Last year we gave you an article detailing what mixed voice is. In short, it’s many, many things, and you’ll get different answers from each voice teacher–everything from “It’s a healthy belt” to “It’s a twangy head voice,” to “It doesn’t exist.” The bottom line is that mixed voice (or middle voice) blends resonance from your chest voice and head voice , but it can do so in any number of ways–from being almost all chest voice with a little head voice mixed in to almost all head voice with a little chest voice mixed in. Learning how to sing in mixed voice so that you can eliminate (or at least mask) that dreaded voice break is an important and challenging part of learning to sing.
How to Sing in Mixed Voice
Where to Feel Mixed Voice
I usually stay away from telling singers exactly where to feel something, because everyone experiences sensations differently. But if it helps you to have an image in mind, aim the sound for somewhere in the middle of your face, like your nose and cheekbones.
Try Just Talking It
Try yelling “hey!” like you were calling a friend across a crowded room. It’s not a big low chesty sound, because that won’t carry. It’s a light call. Play around with that on various pitches. You can make it a little more trebly toward the high end of your range, and a little bassier toward the low end, but keep that forward but relaxed energy. Eventually you can try moving up a scale making this sound, and if you keep the fowardness, you should have a fairly consistent sound from low to high.
Try These Exercises
Lip Trills or Tongue Rolls
Lip trills and tongue rolls are great for blending registers, because they help regulate the speed of your exhalation without your having to think about it. It’s also virtually impossible to sing them very heavily, and their natural lightness will help you shift seamlessly into your upper registers. To learn how to mix, I prefer longer exercises that force you through more than one register at a time.
Imagine putting a puppy-dog cry into your voice as you go higher and higher to keep your registers connected. You can also visualize holding your breath or inhaling instead of exhaling.
Thin vowels help add twang to your voice, allowing you to more easily maintain a consistent level of volume and brightness through your registers. If you’re having trouble shifting into lighter registers, add some “EE” to your nay sound to thin out your vowel. “EE” is a headier vowel than ay, so the vowel modification will help you shift from chest, to chest-mix, to head-mix, to head voice. Keep the sound twangy (think of a bratty child) in order to keep the volume and brightness consistent between registers.
Experiment with Sound Colors
You’ll notice as you play around with mixing that some notes you could do in either a head-mix or a chest-mix. With some it may feel obvious what makes the most sense, but others could swing in either direction. Play around, and try different things. On the exact same pitch, you might use head-mix in one section and chest-mix at the part that builds into a climax (often a bridge or a last chorus). Listen to the way Phillipa Soo builds into a chest-mix at 2.45.
Prior to this, she was singing many of the same notes, but was mainly sitting in her head-mix, just adding a few chestier notes at the bottom. There’s no real right or wrong here. She could have remained in a head-mix and played this part of the song as sweeter and more melancholy. Instead, she opted to interpret the sleepless winter sky as an excited build and chose to belt it.
Just have fun, be playful, and try new things. Some will feel great, others not so much. But this is the best way to explore all the colors your voice is capable of creating.