What do you think about the approach of separating falsetto and chest muscles and then when they are strong enough, coordinate them? I have come across threads in the forum at classical-singer.com and it seems like a few active people there advocate that. For example: singing forte in pure falsetto on “OO” or “EE” around F4-C5 and forte in chest voice on “EE” or “EH” around E3 and below. One coordination-exercise is to do yodels from chest register to falsetto and not hold back. It seemed like to be able to strengthen the muscles properly you have to do the exercises pretty loudly. What is your opinion? Thanks!
Thanks for your question. I agree with the basic concept of separating the registers and strengthening them. I learned the concept from my research of the teaching of Allan Lindquest and from my work with David Jones. The practice dates back to the very beginning of organized voice training. The pedagogue Mancini refers to the practice in his book. (I’m going by memory so I think it was Mancini) He states that the voice naturally divides itself into two basic registers. This is observable by anyone doing a little experimentation. We should exercise the voice in each register separately and then join it from the upper down to the lower.
Lindquest practiced this by using a two-octave exercise that started as low as the singer could comfortably phonate. After doing a three-note scale in the very low register you either stop and then start again two octaves higher, or you slide up two-octaves, and come back down on a long two-octave scale. The vowels that are generally recommended are “ah” in the lower part and “oo” in the upper. Males can change to “ee” in the upper to strengthen the register after doing it on “oo” for some time.
I agree that the lower register should definitely be performed forte in order to anchor the voice. The upper register should be performed solidly, but no louder than can be done with stability. Usually when I have heard others perform this exercise (not guided by me) typically they force the upper register. This is partly due to thinking falsetto and partly due to singing louder than the register is strong enough to take.
The first part of the problem is why I don’t use the term falsetto for the pure upper register. I define falsetto as not only a false tone, but a false vibration of the folds. When this condition exists the vibration is not pure and true, but diluted by unvocalized breath. (Using this definition makes it possible to be falsetto in the lower register as well. That is also referred to as crooning.) When I do this exercise I emphasize not to sing too loud in the pure upper register because it is generally starting from a weaker condition. We want to keep the vibration true or else we are just forcing the breath through the glottis, which does nothing to strengthen and develop the voice. It helps to think you are just speaking confidently to begin with so you don’t force the breath through the glottis, but actually phonate in a balanced manner.
With this approach you strengthen the registers through purifying them and not through brute force. This applies to the lower register too. But it is naturally stronger so it is less at risk. It is important to recognize the difference between strengthening the tone by just using more breath force, which is harmful to the voice; and strengthening the vocal muscles themselves by keeping a balance between their resistance and the breath pressure and gradually increasing the strength of both.
After the body becomes more sensitized to the proper balance between the resistance and the breath pressure of the upper register the downward scale brings that condition into the middle range. This is how we find our perfect balance of strength and flexibility in the middle. Many teachers profess that the best way to work the voice is from the middle out. This is only true if the voice is in balance. If it is not it will be a difficult if not futile process. But if this register balancing has been done (which is the process of working from both opposite extremes back to the middle) it gets us to the point where we can then work from the middle back out. This process encompasses all possibilities of vocal coordination and develops the voice in the most complete manner possible.