male voice, 'mix' is top/head (which is quite different to falsetto). For great techniques for bridging to top - see Robert!

The muscular work for mix is as Elrathion describes above. However, personally I'm not entirely sold on singers concentrating on specific muscle groups when training, as I believe that it causes more tension than it removes. Nonetheless these muscles must be activated and balanced - this is where a good teacher comes in, and this is where we all differ in our ways of getting the singer to achieve that balance :-)

In my everyday experience as a vocal coach, it is quite clear that the female voice has three distinctive registers (not including falsetto), but that most have a big 'break' from chest into head at roughly the A or B above middle C. For them, I would focus on balancing the musculature in order to develop mix / middle, so that they can bridge across that break in a full voice tone that's still capable of belting.

For guys, it's different, because the middle register is so strong, and can go so high (roughly high B) before flipping into falsetto, that many guys do just flip into falsetto rather than bridging into a strong head voice. If you look at the above, you'll see that we're discussing the same 'break', one octave apart, and herein can lay the confusion: most contemporary male singers sing naturally in their middle register and thus mistakenly believe that they're in bottom register (because they can sing down to their bottom notes in this register), but bottom register - what Hines calls '1st Voice', just to add to the confusion! - sounds quite different to middle. It has a 'darker' tone.

(deep breath)

So..............................................

If you're able to sing in a full-voiced tone up to high notes in your range (let's guess somewhere between high F and the high B above that) before flipping into falsetto, then you're already singing in middle, and what you need is to bridge and connect (Robert's parlance, I think) into a strong head voice range.

Now for more confusion................ the problem for male singers is that the muscles which control the bottom register and the muscles which control the middle register are the same, and as most male singers either don't use, have no use for or never find their '1st voice / bottom register' then they think of middle register as being chest voice / bottom register. You guys are really lucky in that you tend to sing instinctively in middle, as that's the sound that dominates in contemporary music (of course it's arguable that guys tend to sing in middle because it's the sound that dominates in contemporary music). The girls have it tougher because their 'bottom register / chest voice' tends to get pushed up to the B above Middle C and then they flip into an over-light head voice / top register - which is useless, as there's a lot of useable middle-register range above that B! So the ladies, who tend to instinctively sing in either chest or head, have to painstakingly learn to 'bridge and connect' into middle, whereas guys have to bridge and connect into top. In other words, the genders are not only separated by an octave, but also are set one register apart. Confusing confusing confusing.......

To summarise this endless posting (!) my best guess is that you're already singing in middle and your problem is now learning to bridge and connect into head voice / top / mix.

To test this, try singing down from the middle of your range (let's say G-ish), in your 'normal' voice and at a reasonable volume. As you approach the lower end of the range, somewhere around low A / B, if you have to make a subtle (or not so subtle!) change in tone in order to keep descending, then you can pretty much assume that you started in middle register.

Wow............. this is so difficult to write down, so much easier to do in person! Good luck with your continued vocal explorations :-)

Ria

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there are many confusing vocal terminologies in singing but i have to say i think the term "mix" isnt one of them and im not just saying that because i study SLS. i think its actually a really simple, straight forward way of describing the process of singing full voiced in the middle to higher part of the range (for guys-for gals you start to mix at a lower point in the range as described above).

so why is it an appropriate term? well for one if you sing in chest voice you will feel resonance/sympathetic vibration in your chest/breast plate area (hence where the term "chest voice" comes from") if you sing in head voice and falsetto you will mainly feel resonance/sympathetic vibration in areas such as the face, nose, top teeth or have a sensation as if the voice is shooting up behind the soft palate through the top back head (once again, this is where the term "head voice" comes from).

so when singing in the "mix" the resonance is not a domination of either chest or head resonance but is a sensation of a mix of the two.

the second reason is as Elrathion describes. if you where to sing up a scale from your lowest note to a connected head voice (full voice) there is a point (where you start to enter "mixed" voice) where one type of muscle starts to dominate less and is mixed with the interaction of another muscle. the process is very gradual and incremental as you go from one note to the next. if this mixed interaction of these muscles does not occur two things happen. you try to hold on to the domination of one muscle and try to go higher in your range using it, resulting in a strained sound commonly called "pulled chest voice" or instead of the interaction occurring you go from the release of one muscle to no real interaction of the other resulting in an airy, falsetto.

