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How to Become a Better Singer: Your Mix is the Main Thing

Dec 7 2016

Hey singers of the world!  Here is the final installation of the really practical and helpful tips on singing to the best of your ability.  This blog series is designed for the individual singer and the worship pastor of many vocalists.  Here you will find some information regarding what we call “vocal tendencies” and how to improve upon your singing based on these tendencies.

Each of us tend towards a certain sound or imbalance in the voice.  In the last blog, we talked about the ‘Light Chest Tendency’  where you have a light or airy sound in you chest voice or across your whole voice. There are four main tendencies that we will be addressing in this series (light chest, pull chest/high larynx, flip, and mix), with some tips on how to grow no matter where you find yourself.

The ‘Mixed Voice’

A mixed singer navigates their chest, middle and head voices very well, without a break in sound or pulling.  We call this split resonance (someone who can balance chest and head resonance and placement throughout the whole voice.)  This is the GOAL!  Singers who mix have found the perfect balance of muscle and air (discussed in the previous blogs) and are mastering their instrument.  We must learn to control our voice so it doesn’t control us!

The goal is never for all singers to sound alike, but that each unique voice is being used healthily, let’s say 98% of the time 😉  But we will get to that later!

The other three blogs in this series have offered exercises to help get you to the mixed voice goal.  But I must tell you something VERY important…THERE IS STILL WORK TO BE DONE!!  We tend to work towards a goal and then dust our hands off with a job well done when it seems we have “arrived” and no longer need training!  This is a lie from the pit of hell!  Ok, maybe that is a slight over exaggeration, but the truth remains that NONE of us get to a point where training is no longer necessary.  The great Celine Dion gets regular voice lessons from a trained professional and I think we can all agree – girl can mix…girl can SANG!  Our muscles deteriorate with age, misuse, and no use….no matter how great you sound, exercising your voice is always a must.

Some of you may be mixed but can be using your larynx muscles a little too much in order to achieve this sound.  So you would still be a high-larynx singer who mixes.  Or, someone who mixes with a high larynx.  After singing in three services on a Sunday, I can tend to get into this habit as well… 🙂

(Remember that God gave you a gift to steward wisely-and while all of our gifts sound and function differently, they all deserve our very best!)

You can hear in this video that it sounds like I have one voice – no breaks or flips, no tension.  This is due to the fact that I am balancing head and chest resonance throughout the whole of my voice and minimizing strain by balancing air and muscle.

You can hear how dopey Joana sounds on the “goo”.  I encouraged her to keep a full chest voice while doing this exercise.  We can cheat ourselves out of the chest connection if we are scared of pulling, but having this bottom connection is very important to the connection of the rest of the voice.  The “goo” is a great exercise to help keep the larynx neutral too!  On the “ve oh vah” exercise you can hear that Joana doesn’t really have a break in her voice (she mixes) but she does need to work a bit on her flexibility and agility within her mixed voice.  I love this exercise because it works for any type of singing…I give this to people who want to start doing vocal runs, and people who are looking into classical singing.  Some of us have too much vibrato or none at all and this exercise can also help you work on these areas.

Try these exercises written by Lara Tenhoorn, one of our amazing vocalists and trainers at Hillsong College.  If you fall into the mix with a high larynx category – these are for you too!

If you are a MIXED singer but you have a high larynx and tension when you sing, use these:

1.5 scales starting on closed vowels such as lightly dopey Gu Gu (goo) and then keep the narrow shape of the vowel but move it into Gee Gee. Stay away from N consonants as they utilize the higher larynx muscles and will cause the larynx to raise.  Once you have mastered these, move to B consonants still full scale and address mouth shape but you need to be neutral in mouth shape and use a relaxed jaw drop.

If you MIX without a high larynx, some other exercises to keep you in shape are:

Broken octave scales starting with mid range vowels moving to open vowels (Ah), octave repeater with a sustain at the top and vowel changes (ah, ee, oh, oo, etc.)

The options for you the mixed singer are pretty limitless and if you are doing well, go into singing melodies on the exercises and start to work on your agility.

I hope this helps you and remember – ALWAYS have a warm up, combine all the ingredients, and keep YOUR MIX THE MAIN THING!

Chelsea LaRosa
Hillsong College Vocal Oversight – City Campus