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Are Vocal Breaks Harmful?

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Black Dog
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Recently I've been breaking a lot from chest to head (specifically falsetto), as I'm trying to extend "chest" more (I'm already working on support, placement, formants, etc.. not to break). I'd like to know if breaks are harmful to the vocal folds. If yes, why?

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If you are pushing and your voice cracks as a result then yes. I think Robert is referring to a register shift which is certainly not harmful at all if you are open. 

You did mention that you are trying to extend the chest voice, so if you are pushing, then yes you will defiantly harm it. Break is usually referring to a healthy crack, but if the voice splats or gives out due to too much air pressure that can be really harmful. 

However, if you are open and full and it creates a "yodel" type sound at first, or shifts to the falsetto, then no. If you don't shift into the falsetto, and the voice just stops, then it's trouble. From what you are talking about it seems like you are on top of your technique, and if that is the case, then shifting the voice with freedom is great and is going to help you to become a much stronger singer. 

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break as a mechanism of going from full modal voice to falsetto is perfectly fine...BUT if you are pushing like a mad man, those few moments before you actually break can hurt you alot.

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To distill the message - the break itself is actually a defensive mechanism against blowing your voice out. This also implies that the way one sings that might lead to this circumstance is undesirable in the long term (if you need to trigger a defensive mechanism, something is going wrong).

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To distill the message - the break itself is actually a defensive mechanism against blowing your voice out. This also implies that the way one sings that might lead to this circumstance is undesirable in the long term (if you need to trigger a defensive mechanism, something is going wrong).

​Bingo!!! I always looked at falsetto and breaking as def mechanism of the human body. So in a way if you avoid break it means you are not straining. Bit vague but i dont want to get into it xD

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To distill the message - the break itself is actually a defensive mechanism against blowing your voice out. This also implies that the way one sings that might lead to this circumstance is undesirable in the long term (if you need to trigger a defensive mechanism, something is going wrong).

​Breaks or "chirps" can happen for several different reasons... you are correct Rotting, too much acoustic mass is one thing that creates breaks.

Also, ...

- wrong vowels/formant tuning.

- lack of anchored musculature such as the TA, Vocalis.

- lack of sub-glottal respiration pressure. Not enough 'physics' in the glottis to create a vacuum for Bernoulli fold closure.

- Simply not being properly warmed up.

 

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The break is not considered a defense mechanism in my field (Speech Pathology). It's simply a result of a lack in motor control.

​Yes... thanks for chiming in Martin, great post... I do agree. And that motor control can be several different things or the energy that is driving that motor control, respiration imbalances. 

We should keep in mind... these kinds of "motor control" comes with experience and training... so lack of motor skills can just be , the lack of motor skills because you have a long way to go... but with about 90 days of good training, for most people, you can begin to balance these components in the phonation.

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To tell you the truth, back in the day when I'd push chest like a mofo, I'd hit the break every time I tried to hit that A#4. I'd attempt it other every day and fail. My method of singing was fatiguing, but I did it for like 3 years. I think it takes a long time for even pushing up there to harm your voice. I developed voice problems precisely when I tried to force my voice to be quieter and the polar opposite in a hurry after reading that I would damage my voice forever if I 'kept doing what I had already been doing with no problems.' 

 

So is singing up to the break the most healthy way to sing? No. It puts more strain on the folds as I understand it. Is however you're currently singing without major problems healthier than trying to suddenly force some other 'proper' way of singing that you don't know how to do. Yes!

 

Explore, let your voice find better ways of doing things. My voice eventually started resembling the other terms people are talking about and the break was eliminated once I took a casual, relaxed, exploratory approach to it. I can only judge by my situation, but fear, worry, anxiety, and trying to 'force some magical term into my voice' tensed me up, and put me at risk for injury. If I could go back in time, I'd tell myself to be casual and explore various ways of using my voice. Don't try to force some magic term into your voice (mix, curbing, head, blah blah). Listen to the body. That's your biggest thing. The things I tried to 'force' to fix pushing chest never felt right. But I thought I was supposed to do all of these things to force the magic term that would save my voice. The more I did things that felt wrong, the worse thing got and the more at risk for injury I was. I didn't have any access to skilled teachers at the time. The one teacher told me I was doing things pretty well already and would likely never sing above A4.

 

A lot of people have pushed chest and lived to tell the tale. I don't think fear mongering and sending people into a panic that if they push chest they will die is healthy. It might be good to strike up business and get people buying products but it's worse for people's health than keeping them relaxed and casual about their voices. You will be able to bridge. I figured it out, even with voice problems. But the best way is with curiosity, fun, and relaxed attitude, not fear about destroying your voice if you push chest one more time.

 

Is keeping well hydrating healthy and possibly increase your life span? Yup. If you don't, will you die tomorrow, probably not. Casual, folks. Drink too much water and you can die. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_intoxication You can survive on potato chips and soda for longer than that.

 

What's healthiest in life depends on your current habits, ability, resources, situation, and your psychology. If what you are currently doing is immediately harmful, you'd be seeing an ENT, if what you are currently eating is immediately harmful, you'd be seeing a doctor for sure. You have time to explore other options with a professional teacher or if you go without, I kind of have the same advice. You're going to be exploring your voice. It will eventually resemble fancier stuff that might help your voice survive 10-20 years from now. If you try to force something supposedly healthy ignorantly (like X term or water) it's better to do what you know in moderation (pushing chest, soda).

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Depends on what follows it.

The problem with breaks that you did not intend to produce, is that they will change your coordination to a "softer" one, and the usuall response is forcing to compensate. This can be harmful.

​Yes.

Think of it in terms a of a "Package" of technical components. All the things we often discuss on this forum; engagement of musculature, vocal fold compression, embouchure, singing vowel, larynx anchoring, and more. In TVS we refer to this as the "Phonation Package". 

When the voice breaks, the "Phonation Package" / configuration falls apart. One or numerous technical components fall out of support, balance, tuning, calibration, etc... and the voice falls apart. When this happens, the trained singer then has to put the "phonation package / configuration and its support, balance, tuning, calibration, etc... back together again. Bear in mind, this is happening at about a 20th of a second, very quickly... the break and the recover... and it often happens on a difficult frequency and vowel, making it all the more difficult to recover. 

My Point:

Even if the singer does recover and put the configuration back together after breaking, it is NEVER put together with the same quality it had prior to the vocal break. Going into a melodic pattern with a good, anchored configuration is always going to be superior then having to "scramble" and rebuild the configuration when the voice is already engaged. This is the "softer" coordination Felipe is referring to... and he is correct. In addition to the voice not being able to configure as well as the original, it also makes some singers come back at it with constriction and pushing... which of course, is even worse and isn't going to work either. 

All the Kings Horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again, .... at least not the same, after the "great fall".

humpty-dumpty-3.thumb.jpg.2b9bd456e72a70

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Depends on what follows it.

The problem with breaks that you did not intend to produce, is that they will change your coordination to a "softer" one, and the usuall response is forcing to compensate. This can be harmful.

​I see. Well, I break into falsetto (usually a little louder than the volume I was singing, according to Tartini), and I rarely try to "recover", I just pick the scale/siren where it's at after the break (for example if an octave scale goes up to A#4 and I break to falsetto on the A#4 then after the break I pick up where the scale now is, for example E4, and finish the rest of the scale).

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Vocal breaks are a way of telling you something needs to change.  However allowing the break to happen and "riding" or "hanging around the break" is a good way to allow the voice to be vulnerable.  We do many exercises to mask the break however it is great to reveal and expose it as a way to not tell the voice "how to sing " but allow it to be in a natural state and not tell it what register to be in 

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