Insight, i would say that if you are able to do a siren from your lowest note to your highest without a flip or break (roughly in the middle) and the top notes are not an airy falsetto then you are achieving a mix but from what you are saying it seems that you are probably using external muscles to assist this process. this is probably why pronounceation is difficult-there are unnecessary muscles in use muscling/tensing up the process. with proper coordination and strengthening, only the correct, internal muscles in the larynx are used and the external ones are released/deactivated.

the way to achieve this is with specific coordination/strengthening exercises. what are those exercises? well i can only really vouch for SLS at the moment but its ultimately about doing some research and trying out different techniques to see what makes the most sense and does the job for you (yes this can be a expensive and tiresome task at times but if your serious about your voice you make make the sacrifice!) but to name just a few to start look in to there is Speech Level Singing (SLS), Complete Vocal Technique, Estill Voice Training and Robert Lunte´s TVS.

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CentreOfTheUniverse,

You just agreed that the term "mix" has two different meanings! A feeling of vibrations (between Chest and Head) and as a vocal fold movement. Isn't that confusing??

You see....confusion occurs when the same term(mix) is used to describe different things! And that also goes for Chest and Head etc. Those "old" terms just have tooo much bagage.

So basically I disagree with you that the term "mix" isn't confusing. Actually it confuses A LOT of people! That's why we are having this debate in the first place...

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Hi martin,

although i suppose you could say the resonance description is more of a metaphor and the vocal fold aspect is more a psychical description they are actually part of the same process. two parts of the same thing happening at the same time, incrementally at the same degree, not two different things or meanings. the theory is that as the resonance "mixes" it mirrors the "mixing" of the vocal muscle coordination and vice a versa. hope that clears things up a bit.

i do agree that vocal terminology can be confusing both modern and classic ones but hey thats where studying and asking questions comes in. what can i say, the concept of what "mix" is is a pretty straightforward one to me. as the original poster, Insight said "I've heard that mix voice is a blending of chest and head/falsetto" he was right, thats pretty much it in a nutshell! i just went into more detail about it.

now if you want to talk about confusing people and have a 300 post debate lets talk about term "support" ;)

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You know what... I dont know. The "mixed voice" thing I think came from SLS and to this day, I still dont know and dont think many people can actually agree what they mean when they say that. Its one of these things in voice pedagogy that creates nothing but complete, unecessary confusion. I never use this term.

yeah cos "bridging and connecting" is really obvious and not confusing to a vocal/singing newbie :P "Hi Tommy, nice to meet you. whats that you say? been practicing singing in your bedroom for two weeks now! Great, ok now just "bridge and connect" for me as you go up the scale" ;)

im just messing with ya there a little bit Robert :D. i think that the terms "mix" and "bridging and connecting" are both great because it describes the process/concept thats going on but as with so much terminology, not just singing/vocal technique if you have no prior knowledge or understanding it can seem confusing. it can feel very much like learning a new language at times. plus as we have said so many times before one term can have various meanings according to different techniques. ones mans head voice is anothers falsetto.........

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Man. I KNEW Centre was going to get on me on this... HA! You took the bait! Seems you guys have some explanation for "mix"... thats dandy... but bridging and connecting between two dominate voices is FAR easier to work and train then having to interpret some purgatory myth referred to as the "mix"... c'mon fellas... you know as well as I do, its not a clear explanation of what mix is... its one of those vocal pedagogy terms that has turned real fuzzy and at this point really only confuses people...

