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Rhapsody
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Here's my story today:

A little background first, I can bridge smoothly from chest to head and head to chest from a p to mf. Anything louder I'll have to ease off at the bridge area and decrease the volume to continue bridging. Is this correct?

I was singing a song, and it happened here when I started to sing the next phrase. A very comfortable D4 felt strained to me even though I carried the note out. I stopped and went "what on earth..?". It dawned on me that I didn't have enough adduction or compression - it was a little airy. Then I thought, perhaps that's always happening to me in my high notes? I stopped singing the song and went into ascending/descending 5-note scales. As usual I just kept my throat relaxed, and I only thought about the note that I planned to hit (F4). Then it just happened, I hit it so easy. A spark went off in my head. I rode on the momentum and went up to G4 and I floated out a rich tone that I've never heard and felt before.

I paused for a good while thinking about what actually happened. It didn't feel like chest, wasn't the way I sing my full head tones, had sort of a edgy/ring quality, and best of all the G4 came out with a vibrato. I also remembered that I used an "uh" vowel mixed with "ah". I got excited and carried on till A4 where my voice started to wobble into head tone a little and the tension creeping in. Then I stopped and rested for an hour.

I spent the next 2 hours vocalising going up scales with different consonants and stuff trying to recreate that scenario and feeling. While my chest range easily increased suddenly (I can easily push my chest to Bb4 when the max I could go before was G4 where my voice just thins out and flattens totally) 2-3 notes, I also realised the harder I tried to get that feeling the more the tension came in. I took a good 3 hour break and came back. One thing to note is that I was vocalising from mf to f.

In the meantime I was still wondering if I was doing the wrong thing, and suggested to myself if it's a "real" sound then I can easily sing it both loud and soft. I tried again and I got a Ab4 easily in chest voice at a soft volume.. definitely not a head tone because it doesn't feel like how I would sing a note in full head tone.

So here's the question: Did I hit it in chest voice? Or was it something else? It's complete new to me, it's as if someone suddenly gave me his range or something. Before this the maximum I could go was a strained/forced G4. Now I can belt up to a Bb4 in this chest voice (if it is chest voice). I would like to know what happened, perhaps some advice, before I continue doing what I've been doing in case it's wrong and I screw up my voice.

P/S: I should also mention that throughout the whole vocalisation I felt no pain at all in my throat, except only slight irritation during the 2-hour run when I pushed a little to try to create that beautiful G4. So at the end of my vocalisation I did not lose my voice, something that happened all the time when I pulled chest in choir 4 years ago.

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the positive things you describe sound exactly like the sensation of finding mixed voice or middle voice as its sometimes known. its sounds like you discovered it very much in the way Speech Level Singing teaches it I.E. aspects such as vowel narrowing/deepening-UH added on to AH etc. the fact that you found the A4 a bit wobbly is because that is exactly where the the tenor voice transitions from mixed voice to head voice. the funny thing is when you doing it right you dont push for those higher notes, its more like you allow it to happen. it can be an incredible feeling because it feels so easy as you described. often the harder we try to make these sounds happen the more tensions and constrictions we bring in. you have to remain very relaxed in the throat, use the correct vowel and allow the sound to happen.

i suggest you check out Speech Level Singing technique.

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Rhapsody - If you have not seen 'Lift Up Pull Back' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8zroG9QWNc I reccomend it. My personal experience with SLS / SS is I spent a lot of money, time, practice and had about a 3 1/2 octave range with huge tension at the top. With SLS / SS you concern yourself with narrowing vowels and the position of your larynx (keep it neutral not lifted...blah blah blah). I started training at The Vocalist Studio with Robert Lunte and learned a new way to Bridge the Passaggio (my larynx in in a lifted position). I now sing using HEALTHY Top Down phonation, no gripping / strain, and I sing anything in my 5 octave range with no strain / difficulty. There are MORE passaggios to bridge (not just from Chest to Head, but from Head to Flageolet). Bridging from Head to Flageolet (whistle) will involve your laryngeal position moving from its tilted position you where Twanging in to a Neutral (vertical) position. Bridging from Head to Flageolet is exciting when you first learn to. When I sing I am not concentrating on my laryngeal position. I allow my larynx to move freely and I sing over 5 octaves with no gripping. Hope that helps.

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Rhapsody: My responses are interspersed with your quotes.

Here's my story today:

A little background first, I can bridge smoothly from chest to head and head to chest from a p to mf. Anything louder I'll have to ease off at the bridge area and decrease the volume to continue bridging. Is this correct?

Yes, for the moment, until you find _exactly_ the right vowels to use through there. Once you have them, then you can equalize the volume.

