One of the most popular questions I’m asked by singers is how to find your mixed voice. However, none expect the answer I have to give. Are you ready?
The Elusive “Mixed Voice”
There’s a very logical reason you haven’t yet figured out how to find your mixed voice. What would you think if I told you even I, a professional singer-vocal coach-vocal health expert of more than 25 years, also haven’t found mine? Before you go in search of a different answer, let me explain:
The reason the mixed voice is so elusive is that it doesn’t exist.
“Umm… excuse me??”
Yes, now I’m reading your mind. And now you’re arguing that of COURSE it exists because singers and vocal coaches talk about it all the time, so how could it NOT exist???
Listen, I hear you. In my more than two decades as a vocal coach and vocal health expert, I can tell you that the top two consistencies about the singing industry are:
- Voice teachers, vocal coaches, and singers rarely agree on how the voice works
- Terminology and concepts get misused, poorly explained, and often are mislabeled
The reason I’m bringing all this up is that “the mixed voice” is one of those terms that’s been mislabeled, misused, and poorly explained. In fact, I’ve heard two separate definitions for what it actually IS.
So what IS the “mixed voice”?
As I said, there are two definitions I’ve heard floating around. One is just an interesting tidbit about the voice and the other defines something impossible to achieve. Here they are (I’m paraphrasing):
DEFINITION ONE (aka, the interesting tidbit definition): The place in a singer’s vocal range where she can choose whether to sing in a chest voice or a head voice because both exist in that portion of the range.
DEFINITION TWO (aka, something impossible to achieve): A fairytale land of rainbows and unicorns where it’s possible to sing in both the chest voice AND the head voice at the same time.
You can’t “DO” definition #1, because it just… is. It’s just a region of your range, not a technique or skill to attempt. You also can’t “DO” definition #2 because, well… it’s about as possible to do as speaking two words simultaneously.
So then what are all those people talking about when they talk about the “mixed voice”?? I can’t be 100% certain, but my best guess (and the answer I’ve given for my entire career) is that, just like definition #2 seems to be an obvious bastardization of definition of #1, the “mixed voice” is no more than a mislabeling of the “mix technique”.
Oddly (and impossibly) enough, there also exists a population of singers & coaches in the industry who, upon hearing my definition of the mix technique, insist that it is the same thing as definition #2.
The Mix Technique
Since I’m guessing you ACTUALLY came here looking for the mix technique even though you were unfortunate enough to have been sucked into the vortex of weirdness that is “how to find your mixed voice”, I’m going to teach you how to find it AND show you two simple exercises to help you polish it into something beautiful and usable in your singing.
The mix technique is one of two contemporary techniques. It is often found in Disney songs, musical theatre, jazz, and even some pop, rock, and R&B. It is a softer, lighter, and more vulnerable sound than its counterpart the belt technique which is loud, bold, powerful, and full of emotion.
Belt is often confused with the chest voice (a region of the classical technique), and mix is often confused with the head voice (another region of the classical technique). This is because they have similar characteristics to their classical counterparts. Belt & chest are booth loud, powerful, and booming. Mix & head are both lighter than belt & chest. But one very important distinction sets apart these contemporary techniques from their similar-in-sound classical equivalents: the position of the soft palate.
With both contemporary techniques, the soft palate is in its neutral position which is the same position as speaking. With classical technique, whether you sing in a chest voice OR a head voice, the soft palate is raised just like when you yawn. The space is very open and the raised soft palate blocks off the passageway into the nose making it impossible for sound to come out of the nose. This causes the sound to resonate either in the chest cavity or in the sinus cavity, thus the labels “chest voice” and “head voice”.
When you sing in this classical placement with a raised soft palate, you have to choose whether to sing in a chest voice or a head voice. As I mentioned earlier, there is a place in your range where both are possible options, so a choice has to be made. But the chest voice is only designed to go so high before it has to “shift gears” and switch to a head voice. This is why it is impossible to sing in both at the same time – because it would be like driving your car in two gears at the same time which is impossible.
When the soft palate is in its neutral position (lowered) which is where it is when you speak, the passageway into the nose is open, allowing the sound to resonate there. As long as your soft palate is in its neutral position, your voice doesn’t have any limitations in range. There is no place where you have to switch from one into the other because both techniques have access to the same range.
I think of belting as your “calling voice” because it’s like speaking loudly on pitch. And mix… isn’t. The easiest way I’ve found to describe mixing is thinking of it like the baby voice you use to talk to a baby or a pet. Well, at least it’s the kind of voice I use to talk to my sweet little floofball kitty, Marmalade. Another great way to describe the mix technique is to think of it as your Disney princess voice or your boy band voice. It’s light and soft and pretty. It CAN be loud, but not in the same way belt is loud.
How to Find Your Mixed Voice with 2 Simple Exercises
I like to start out in a classical head voice so you can feel the dramatic difference between singing in your head voice and singing in a mix. So, raise your soft palate in the back like you are yawning the biggest yawn you’ve ever yawned. Now, pick a high pitch and sing it on “haw” keeping that yawn stretch as you sing. Staying on that same pitch, slowly start to lower your soft palate like you do at the end of a yawn and then exaggerate it by scrunching your nose as much as you can.
That’s it! That’s the mix technique! The moment you started lowering the soft palate you were mixing, and you were mixing all the way until you scrunched your nose. Mix has a lot of flexibility because as long as you aren’t blocking off the passageway into your nose, you’re either mixing or belting. Or speaking.
Here’s a quick video demonstrating this exercise which I call “Back to Front”
Another great way to find your mix is to think of that baby voice you (I) make, and say “nyah” with a scrunched nose in that baby voice. Pick a fairly high pitch and sing “nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah”, in a 5-note descending pattern. Make sure you aren’t making ANY space in the back of your throat. This is why I ask you to scrunch your nose – because it’s really hard to lift in the back by accident when you are scrunching your nose. Also, remember this voice is light and should feel very easy to do. Belting these notes would feel much more challenging and require much more effort, so if you are really loud and it feels really hard, you’re probably belting.
Here’s a quick video demonstrating this exercise which I call “Nyah”
Try these exercises every day for the next week and then try using this technique to sing a song. Want my feedback to make sure you’re doing it correctly? Check out my Second Saturday Master Class where you’ll have the chance to sing in a live, online classroom for my individual feedback and coaching.