Dont forget fellas... great voice pedagogy is much about teaching complex concepts in a simple, easy to grasp way. Something we do well at TVS... the faster my students get it and understand, the quicker we all get to the result. Im blowing vocal athletes out the door like a factory guys because the language is easy to grasp.. thats the point. If I want to impress people with my vocal pedagogy jive, ill jump on this forum... but when Im providing a service, its to demystify and get the student from point A to B as quickly as possible.

Remove terms that only add confusion. "Bridging & Connecting" is easy dude... It breaks down the two most difficult feats down to two simple notions. Passagio bridging and vocal fold adduction in the head voice.. thats it. Thats the holy grail fellas... now lets get down to teaching it and explaning it in a way that gets results quickly... Its about people learning... its about people getting results...

You guys are funny... I mean that in a respectful way... I like this gang.

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ones mans head voice is anothers falsetto... precisely my point... that is a true statement, but its so WRONG. The whole "falsetto vs head voice" confusion is the worst example of why voice pedagogy needs to be simplified and how language can just fester to become an institutional, global ignorance... fellas, Falsetto and Head Voice are not the same thing... if teachers would stop teaching that, we would make huge strides in the business... teachers calling head voice "falsetto" is probably my biggest peeve... AHHH! :o

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The trouble does not occur when for example people call headvoice falsetto or vice versa Robert, it's just the point when it's to late.

what we are realy trying to do here is describing sounds with words, and in the same time we are trying to add a vocal configuration to that sound. Thats when the real problem happens.

Falsetto and headvoice can be the same thing, it all depends on what you call falsetto and what you call headvoice... All registers and sound´qualities are apart of the same voice, your voice...

Thats why pedagogy is lacking, we are trying to describe something when read we can not hear and a muscle configuration we can not see unless we got a cam down in our throat. Ofc what you describe Robert as falsetto and head are not the same thing, but there are people that lables what you call headvoice falsetto. It doesnt realy matter as it's not in any way gonna change the sound you produce.

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Jens, I agree, it's important to seperate SOUND from REGISTER(area in the voice), to me that's actually the core of the confusion. So in responds to you Centre, if "mix" according to you is a place between chest and head (feeling of vibrations) then it is a register and have NO sound.

And as I'm using CVT, I like the fact that they don't use any of those terms at all. They simply call it: Very low - low - middle - high - very high. Seperated by the C's (ex. high is from C4-C5 for males).

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i think at the end of the day if you study any particular school of technique it will have its own terminology whether that be using terms such as "mix", " vocal modes", "vocal figures", "bridging and connecting"," head voice", "support" etc etc etc most of these terms are pretty easy to grasp if you study the particular technique that uses them (by the very fact that your studyng it !!!) but maybe seem somewhat confusing to those new to singing or that particular technique but even then i think you will find that there are the very simple, easy to conceive explanations of those terms for those students that do not really wish to dissect the meanings and inner technical details and just want to learn, without question, then there are explanations and technical details for those who wish to study deeper.

Martin,

im not sure if this is what you where asking- but yes once you have entered the "mix" it is possible to identify it by ear. though you would have to know what your "hearing " for. sometimes it can be difficult to pickup, especially with very heavy (more chest voice like quality) type mixed voice production or of course if it is a more off center "mix".

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Centre,

What I wanted to know was if you consider "mix" to be a SOUND or a REGISTER(area in the voice - or a distance between two notes if you will)??

Ex. In CVT the "high part" of the male voice is defined as C4-C5. In that area you are able to sing in all modes, use a ton of different sound colors and many effects. They have devided REGISTER from SOUND. :)

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I think I was a bit hasty... "mixed voice" is a term that needs to be used sometimes, even in my studio to describe a placement area that is kinda in between... I get it. I still like to avoid using it if I can, because it creates confusion.

