CHEST VS MIXED VS HEAD
It’s been a long time since we all have been asking ourselves this question. What are these terms? What do they mean? Why do they matter? And somehow, we always stumble upon searching for these terms again.
Imagine your voice to be a single big bandwidth of sound. On the left side of the bandwidth, you have your chest voice, that is the lower notes of your vocal range. In the middle, you have your mix voice, and on the right side of your bandwidth, you have your head voice.
The Chest Voice
First, let's talk about your chest voice. The chest voice comprises of the pitches (musical notes) that you use for speaking. Meaning, the little shapes and melodic contours (intonation) your speech creates, those notes are essentially a part of your chest voice. Now there might be a case, that you speak lower than your given range of pitches that you ideally want to be speaking in - which is decided by your body. The size of your vocal cords, the acoustic resonating caves of your body, and some other factors decide where your "ideal" range of speaking is. But as we are growing up, often due to anxiety and other reasons, we start speaking lower in our vocal range than where we are ideally supposed to speak in - which is a bit higher usually. We try to hide away mentally and physically, and the same way through our voices as well.
Why do you think the chest and the head voices are termed the way they are? Well, the truth is, you can feel those two voices resonating heavily in exactly those two regions of your body. The chest voice, properly sung, will create big vibrations in your chest. And similarly, your head voice will make your head, the back of your eyes, the nose area, essentially areas of your face - vibrate or tingle.
The Mixed Voice
Now let’s talk about the mixed voice. First off, there’s an important concept of the “bridge” or the Passaggio, which is Italian for Gateway, Transfer or Passing. Every human being has that gateway in their voices, some have it more obvious than the others. Most commonly, there are two passaggios in our voices. Mixed voice is an essential tool of the voice to be able to pass through your passaggio.
I like to view the mixed voice as a ratio. The ratio has two parts for blending, which are the chest and the head voices. Now a lot of the people out there like to achieve the "ideal" way of using their voices in singing, that is one smooth sound throughout their vocal range, without any cracking or breaking. To achieve this "perfection", one has to create a comfortable "blend" or ratio in their chest and the head voices. That ratio can be achieved through constant practice, understanding and observation of your voice.
One way to help smoothen your Passaggio is by doing lip rolls and tongue trills throughout your vocal range and really observing the places where your voice wants to "shift" or "break" to another dimension, and basically playing around with it. Checking how it would feel to make your voice "lighter" or more laid back while going through your vocal range might be something to consider. Is the Passaggio still as prominent?
The Head Voice
The last voice type that we will be talking about here today, is the head voice. A lot of singers when starting out, have a weak, feeble and airy head voice to start with, which is more of an undeveloped or unsupported falsetto voice than a head voice. A lot of people are scared of crossing that little bridge (the passaggio) in their voices to reach their head voice, in fear of sounding weird. But to really strengthen our head voice, we need to be able to make some bold choices and lock ourselves up in our rooms and yodel/siren throughout our vocal ranges till the neighbours come knocking on our doors. No, seriously. Shut the neighbours out with a smile and continue your little experiment. (Warning: Don't read my how to make your neighbour your ally for your singing future guide here.)