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People struggling with passaggio / break, what do you hear?

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Just curious, for those people that struggle with their break, what exactly is your specific problem?

I get a sense that many people either a) struggle to get out of chest into head at all, or B) flip to falsetto. Is that the problem that you had to work through?

The reason I ask, is that I've never had that problem. I've always had a falsetto / head voice, and it hasn't been too hard to go all the way from lowest notes up. By specific problem is that the notes F, F#, and G occasionally get a bit of gravel / vocal fry in them, particularly if tired. Holding an F note cleanly, for example, is hard for more than just a few seconds. It starts clean, and then about 3 secs later, it feels like I can't hold it, and some vocal fry gets introduced. From what I read however, it seems that is not what others struggle with.

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For me personally it's usually a small flip and/or that gravelly vocal fry noise getting in the way so I can totally relate to that.

Accidentally flipping into pure falsetto or entirely pulling chest when I'm intending to bridge is actually rare for me. That's more common with beginners who don't even get what bridging is supposed to be, they haven't even found a decently full head voice or any sensation of mixing so they're still in their familiar habits.

As an intermediate singer, it's different, I'll always get from chest to head somehow, it's just not totally smooth since I haven't quite nailed down the exact timing, placement, etc. of successful bridging into my muscle memory. You're probably in the same situation.

Experiencing fry/creaking/constriction/noise/gripping (call it whatever, you know what I mean) at the break is a common error, it's not talked about much for some reason but I think students of singing definitely do experience it occasionally while they are figuring out the passaggio

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F4-A4 is a really tricky area in the voice, because it is usually a place where you encounter a shift in formant tuning/vowel shape.

Most guys use the F1->H2 tuning in the upper lows, lower mids of the voice (or Overdrive in CVT terms). In theory, you could use that tuning up to the B4/C5 area, but is is not really efficient and will mess up a smooth bridge to the higher part of the voice.

The most common issues are either to force that F1->H2 tuning (pulling chest) or to flip into an F1->H1 tuning (falsetto). Those two share a common issue. This "getting out of chest" issue is, as a sensation often associated with "getting out of F1 tuning".

Actually it can be perfectly valid to switch from F1->H2 into F1->H1 and it can be made stable but it will cause a "break" in timbre. I still do that quite often myself because I'm also not perfectly fine yet with the "other" strategy.

The other strategy is usually a switch into F2->H3 tuning. The trick here is to start tuning F2->H3 even before the switch, so that in the middle part of the voice (pretty much exactly that F4-A4 area in contemporary singing, a little lower in classical singing) you tune F1->H2 and F2->H3 at the same time. This simultaneous tuning is tricky and it can cause the "fry issues" because the voice is flipping between the two tunings and gets unstable.

The key to get that two-side tuning right is to pull the two formants apart from each other in frequency placement. A good vowel to train this is the vowel EE, because it has its two formants far apart from each other naturally. As a sensation, the so-called "forward placement" or "mask-placement" is the key to getting F2->H3 within chest area. This sensation is pretty strong on an EE. But keep an eye on not losing the F1 tuning while doing these excercises. The F1 tuning is associated with a sensation "in the back" around your cheeks or neck. Above G4 this feeling will vanish and the sensation will move to the "frontal/upper" area (aka "head resonance") but before that it is essential to keep the "chest resonance" (F1 tuning) up.

A good excercise for this are onsets that start on a semi-occluded consonant (let's say "M"), then open into the "EE" vowel to get the F2-H3 tuning and formant spreading going, then open into a "chesty" vowel (lets say 'UH' or 'EH'). So try to start a G4 on a very narrow M-EE and then go M-EE-UH and try to get a good mix of head and chest on that UH. If you do the same thing on C5, though, you will notice that the sound will get a little bigger on the UH but the chest resonance will not mix in anymore.

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great post, but if sws1 is a beginner, i hope he's still with us after that last post.....lol!!!

(those are the kinds of posts that used to do me in.....lol!!!)

sws1, in addition to what was said, it's possible the gravel you're experiencing is coming simply from dropping out of your support......those notes are also called "tug of war" notes because the voice needs to shed weight and rise without the folds breaking apart...it's a balancing act between air pressure and fold adduction.

try making sure you keep your soft palate raised, your support consistant, and also try adding a little bit of cry into the voice....see if that doesn't help.

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