Updated: May 8, 2020
Just in case you were getting bored social distancing and all, I though this might be a good time to connect; not with people of course but rather connecting your vocal registers! Most often referred to as the break in your voice when trying to sing higher, accessing the upper register of your range is a challenge for too many singers. Other popular terms for this are passaggio in Italian and bridge. We in fact have 4 vocal breaks. They are transition areas where the larynx decides how it will follow its course. The most difficult breaks are located around entering and exiting mix voice. If you worried it would take years and years to eliminate your vocal breaks, I've got good news for you my friend... These simple strategies should bring some relief and help you smooth out your range sooner than later.
The number one obstacle in connecting registers is tension. So relax. Singing is supposed to be easy. Video record yourself and look for areas of tension around your face, neck and body.
Work towards singing without engaging these muscles unnecessarily as they often result in tightening of the larynx.
2) Widen Your Throat
Erasing the vocal break is a jaw dropping business! I say this because when the larynx moves to pull vocal cords to pitch, it requires space. Lots of it. Especially to sing higher. Tension and lack of space are mainly responsible for restricting the environment in which the larynx moves. Without space, the larynx feels tight and pull vocal cords at the front of our throat. This is why dropping your jaw helps by creating a wide vocal path for the larynx to maneuver, especially in the upper register.
4) Find Your Optimal Vocal Placement
Vocal placement refers to where the resonance vibrates and travels in your body. We cannot see our voice and the muscles enabling it but we can use our imagination to guide it. This is important because a voice that is felt at the front of the neck (pulling chest), a voice that is breathy or a voice that is too nasal will carry the larynx forward. This prevents it front tilting at the right angle to adequately pull the vocal cords to pitch. Full voice is generally considered the ultimate placement to sing higher and powerfully unless you choose to sing in falsetto for a softer approach. It is also possible to sing through the lower vocal breaks in your comfortable range using speech like singing. As long as you have relaxation and space for the larynx to do its job, you are good to go. So to find your full voice, shoot your resonance straight up. Feel the buzz of your voice vibrating against the roof of your mouth. Like a cathedral with the uvula as the bell tower!
5) Sing Vocal Slides
I like vocal slides because they allow you to go through the registers and really work on smoothing out those tricky areas of the vocal range. I always combine lip trills with slides as part of my vocal routine.
You can start on any note and go up or down and so on. You can also practice on all vowel sounds. By identifying where your breaks are, you can anticipate to relax more and drop your jaw as you approach that pitch. Begin by singing your slides slowly and increase your speed as you become better. Make sure to eventually cover the whole extend of your range from bottom to top.
6) Volume Control
Less is more. To manage your voice during bridging, bringing down your volume uses less air pressure and makes it easier for the throat muscles to relax. Singing softer also uses less diaphragmatic support. This helps avoiding unnecessary tension build up in throat. When practicing slides or trying to sing higher, try not to shout. Instead, just use a moderate amount of volume to do so. If you need to push your voice really hard to hit a note, that tells you right there that you are doing something wrong my friend! Singing is supposed to be easy. Go back and verify where is the tension occurring.
7) Sing Like No One Is Listening
Anxiety creates tension. Tension tightens the throat and restricts the larynx. You see where I'm going, right?! So don't feel embarrassed if your voice cracks during practice. This is part of your learning curve and essential. Your larynx is never going to figure out the direction in which you want it to move unless you experiment with your singing. After a few takes and tweaking, erasing the break tends to improve and it gets better. Practice singing through your passaggio in moderation however. If your voice hurts while doing these exercises, you are probably not doing what's expected 100% perfectly yet. But you will eventually. Take a break as soon as you feel vocal fatigue and try again a few hours later or the next day. Muscle memory takes time to develop and you must respect the process. So go ahead, make a fool of yourself and don't care too much; you are practicing after all!! And that's all that matters. Good things come in time.
Good luck with these strategies. Make sure to let me know are you're doing with these! I'm always happy to be of further assistance in the form of a singing lesson. Contact me directly for additional info.
Sing your heart out!