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Firework, by vagueonthehow, under cc by 2.0

Mixed voice, for a lot of people, is one of the most difficult-to-understand, elusive parts of singing lessons. Talk to 5 voice teachers about what it is, and you’ll very likely hear five different answers, ranging from a healthy belt to a compressed head voice. I’ve debated several perfectly competent teachers about whether or not it even exists. The mix means many different things to many different people.

So What Is Mixed Voice?

Let me try to demystify the mix for you. The reason it’s so hard to understand is that it isn’t any one thing. The mix is simply a blend of chest resonance and head resonance, or chest voice and head voice, if that’s easier for you to visualize. It can mean anything from almost entirely chest voice to almost entirely head voice, along with everything in between. Healthy belting relies on mixed voice, as does a relatively low classical sound. It’s just that healthy belting relies on more chest voice in the mix and the classical sound relies on more head voice mixed in.

Why Sing In Your Mix?

So why not just sing in chest voice or head voice and can the whole mixed voice thing? Your mixed voice helps blend your registers together. You know that obnoxious voice break you get when you’re singing higher and higher? The way to minimize that vocal impediment is to figure out your mix. Whether this means moving into a head-dominant mix toward the bottom of your range and then breaking into head voice, or whether it means singing in a healthy belt for most of your range, your mix will help make your break between chest and head voice so gradual that it’s less intrusive.

Anatomy of Mixed Voice

Before we talk about the anatomy of your mixed voice, let’s talk real fast about what happens when you don’t use your mixed voice. When you experience a voice break, your Thyroarytenoid (TA) muscle, the one responsible for shortening your vocal cords, becomes more and more taut as you sing higher and higher until it can no longer hold–causing your voice to break off into head voice or falsetto. When you sing in your mixed voice, on the other hand, your TA muscle gradually releases as you sing higher and higher until the main muscle being used is the vocal cord lengthener, the cricothyroid muscle (CT). As a result, the transition from chest voice into head voice is a smooth gradual one.

Who Uses a Mixed Voice?

To give you an idea of how wide-ranging mixed voice is, I’ll put up two examples of mixed voice.
The first example is Lea Michele singing “Defying Gravity,” mainly in a chest-dominant mix

The second is Julie Andrews singing “My Favorite Things,” mainly in a head-dominant mix

In an upcoming post, we’ll help you learn how to sing in your mixed voice.

Voice Lessons for the 21st Century

Traditional voice lessons are great! The Inside Voice is Better.