Singing? How to Transition From Chest Voice to Head Voice

Does switching back and forth between chest and head voice give you anxiety? 

You’re not alone. The ability to transition from chest voice to head voice smoothly is the source of a lot of insecurity for many singers. And I don’t blame you! The middle voice can be tricky to negotiate and downright scary without good tools. Hopefully, the following insights will help.

Many singers and voice teachers call this part of the voice “the break” because that’s exactly how it sounds and feels for many: like a fissure in your mechanism preventing you from moving fluidly from one register to another.

Personally, I hate the term “the break.” I don’t use it and I encourage you to toss it out, too. The words we use to talk about our voices are important and using something negative like this is a surefire way to not only induce fear but possibly set you up for failure. If we use the term “break,” that’s exactly the experience we set ourselves up for: a literal chasm between the two different parts of our voice. When we conceive of our voice with a “break” in it, we build in an expectation of interruption and instability that we then create and perpetuate.

READ: How NOT to Run Out of Breath When Singing a Long Phrase

So, first things first: let’s make sure the language we use to talk to ourselves around changing registers is productive. The classical tradition calls the transition between registers the “passaggio,” which translates to “passage” in Italian. This term connotes a sense of moving through rather than one of interruption. And don’t let its classical origins throw you; even if you’re a musical theater singer, a pop singer or a jazz singer, the term“passaggio” and the energy behind it can serve you no matter the genre.

Adjusting our language makes us better equipped to embody the energy we want. If our goal is to transition from chest voice to head voice smoothly, then we want to use a word that helps us cultivate an energy of continuity, fluidity and consistency as we move from one register to the next. So let’s shift from calling this part of our voice the “break” and refer to it the “passage” instead (or if you want to be swanky go ahead and use the Italian “passagio”).

Now that we’re in the right energy, we need to gain awareness around the inefficiencies in our technique that are sabotaging the continuity we want so badly. In the video below, you will learn the most important first step to eliminating instability when changing from chest to head voice, how to nail the high parts of songs with large interval leaps, and a progression of three vocal exercises to help create stability in changing from chest voice to head voice and back smoothly.

You deserve to sing through the expanse of your entire range smoothly, reliably, and without fear. My hope is that this little video gives you some tools to make it happen.

Arden Kaywin
Arden Kaywin is voice teacher, vocal coach, and vocal producer in Los Angeles with over 10 years experience working with developing singers and nearly 20 years as a professional singer herself. She holds a master’s degree in music and vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music in NYC, where she studied classical voice and opera.
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