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Robert,

Are you not usually calling that the passagio? Since you are using a bridging approach, I asume that the terms you use like chest, passagio and head registers are not fixed intervals right?

that is one of the things that im kinda on the fence about with CVT. are the "breaks" in the voice at fairly fixed parts of the range. no there not if your one of those lucky singers that is able to transition or "mix" naturally well but if your not one of those lucky singers then yes i would say that the breaks are at fairly fixed places. now this all depends of the type of voice/vocal fold and muscle structure I.E. low, middle or high voice, of the singer. i should also point out that i have been taught that apart from the "main" break from chest to head voice there are other additional passaggio that although are often not as noticeable as the chest to head break can cause problems if not transitioned properly. this is why it might seem like there are no fixed passaggio´s/breaks for instance a singer may be fairly competent with a lower passaggio but then run into problems with a upper one. it is also quite possible to create a break just about anywhere in the range if you go too far off center from proper vocal production. if you think of the main break as the point where the thicker vocal mass of chest voice cannot be utilized any further then yes this "break" is pretty consistent in the various voice types.

Martin, for each type of voice bass, tenor etc etc there is a fairly fixed position where that singer will start to mix. for those in the know, they will hear this mixing happening though i have to say that i think this "mix" sound becomes much more apparent in the upper range. it has a certain "ring" ,"squillo" or "metal" sound to it. you can really hear the upper harmonics. now if you think of the mix sound as the basic or fundamental sound from there you can change the "colour" of the tone by changing the shape of the vocal tract/adjusting larynx height slightly. you can also change the intensity of the mix; that is to say you could have a lighter mix that could be mistaken for falsetto its so light or you could have a such a heavy mix that it could almost be mistaken for a belted voice.

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Centre,

You confuse me a bit.

You refer "mix" to be: "That mix voice is a blending of chest and head/falsetto"

And: "You think of the mix sound as the basic or fundamental sound"

So to you "mix" is a SOUND. But it is also a REGISTER, the transition area between chest and head(passagio). You also use the terms "lighter mix" and "heavier mix".

Then you also say that: "This "mix" sound becomes much more apparent in the upper range".

So here is my conclusion:

"mix" is a SOUND which can go from "light" to "heavy" and it can be used in the upper ranges. BUT "mix" is also defined as a REGISTER between chest and head.

In my opinion your definition of "mix" is not very concrete and also confusing (basically because you use the same term to describe varies things - especially SOUNDS and REGISTER). And this is only the term mix, what about chest and head?? - no pune intended by the way! :)

Note: If you insist on using those old terms -then my advice to you would be to ONLY use the terms chest, passagio and head to define areas in the voice(REGISTERS). And then use the terms mix, ligter mix and heavier mix to define the SOUNDS in those REGISTERS.

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i can see where your coming from martin.

-it definitely can be a hard process of translation from personal conceptualization to written word. thus why so many different definitions and terms. i think it may be for this very reason why it might prove so hard to create a universal language of voice.

if i adopt some of your terminology or thinking, which i think is actually closer to what SLS uses.

there is chest voice, the main passage or passaggio (in italian)and head voice (lets forget about the other upper passages for the minute). as you start to enter the main passage/passaggio you begin to mix the resonance (forget the sympathetic vibrations, there actually not really to do with it) and muscle interaction of both chest and head voice. now once your in the passage area you have options. you can either carry up a more chest like sound into head voice, which would be called a heavy mix (which for arguments sake say is a 50% mix of chest and head voice quality) or you can carry up a lighter, headier like sound into head voice which is called light mix (which might be say 25% chest, 75% head). the variations-various mixes of each ratio can be blended as required.

now i suppose the question here is although your saying youve gone through the passage area into head voice, its actually more like an extended passage area or mixing area carried on up. it isnt untill your much higher in range that you could call it a pure head voice i would say (unless youve intentionally gone from chest voice to a very light, headier voice as quickly as you can without a disconnection or flip/break), though i guess it would depend on how much chest voice ratio youve taken up in the first place, as to what note would be considered pure head voice (if you continued on up in its natural incremental stages) . it is this part that i think may have been confusing before because thats how i conceptualize it.

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Centre,

Ok now I follow you. :)

now i suppose the question here is although your saying youve gone through the passage area into head voice, its actually more like an extended passage area or mixing area carried on up.

