Q&A - Transition from Middle to Chest
I was wondering if you could give me some ideas about making a smooth transition from middle voice to chest in a song. I find it no problem if there is a jump down, but extremely clunky if I am singing a scale down. This is made more difficult by the fact that the note on which I make the transition varies slightly depending on how tired and/or nervous I am. The song I have particular difficulty with this is ‘Una voce poco fa’. I know I could take it up, but I would like not to have to and I think sorting it out is important…Thank you for your site. Since I found your site and have been reading all your articles, my voice has been improving dramatically. People have been asking me if I have a new teacher!! So, thank you…
I’m so pleased to hear you’ve found the info helpful. It is great others are noticing your improvements.
Regarding your question about transitioning down into the lower register. What you are experiencing is common. It is even normal to a certain extant. There will always be some kind of adjustment when transitioning between the registers. The question is how big. Naturally we would like it to be as small as possible so it feels smooth. This happens when either side of the transition is equal. I’ll try to explain that below.
The main thing I point out to anybody that has a question about a specific issue is there are no specific fixes. All problems that seem to show up as seemingly isolated issues really are a product of the overall condition. It just may not show up except in this one place.
Register transitions fall into this category. Because it shows up at the transitional area of the range we naturally think of it as a problem isolated to that area. But the reality of it is the basic condition is lacking a bit overall. It just isn’t as noticeable except at the transition.
The little thing that is lacking is the purity of the vibration. The vibration of your vocal cords are slightly leaking unvocalized breath. It is like the bow of a violin slipping and not creating a regular vibration of the string.
When this is the condition it often is not objectionable, as is the case for you. But this keeps the registers separated. It is like they don’t quite line up. That is why there is a slight clunk when going through. It really isn’t too bad for you. For someone who has this to a greater extreme there is a hole between the registers and they seem like different voices.
The remedy is to learn to stimulate the voice itself to be more active. The body wants to fulfill our intentions. We just need to give clear, strong commands. In the case of singing many fall into the trap of being too relaxed. Especially trained singers. Untrained singers tend to be too tense. So it follows that trained singers are trying to avoid that by being more relaxed.
The answer to being too relaxed is not to be tense. But instead we want flexible activity. Just like any good athlete. Muscular strength comes from flexible, or elastic, activity. Not rigid tensing. But if we emphasize relaxation we often lose vitality. And everything we do requires energy.
So this loss of vitality shows up in one way as an incomplete activation of the larynx. The key part of this being an incomplete closure of the glottis. Now, there are some schools of thought that talk about the closure of the glottis and many that do not. The many that do not have a good reason, that to try and close the glottis directly creates problems.
But if the glottis doesn’t close we have just as many problems. So it is a delicate situation that needs to be handled correctly.
I said earlier that the body wants to fulfill our intentions. We need to use this aspect of our nervous system to accomplish the closure of the glottis. We don’t try to do it directly. We do it by a very simple method.
We focus on pronouncing clearly and completely. And we think of doing this with the part of the body that actually does it. The Larynx. Sometimes called the Voice Box. That is the Voice. The simple concept is we think of saying the vowel and the pitch with the larynx. In order to do this we need to think at the larynx.
Every musical instrument that is based on a vibrating material as its source is played at that vibrating material. The violin and guitar are played at the vibrating strings. The oboe and other woodwinds are played at the vibrating reed. The trumpet and other brass instruments are played at the vibrating lips.
The voice is the only instrument people are taught to play somewhere other than where the source vibration occurs. Most play the voice at either the mouth or the pharynx. Some even play at the nose. But none of these locations of the vocal instrument contain the material that originates vibration sound.
The vibrating material for the voice is the small tissues of the vocal folds in the larynx. So it is of great importance that we as singers take care to ensure that they vibrate in the most effective manner possible. This doesn’t happen automatically. Even when we are well skilled. We need to be mindful and skillful to coordinate the Mental, Emotional and Physical processes involved to create an optimal response.
So this has been a long way of saying that to have a smooth transition we need to make sure we are getting a complete vibration of the vocal cords on both sides of the transition. We do this by emphasizing the clear pronunciation of the vowel all the time, but especially at the transitional areas.
Now, there is also the important factor of resonance. A big part of having smooth transitions comes from utilizing the resonators effectively. The key one being the point of recent discussion on my blog. The naso-pharynx that is behind the nose and above the mouth. Using this space for resonance frees the vocal cords to adjust spontaneously with no interference.
It is important to recognize that we need to activate the tone through the vibration of the vocal cords and amplify the tone with the resonance. So we hold the resonators open, which is the form the tone will take, and “play” the voice at the vibration of the vocal cords. Just as the body of the violin is held open by its structure and then is played at the vibration of the strings.
This is actually very important for a reason other than the obvious one of amplification. Doing this also removes the excess pressure on the larynx that tends to exist when people think there. This excess pressure often is the reason people dismiss this approach as being wrong. The approach isn’t wrong, it is just the manner in which people often do it is wrong. As I said before, we must figure out how to do things correctly to get the results we are looking for.
Hope this helps. Thanks again for contacting me and for reading my site.