I was singing a song, and it happened here when I started to sing the next phrase. A very comfortable D4 felt strained to me even though I carried the note out. I stopped and went "what on earth..?". It dawned on me that I didn't have enough adduction or compression - it was a little airy. Then I thought, perhaps that's always happening to me in my high notes? I stopped singing the song and went into ascending/descending 5-note scales. As usual I just kept my throat relaxed, and I only thought about the note that I planned to hit (F4). Then it just happened, I hit it so easy. A spark went off in my head. I rode on the momentum and went up to G4 and I floated out a rich tone that I've never heard and felt before.

Sounds like a breakthrough to me :D.

I paused for a good while thinking about what actually happened. It didn't feel like chest, wasn't the way I sing my full head tones, had sort of a edgy/ring quality, and best of all the G4 came out with a vibrato. I also remembered that I used an "uh" vowel mixed with "ah". I got excited and carried on till A4 where my voice started to wobble into head tone a little and the tension creeping in. Then I stopped and rested for an hour.

I spent the next 2 hours vocalising going up scales with different consonants and stuff trying to recreate that scenario and feeling. While my chest range easily increased suddenly (I can easily push my chest to Bb4 when the max I could go before was G4 where my voice just thins out and flattens totally) 2-3 notes, I also realised the harder I tried to get that feeling the more the tension came in. I took a good 3 hour break and came back. One thing to note is that I was vocalising from mf to f.

In the meantime I was still wondering if I was doing the wrong thing, and suggested to myself if it's a "real" sound then I can easily sing it both loud and soft. I tried again and I got a Ab4 easily in chest voice at a soft volume.. definitely not a head tone because it doesn't feel like how I would sing a note in full head tone.

So here's the question: Did I hit it in chest voice? Or was it something else? It's complete new to me, it's as if someone suddenly gave me his range or something. Before this the maximum I could go was a strained/forced G4. Now I can belt up to a Bb4 in this chest voice (if it is chest voice). I would like to know what happened, perhaps some advice, before I continue doing what I've been doing in case it's wrong and I screw up my voice.

Just a couple comments: When you get the voice into balance, and the passaggio right, most of the differences between chest voice and head voice are in the sensation of vibration location in the body, and not so much in the sensation of the voice in the throat. At the laryngeal level, and in your overall bodily connection to the tone, things are quite the same, as if the middle and upper regions of the voice are connected... because they now are coming as the result of a single technique. The resulting head voice likely rings in your head like a bell, and (when right) is nearly effortless and tension-free at the laryngeal level. When done with volume, this kind of head voice is called 'full voice in the head', or 'the robust head voice'.

With the middle and upper regions of the voice connected like this, the next technical work is to find the specific shades of vowel colors that work the best for you up top. Even small changes can make big resonance (and sensation) differences. In general, for classical singing style, there are two resonance strategies that are commonly used, The "singer's formant" strategy, and the "tune 2nd formant" strategy. I posted a blog here at TMV last december that will be helpful in understanding this. Its at http://www.themodernvocalist.com/profiles/blogs/vocal-ring-and-operatic-tenor.

P/S: I should also mention that throughout the whole vocalisation I felt no pain at all in my throat, except only slight irritation during the 2-hour run when I pushed a little to try to create that beautiful G4. So at the end of my vocalisation I did not lose my voice, something that happened all the time when I pulled chest in choir 4 years ago.

IMO, you have made a great breakthrough. It seems to me that you are getting the relationship of breath energy, laryngeal muscle activity, and vowels into balance. Hooray for you. Keep up the good work.

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Thank you all for your generous comments.

I've also started to lurk at Singing Success and CVI.. tons of information over there. I believe I found my "mixed" voice, which also screws with my mind because now the lines start to blur - as I go higher in my mixed voice the distinction of "feeling" between mixed and head starts to disappear... ok I'm really at a loss of words to describe it what I feel, not very good with terminology. Also if I hit a D5 in my mixed I can glide down all the way past my usual break without any "break". If I do the D5 in my head I'll have to grapple with transition as I go down the same scale.

Hmm. I'm still figuring out my voice..trying to understand it. I'm still plagued by tension though - I can hit those mixes high up there only at a low volume effortlessly. The moment I try to increase the volume the tension comes in and the sound shuts off.

Advice? Or should I just take out my credit card and get the SS program..or Four Pillars, orCVT?

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I definitely think you would benefit from using any of the vocal programs you listed. You need a cohesive training program that will help you to build the muscle memory needed to get your voice where you want it to be. It comes with time and repetitiveness. Volume will come with practice too. Resonation and breath support ultimately provide your volume not muscle strength. Learn the coordinations first, get the muscle memory happening and the volume and power will come on its own. I think that Robert Lunte in particular has a gift of teaching what it is you are looking for out of your voice.

