Hi folks. I'm new here and have a few questions.

 I've been at the KTVA for about three weeks now and have a bunch of questions.  I've been singing all my life, but started singing more seriously about 5 years ago. I've taken a smattering of lessons and learned some things, but nothing that feels systematic or foundational. I feel like I have some skills, but I'm making some basic mistakes that are not allowing me to be the biggest strongest singer I can be  I've been singing as a sub in my husband's funk/r&b/soul/disco band which plays lots of weddings, festivals and corporates, and I've got to keep up with a lot of very experienced professionals in this band. Part of my problem is psychological. I have a tendency to push rather than relax when trying to sing big with a slamming 7 piece behind me. I'm wondering what tricks I can employ to get out of that bad habit. I'm working on focusing on the belly breath to help ground me. Also, I'm noticing that all the big power notes in songs like Lady Marmalade, Shake Your Body, Bad Girls, Baby I Love You etc are on the D5. I'm an Alto so I break right about the D5 or E5, so that makes those notes really hard. I could ask the band to drop down a step, but when there are other subs reading horn charts and what not that can be a problem to do on the fly. So I really want to get those notes strong. This brings me to the vocal work out. When I am singing lightly as Ken tells us to do in Volume 1, I can't recognize the moment that I'm going into my head voice. The transition is smooth and since I want to transition as late as possible in the interest of growing my chest voice,  I can't really tell if I'm getting that right. I'm a little confused about the idea of the register break. I can obviously hear the speed bump when I hit it when not singing lightly, but is the ultimate goal to not really have a distinction as such between the chest and head? When I am loud and fully resonant in my head voice, I feel the resonance in my face, behind my nose and cheeks, more than in my throat or chest. What is mixed voice? When I manage those D5 notes reasonably well the sound feels sort of like the placement of head but with more of the power of chest, but also quite compressed. Is that right? I have been trying to be patient and not go on too fast so maybe these questions are answered in later volumes. Is the goal to be able to stretch the chest range higher? So that register break becomes a E5 or F5? Or is it just to have a smooth and powerful voice through all those notes. Why is there a speed bump? What is actually happening at the register break. On on the other end of things, my lowest really singable note on the Ah vowel is E3 I can get down to D3 with the Ee vowel sound. Ken's beginning note in the workouts is C3 I believe. Should I be working to get that and will I be able to eventually? My tongue position is good - really low and U shaped and I'm starting to notice that that tongue position is creeping into all my singing not just the workouts. I guess that's enough for now. Thanks! 

Best Answer

  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,357
    Answer ✓

    You should do both...  Stretch chest for the sake of extending your chest voice.  Alternately and also, you should practice singing lightly so that you can smoothly connect.  As you are able, add weight and develop the ability to sing through the passagio without the speed bump, even at stronger levels.

    Any time you have hiccups and hit the speed bump, lighten up a bit and smooth it out, then start increasing volume until you develop the ability to sing more powerfully through the passagio.



  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,357


    Yes.  The idea IS to erase the distinction between chest voice and head voice.  We want to have a seamless voice, one long, continuous voice that has no obvious transition between chest and head.

    The reason Ken starts us out lightly is because we may need to lighten up so that we can get the feeling of "no speed bump" down.  We then gradually add a little more volume and a little more weight in order to try to gradually maintain the smooth transition all the way into powerful singing.  We want to be able to belt those notes through the passagio, and starting out light is a way to get muscle memory working for us to utilize in that handoff from chest voice into head voice.

    For females, many have been taught to sing without chest voice at all, and so their problem can be the opposite of males.  Males may struggle to get out of chest and to extend chest higher.  Some females struggle to sing in chest, because they have been trained to always sing in head voice.

    Mixed voice is the overlap between chest voice and head voice, where you are using elements of both simultaneously.  Ken teaches us to stretch our chest voice as high as we can, and later teaches us to expand our head voice as low as we can and also as high as we can.  This creates the largest possible area of overlapped notes between chest and head voices. 

    Classiscal terminology refers to the zona de passagio, the area between the primo passagio and the secondo passagio.  When we stretch chest voice and also head voice, we are building the most extensive zona de passagio that we can.  Because it is an area between two break points, or passagi, it is an area where we can feel very unstable,  because you may break at one point at the bottom and also more likely break at one point at the top. Those points can move from day to day, depending on the disposition of your voice on that particular day.

    When we build this zone to a level of strength where the notes are actually useable and dependable, we are able to lean one way or the other, more towards head or chest.  That's what allows us to sing a higher note with some chest authenticity in it, because we are mixing chest and head at a mixture that the audience believes is pure chest.  Actually the audience most likely knows nothing of chest, head, or mix.  They only know that it's a high note, and it either sounds good or it doesn't.

    When we learn to navigate this area of our voice, we can be singing in chest, head, or a mix of either or both and the audience won't know what we are doing, only that we are singing an incredible note.  When we are really good at it, we may not even know ourselves all of the time, because we are just singing the note, not worrying about more this or that.  We just lean more this way or that way to make it more or less belty or pop.

    The speed bump exists because we are shifting muscular emphasis from one group of muscles to another and it is happening too suddenly. 

    Throughout our singing range we use the Crico-Thyroid (CT) muscles to control our stretching and relaxing of the vocal cords. These control the tilting of the Thyroid Cartilage relative to the Cricoid cartilage.  The vocal cords are attached at one end to the Cricoid Cartilage and at the other end to the Throid cartilage. When the thryroid cartilage tilts, it can elongate and stretch the vocal cords and when it relaxes this tilting, the stretching is reduced. This is pne way we vary the pitch on our vocal cords.

