The “chest voice,” “head voice” and the “falsetto” are simply words to describe different ways the vocal cords vibrate and function as we sing from lower to higher notes. When the change between the chest voice and the higher registers is sudden and abrupt it is usually noticeable and not desirable. So good singers mix some of the heaver chest voice with some of the head voice as they move between the two.
This “mix” or “middle voice” usually involves 5 or 6 half steps. Higher than that and the head voice begins to take over more and more, leaving the chest voice to work less and less. This creates a much smoother transition.
The falsetto is a beautiful and unique sound because the vocal cords create the sound vibrations in a completely different way than the chest or head registers. (To understand more about the vocal registers check out my article entitled “What the heck are ‘Vocal Registers’, and how do they affect my singing?”)
The main trick is to train the larynx to stay low in the throat as we sing higher, and a great way to practice this is to use the sound “gug”. Sing that on a comfortable low note and repeat it as you sing a major arpeggio up and down. (C – E – G – C -(repeat the C 4 times) G -E – C)
The “gug” sound will bounce your larynx (Adam’s apple”) down toward the bottom of your throat, and it should keep bouncing down as you hit the higher notes. Don’t force this to happen! Use your imagination to work it. As you continue to do this exercise, repeating it over and over again, each time a half step higher, your larynx will learn to stay low as you sing higher. If your voice “breaks” into the falsetto at the top, move back down a couple of notes and try again. If it keeps “breaking” give it up for a while. Don’t keep forcing the high notes. They should be light and thin.
Singing this exercise often, using different vowels will bring the “mix” into your voice. Remember: don’t force the larynx down. “gug” it down. Then try “mum” with the same exercise. Repetition is the key. Don’t rush things.
Find a voice teacher who understands the “mix” or “middle voice.” (Not all of them do), or order my SINGER’S BIBLE. It really helps to hear the exercises on recordings.
By Al Koehn