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Oh yes, another issue. I find it extremely hard to do falsetto now. It becomes a reflext to do headvoice whenever I try to do falsetto. I guess it is because I've not used falsetto for a really long time (1, 2 or 3 years? I can't even remember) ever since I built my head voice. That being said, the falsetto I do now sounds ugly. Is there a way to solve this?

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Oh yes, another issue. I find it extremely hard to do falsetto now. It becomes a reflext to do headvoice whenever I try to do falsetto. I guess it is because I've not used falsetto for a really long time (1, 2 or 3 years? I can't even remember) ever since I built my head voice. That being said, the falsetto I do now sounds ugly. Is there a way to solve this?

Rhapsody: Its an interesting problem, eh? If you've not done it in a year or more, it may take a bit of time to regain it. Be patient.

For you to sing falsetto, you have to set up the circumstances in which falsetto occurs. Though there is longstanding disagreement about what is falsetto and what is not (at one point, some teachers even called headvoice 'falsetto',) these days there are two approaches to producing a vocal tone that may be called falsetto:

1) From the E above middle C upwards, softly, with an incomplete adduction, making the tone a little breathy, and

2) In the same range, a well-adducted tone but without any thyro-arytenoid muscle action whatsoever. Airflow on this approach is a little higher than for the modal (coordinated) voice.

For either approach, the _vowel_ you choose has an influence on the success. OO and EE (which have the lowest passaggio points) are good places to start.

As an exercise to help provoke falsetto's appearance, do a very soft vocal siren on OO, beginning quite low in your normal vocal range, allowing the tone to be as unsupported, nonaggressive and soft as you can. The inclusion of an H consonant at the beginning of the exercise can be an assist in this, and can help you achieve a 'breathing out' of the note: for this tone to work, more airflow allowed. For me, making this kind of tone feels like I have 'put an H' in the middle of the tone... it feels very gentle, almost 'fluffy' to me.

As you come up the siren, don't let the intensity increase, keep the vocal concept small, and let the airflow stay pretty constant. As you pass middle C and go into the passaggio, you will feel the lighter, less-connected coordination appear.

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Rhapsody - If you have not seen 'Lift Up Pull Back' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8zroG9QWNc I reccomend it. My personal experience with SLS / SS is I spent a lot of money, time, practice and had about a 3 1/2 octave range with huge tension at the top. With SLS / SS you concern yourself with narrowing vowels and the position of your larynx (keep it neutral not lifted...blah blah blah). I started training at The Vocalist Studio with Robert Lunte and learned a new way to Bridge the Passaggio (my larynx in in a lifted position). I now sing using HEALTHY Top Down phonation, no gripping / strain, and I sing anything in my 5 octave range with no strain / difficulty. There are MORE passaggios to bridge (not just from Chest to Head, but from Head to Flageolet). Bridging from Head to Flageolet (whistle) will involve your laryngeal position moving from its tilted position you where Twanging in to a Neutral (vertical) position. Bridging from Head to Flageolet is exciting when you first learn to. When I sing I am not concentrating on my laryngeal position. I allow my larynx to move freely and I sing over 5 octaves with no gripping. Hope that helps.

Thanks Mark. Mark Grubb is an internet student of mine and has been doing an amazing job. You really know your TVS talk track Mark... nice work.

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Gentlemen, thank you for the kind endorsement.

It has surprised me how popular that "lift up / pull back" video is, it seems to help people a lot with bridging and I have received a fair amount of response from it. Note, that this is an interim technique for learning how to bridge in the early stages of your training and for beginners. Eventually, your bridging will migrate to a more twangy experience, whereby the sensation is more passing straight through the passagio. However, this can not happen if you can not bypass the constrictors and isolate strictly for intrinsic contractions only... "lift up / pull back" teaches a singer how to stop constricting, develops the timing on when to bridge and introduces the singer to the head voice if it is new to them.

At TVS we train bridging with brighter, splattier vowels like "A". I personally have found it to be awkward and "whoofy" to try to bridge on a closed and covered vowel.

Rhapsody, I would suggest that you simply practice bridging with a wider and splattier "A" Vowel for a while and get back to us... As you approach the Passagio on an accending siren, "lift up / pull back".

Once into the head voice, quickly begin your twang-like configurations, so that you can:

1. Close vocal folds.

2. Amplify frequency and overtones.

3. Narrow the epiglottic funnel.

If you can send us an audio sample of you bridging that would be great.

