Teachers of bel canto and anything bel canto-based, including Speech Level Singing, will spend a good portion of their teaching focusing on the elimination of the infamous voice break. “We must break the break!” Therefore, it can be jarring when you realize that singers often use their voice break on purpose! For a singer with a well-trained mix, achieving a voice break can seem next to impossible, because it’s been trained away. Your muscles remember what you practice, so if your voice isn’t used to breaking, it can be hard to create a voice break—it’s kind of like trying to write with your non-dominant hand!
Before we go any further, let’s take a text break and listen to some voice breaks!
Nothing like a good yodel to get your day started! Yes, yodeling through and through exemplifies the voice break. In fact, yodelers probably voice break more than any other type of singer. In case you don’t plan on donning traditional Swiss garb and yodeling at the beautiful skies above, let’s listen to some more pop-oriented voice breaks.
Yes, here Dido exemplifies a great voice break when she comes in on the chorus with “i—uuh—IIII want to thank you.”
Voice Break Technique
“The trick is to be in control of your voice break so that it doesn’t control you!” ~Anonymous Sage
Ok, so here’s the lowdown: Voice breaks happen when you don’t have a trained mix, or middle voice. In your middle voice, your Thyroarytenoid muscle (TA) gradually releases as you sing higher and higher, until it’s used hardly at all for head voice. The voice will then break when too much pressure is put on the TA muscle, causing it to release abruptly into an airy, non-reinforced falsetto or a light head voice.
You may not be able to make your voice break on every pitch, and there’s usually a sweet spot where your voice will want to flip from chest to head or falsetto. Play around with it by howling like a wolf.
Make sure to really commit to it! “AHHHH-OOOOOOOO!!!” Your neighborhood dogs should all be howling along too by this point! If your “AH” sound is tentative and not mean enough, it won’t work. Change the pitches of your “AH” and “OO” until you can find a break.
After you’ve found a break, try to keep the same energy, but change the wolf sound to something more like singing on an “AH” and “OO.” Once you have that down, try to keep the vowel constant. Try using an “AH” or an “OH” that flips up but does not become an “OO.” This is more difficult, because the “OO” sound is a lighter, headier sound. It may take more practice to master the voice break without changing vowels.
There you have it! Give it your best shot and break a leg—I mean—voice!