I’ve said before what a tough job it is for female Broadway singers these days. Most casting directors are requiring singers to demonstrate a belt, as well as show a nicely mixed legit voice. Not many auditions require a legit soprano voice anymore. Instead, they are looking for a legit voice that can sing from the bottom up without a break in the middle….a strong chest voice with a mix that can ascend into a belt without flipping.
The female voice has so much potential. Typically our range extends much farther than the male voice, and because of this fact, the first passagio (or your break) can really feel like it divides your voice in two.
Men don’t have to deal with the same sensations at the first bridge. As the male voice drops after puberty, it is usually clear to them what their “chest voice” is. Then the challenge is usually how to negotiate their register shift so they can sing higher. Without the ability to thin out their vocal cords (mix) as they ascend, they may feel strain, or they may “flip” into falcetto. There are many great exercises available to singers who want to increase their range from their chest voice up.
However, ladies…..your scenerio can be much different.
Quite often vocal training for ladies starts with focus above the first bridge (rather than in the chest voice which is below the first bridge). In other words, from about E above middle C to F or G above high C. This is a common range when working with female voices in a choir. Your first bridge is around A or B above middle C and your second bridge starts around E flat. Notice that this range of pitch encompasses TWO passagios. Included with this traditional approach is the purity of Italian-formed vowels and a low tongue (open throat).
What you might notice is songs requiring you to sing below middle C are breathy or light. Or, you might notice that some songs have the sensation of singing from the bottom and going up……..while other songs have you feeling like you are singing from the top and going down…..giving you the impression of two different voices; a low voice for low songs, and a high voice for higher-pitched songs. Does this ring true for any of you?
I draw attention to this because knowing how to negotiate the first passagio from the bottom up is important when singing certain styles of music including pop, musical theatre, gospel and R&B. Working from the bottom up will usually have you using less air, and work muscles that require the larynx to tilt as you sing higher, which in turns will let you move through your passagio without flipping into your “other” voice.
Do you experience this? If so, please leave a comment. Tell me what it feels like and how you handle this break in your voice. Susan