The ‘confused’ passaggio note.

There always seems to be that one note, normally right after the break, that singers are confused about. The singer cannot decide whether to transition into their passaggio register and risk a clunky change, and a smaller sound, or just maintain the power by pulling the chest register up.

My answer to this is; it depends on the context. As a general rule, I advocate for working in your own time on transitioning as low as possible as an exercize, which will allow you to better understand what your voice is capable of doing at this moment in time. As your instrument becomes stronger, more connected to support, and freer, the singer will be able to pick and choose what they are doing.

If for example, your ‘problem note’ is just above your break, and the song you are singing is fast and does not sit very high (e.g. mostly in chest voice and never goes more than 1 or two notes above your natural ‘break’ at any great length), then my advice is not to try and change register. What I would advocate for is to learn to ‘colour’ your chest voice with more head resonance, which is something I would encourage for all voices.

To do this as an exercize, you should sing in the middle-upper area of your chest voice on a pure ‘ooooh’ vowel with your mouth in a closed, whistle position. You can start the note using a Que sound (as in Queooohh) or an ng sound. The latter will prevent the sound from becoming swallowed or retracted. Do not carry too much weight upwards, but do not go any more than 1-2 semi tones over where you would naturally want to break. Do this on a 1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1 scale or a 1,2,3,4,3,2,1 scale.

Alternatively, if the song sits higher in the voice, or your ‘confused note’ is longer or climactic, it would be prudent to have transitioned. If you do not, you will risk carrying too much weight into the higher regions of your passagio.

You should be practicing your slides daily to ensure that your voice is gaining new muscle-memory. This will allow it to shift naturally when it wants to. With proper breathing, support and posture, always dedicate at least 5-10 minutes of your practice to lip trills, Quoooohhh, nggoooooooh, and similar siren sounds as you slide between registers. Always make sure that your sound is ‘goofy’ and connected (listen to Julia Childs or Kirsten Flagstad talking here) before it is resonant (where the pingy ‘ng’ placement comes into play). This ensures that your larynx is in a lowered position before any volume is added.

Disclaimer: When you make the sound goofy/full, make sure that the tip of your tongue is touching the back of your bottom teeth, and the root is out of the throat.

Effectively, with training, the lowest part of your passagio can be interchanged for effect, ease and convenience. Do not make the assumption that you ‘must’ transition at a certain note. Decide based on what feels more comfortable at X point in a song and for your skill level.

Feel free to also peruse our more in depth article on the passagio here.

Have a great week and go well!

Michael

 

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