    Another way we vary the tension and therefore the pitch on our cords is via the Thyro-Arytenoid (TA)muscles.  These muscles run parallel to the Vocalis (the vocal cord muscles themselves).

    The TA muscles are used primarily in chest voice, and lose their effectiveness as higher and higher pitch is required.  Because they are part of the apparatus directly vibrating when the greater length of the vocal cords are involved (Chest Voice) when TA is active, we get the chestier, thicker vocal fold involvement.

    When the TA drops out, the cords are more likely to be in the "zipped up" mode, where we only use a shorter length of the cords.  This is often referred to as "damping" the cords.  On higher frequencies (in CT only) we dampen a portion of the cords and only vibrate a shorter length of the cords.  This is likened to the neck of a guitar, where we dampen a string with our fingers and effectively shorten the length of the string to make it vibrate at a higher frequency.  When we bend the string with that same finger, to stretch it even further, that could equate to the tilting of the Cricoid Cartilage relative to the Thyroid Cartilage.  Two different processes that both work towards the same goal of tightening or loosening a string or cord to make higher or lower frequencies.

    Now, back to my story...  The "Speed Bump", or vocal break, is an interruption of the smooth processes that were going on as you were singing your scale or song.  When you reach the limits of the TA process, at you are at your secondo passagio.   You let go of one set of muscles like you would if you were holding on to a rope and could not longer hold on...  And your voice "clunks" into head voice. 

    This can sound very weak as compared to your chest voice you were previously in, with its chesty tone and full TA involvement. Now you are suddenly using much less of the length and mass of the vocal folds.  

    So when we learn to smooth the passagio out we are really learning to more gradually ease from one vocal process to the other.  We are actually using BOTH processes for a period of time, as we were in chest voice, and just more gradually dropping out the TA process, so that when we are left with only the CT process (which we were already using the entire time) it won't be so obvious. 

    Mixing with a section of the voice designated as the "Mixed Voice" is actually a super-elongation of the process of bridging, or going through the passagio.  That's why mixed voice can feel really unstable when you aren't used to it.  You are literally balancing between head and chest for a considerably long time as compared to simply smoothly going through the passagio. 

    Think about how unstable it can feel to smooth out your speed bump, and then elongate that process to take place over more and more notes. 

    The longer you can extend the region of easing out of the chest/TA process, the less you will be able to hear or feel any semblance of a passagio or speed bump.  Likewise, the more you have built this overlap, the more natural will be your ability to mix these processes to your desired taste.

    This is the reason Ken emphasizes "stretching chest" as well as "smoothing the passagio."   Both are dual/parallel tasks that head us in the direction of growing the voice.  Ken teaches us a path that will lead to the maximum mastery of the greatest possible upper midvoice, AKA "Mix". 

    The way Ken teaches us, we end up with an extended chest voice, for when we need to belt something high in pure chest, and an extended head voice that more closely matches the timbre of chest voice with the capability of extending well down into chest voice.  When this foundation is laid, the natural result becomes an extended mixed voice, because you have duplicated a large section of the singing scale in both full chest and timbral head voice.

    Regarding the low notes (C3) that are presently below your capability to sing, don't worry about them.  Just join in where it works for you.  We don't all have the same range.  You may find that those notes come into focus for you later or you may not.  It's no big deal...  we're all different.  Just focus on the areas that are important to you...  Those money notes you asked about in the first place, but give it time.  Everybody wants to nail the money notes, but clearly they are the money notes because they are so hard to hit.  That means there is foundational work to be done, and of course money notes have to be earned by most of us!  

    It's good that you are already incorporating new good singing habits into your normal singing.  These are processes that you are just starting out on, and which you will be continuing for the rest of your singing life!  It's a journey that will take you far and long.

    Good Singing to You, jessb!


  • jessbjessb Pro Posts: 10
    Ah! Great explanation. Thanks. So in order to stretch that chest voice and know where I am before handing it off to the head voice, should I sing a little heavier or just stay singing light? Right now it's feeling like I'm using more support at the top end of the chest to avoid going into the head, but again - it's a smooth transition so it's hard to tell. 
    Thanks again.
  • sspatricksspatrick Enrolled Posts: 1,278
    you can do both.  try doing the workout lighter to work on bridging, and then try to do the workout with more full voice.  If your chest voice is really underdeveloped i would do the first 6 exercises lightly and then go start back on the Ah vowel and try to maintain full voice as high as you can.  You don't want to be straining or shouting, but working the chest does involve more energy and volume.
  • jessbjessb Pro Posts: 10
    Great. Thanks. I will do that and see how it goes. I'm also noticing that when I really push down on my diaphragm on the high notes I tend to run out of air sometimes on the end of the lah-laa excercise (track 15). Not every time but sometimes, and I'm taking the correct breath. Somehow I'm using too much air. Any thoughts?
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,357

    Pushing down should actually decrease the amount of air expelled and help to mitigate and regulate the outflow of breath.  You push down on the diaphragm, which is the same thing as it does when you inhale.  So this should reduce the rate of the escaping air.  This doesn't mean push inward on the expanded belly.  It means push downward on the diaphragm itself.


  • jessbjessb Pro Posts: 10
    hmmm, I see. I must be doing that wrong.

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