I quess then if you can "extend" the passaggio area upwards, then it's also possible to "extend" the passaggio downwards. So that you can have a mix in the lower range as well. And that actually means, that if you for instance start in a light mix(25%-75%), say on F3 and go up to B4 in that same light mix, then there will be NO reason to mix in the "main passaggio" area because you are already in that mix-coordination from the beginning.

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Centre,

I quess then if you can "extend" the passaggio area upwards, then it's also possible to "extend" the passaggio downwards. So that you can have a mix in the lower range as well. And that actually means, that if you for instance start in a light mix(25%-75%), say on F3 and go up to B4 in that same light mix, then there will be NO reason to mix in the "main passaggio" area because you are already in that mix-coordination from the beginning.

Martin, Centre: This is an excellent discussion. I'd like to reinforce the perspective that the balance of laryngeal muscle actions is just part of the 'mix' and 'passaggio' experiences. There are also the acoustic effects of vocal tract shapings we associate with vowels which play a significant part. The interaction of these two sets of techniques can be very widely varied by the singer trained to do so.

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Center,

Wouldn't you agree that the term mix refers to the register of the voice and not the sound? Stevie Wonder's mix voice can sound a lot like chest voice. Other people's mix voice might sound very different. In my opinion, it is the mechanism of production that defines whether or not the singer is "in the mix". If you are mixing, then you are bridging the chest voice and the head voice. The mix has these characteristics:

• a stable larynx

• activity of both CT and TA , allowing proper adduction of the vocal folds

• active resonators in the chest voice and head voice

While I believe that most singers begin to sing in the mix at around Eb4, I think there are variations and each singer should be treated differently. I'd like to learn more about CVT, because it's my sense that they handle the complexities of the voice well and have an interesting system for distinguishing between sounds, registers, and voice types.

-John

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First, I like to get my students away from the idea of separating their voice by using words like chest voice, head voice, etc. I think it's best if you think of your voice as ONE voice, getting it to work like one voice. This doesn't mean taking your chest voice all the way up to the top of your range (impossible anyway) of the head voice all the way down until the voice just disappears completely.

One register sound is much like a TV antennae -- one voice fits into another and another and another. The voice goes from thickest to thinnest, thinnest to thickest as one.

I like to start my students at a level of loudness where they will not break. If that means it sounds wimpy to you, then so be it. It's important to feel placement in the mask, and make sure your breath technique is good so it can support the vocal cord mehanism.

I know there are many ways to go after getting the voice bridged but for myself, it wasn't until I learned how the support mechanisms (diaphragm, cords, mask) all work as a brace for one another that the voice of all my students have come together.

My next book won't be out for another 3-6 months but it is a missing link fix for many vocalists. I wish I could share it with you here but am not allowed to until the book is out. This truly makes things frustrating because of my deep deisre to help.

There are lots of good books out on how to achieve what you are seeking. I've experimented with many methods. Honestly, all of them helped me and I learned a lot. Don't be afraid to experiment with as much as you can if you don't have a teacher.

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FOLKS, WHILE I'M CERTAINLY NO EXPERT..I WOULD JUST LIKE TO SAY THAT WHEN I SING THE CHOICE OF HEAD VOICE OR CHEST VOICE SEEMS TO BE "INSTINCTIVE" IN PART. I LEARNED A LOT FROM JUST CRITICALLY LISTENING TO VOCALISTS. I REALLY THINK A VOCALIST THAT HELPS YOU TO UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BY HEARING HIM IS CHRIS CORNELL. YOU CAN ONLY GO SO HIGH IN CHEST VOICE BEFORE YOU INSTINCTIVELY NEED TO TRANSITION TO HEAD VOICE. THE TRICK IS TO TRANSITION "INPERCEPTIBLY" WHICH IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN FOCUSED ON. THAT'S NOT EASY. ALSO, I THINK OF FALSETTO AS THE REAL FEMININE-SOUNDING REGISTER TO BE USED SPORADICALLY. JUST MY THOUGHTS ON THIS.

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