Above all else, I have to encourage you to abandon the idea that your larynx always has to be in a neutral position. This is an error... experiment with lifting or singing with gentle raised positions of the larynx. Do not be afraid of it, contract/compress generously... it wont hurt you.

We use vowel manipulation at TVS not for bridging..., but for shaping overtones after the note is fully bridged, larynx configured and sitting well in the resonators... then and only then, do we begin to play with the formant and vowel shapes to get a rounder overtone to complete the head voice illusion of "chestyness" in the head voice resonance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8zroG9QWNc

Ill soon be doing an updated "lift up / pull back" video... Lots of new stuff coming out soon!

Hope this helps.

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Triads from D3 to D4, ending in B3b to B4b with "O" vowel as in Simpsons "Doh":

http://www.box.net/shared/lpksd7fc2h

My try on bridging with "AHHHHHH". My sound recorder blistered on the overtones in the first clip. I also gave up trying to smoothen it out on descending - warning, it sounds very ugly ^^

http://www.box.net/shared/xv84g6mkd6

http://www.box.net/shared/zu4fv7l38x

I can bridge on any vowel on a low to medium volume though. Not sure if it's a good thing?

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Any comments on sound quality? I admit that I was straining quite a bit to get that Bb4, but that note was nonetheless impossible to hit in "chest voice" just a week ago. Funny how it sounds like head tone when recorded.

Rob, thank you so much for the info. I'm interested in classical singing, and looking to produce really strong sounds from C4-C5 region without going into pure head tone. Will your programme help me with that? For C5 and above it's not so important because while it is not "useable" range in the sense that I'm unlikely to use those notes in a simple choral arrangement. Still I'd like to develop the flexibility and agility to sing almost any note that I want.

I'm really swayed by grubb's comments that he now has a 5-octave range which he can pull off without strain. However that is only half of the puzzle for me - without the classical sound color I'll not be using those notes anyway. Advice please, Rob?

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I always feel funny directly pitching my system here as its education first, but yes... if you train with me, I can promise you that your passagio bridging and your head tones will reach new levels. Im supremely confident in the results... if you want to sing "any" note and have amazing range... Im quite the specialist in that... you can start with my DVD system "Pillars" and then we can move on to a few internet lessons to tighten it up.

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Hey rob..this is gonna sound stupid, but I'm still deciding whether to get the Book or the ebook version. 20 USD is a lot to me =p and that's excluding the shipping charges. There should not be any difference between the physical and the virtual version right?

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Triads from D3 to D4, ending in B3b to B4b with "O" vowel as in Simpsons "Doh":

http://www.box.net/shared/lpksd7fc2h

My try on bridging with "AHHHHHH". My sound recorder blistered on the overtones in the first clip. I also gave up trying to smoothen it out on descending - warning, it sounds very ugly ^^

http://www.box.net/shared/xv84g6mkd6

http://www.box.net/shared/zu4fv7l38x

I can bridge on any vowel on a low to medium volume though. Not sure if it's a good thing?

Rhapsody: The ohs were pretty good! Sounded very easy for your voice. You are right about the ahs. :-)

Got an observation: generally, I hear you changing the vowels to brighter forms on the way up. For the oh, it seems to work OK, but for the ahs, which are already very open, it works less well. They start very bright, and then get brighter from there.

I suggest that you reverse the pattern for the ahs. Its ok for now to start that brightly, but as you go upward, darken toward actual oh when you get to E and F. Resist the temptation to widen your mouth... don't smile. When you get to the F# I think you will find (by playing around a little) that the darker vowels connect better to the middle voice than the brighter ones do.

And for the exercise on oh, its not necessary to let it brighten, either. In fact, as you go by Eb and E natural, you can 'close' it a bit to some benefit. I know its counter-intuitive, but singing oh with a 'small mouth' through that range will be easier to do, and will set up some nice things to happen on the F, F# and higher.

To help with the connection between the sections of the range on the way down, I suggest some slides or sirens on clear, semi-occluded consonants V and Z. Do them over the same pitch range as the arpeggios, just slide slowly on the way down, keeping the consonant fairly intense, and you will feel how the muscle balances change through the passaggio region. In your voice, you can practice singing in the pitch range from C to F# in either your 'top' production, or your 'bottom' one... you chose. However, when you are on the way down, if you bring the top down too far without letting some of the bottom come in at F and E, you will provoke a crack into the stronger production. As Rob would say, on the way down, you have to let the chest voice come in.

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Thank you so much for your invaluable advice Steve.

BTW I realised there's no shipping cost for ordering the print version...so I'm going ahead with that =D wish all the best for myself with this system!!!

edit: uhm, just a shoutout to rob.. can I have a tracking number for my order please? I e-mailed you but did not get a response

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