I now have a three part blog dedicated to the issue of passaggio and fach which may prove very useful, especially if you want to know which notes your transitions may be:
Part 1: The passaggio
Part 2: Male passaggio
Part 3: Female passaggio
Everyone has a different opinion on what these terms like ‘mix’, ‘passaggio’, ‘bridge’ and ‘cover’ mean to them. Many singers spend the majority of their time worrying about it. Students often find that the test of a good teacher is the way in which that teacher can take them through these parts of the voice.
My first kennel of advice is this: Before you keep reading, you need to stop referring to your ‘passaggio’, ‘mix’, or whatever you call it as a bad thing. If you are that singer who comes up to other singers and unload about how you are having passaggio problems, stop reading right now. Get your head out of your voice and read something that takes you out of a negative thinking space.
The basic essentials for the passaggio to work are the following:
- A healthy posture
- Good intake of breathe
- Good support on sung notes
- A forward tongue close to an ‘ng’ position
- A larynx that tilts downwards as you ascend
Outside of that, keep your head away from the passaggio. Stop trying so hard to ‘place’ it and stop trying to make it sound a certain way – let it occur naturally over time and develop from your natural sound. This is the part of your voice that will truly distinguish you as a unique instrument.
Until you can get yourself into a mindset where you can step back and work with your voice on an intelligent, self-loving level, you will not achieve the results you want.
The passgio, mix, cover, what are they?
Passaggio: A set of 1-3 semitones where the voice changes registers. Most commonly, there is one between chest and mixed (middle) voice, and one between mixed and head voice.
Food for thought: By the end of this, you should think of your whole voice as one whole passaggio. That way, you do not imagine a disconnect between your ‘gears’ of the voice. I will also mention that some voices have a third passaggio that exists between head voice and ‘whistle’ register.
Mix: Mix means to have qualities of both chest and head voice in your notes.
Food for thought: As with the passaggio, try to think of your whole voice as having the ability to gain qualities of both head and chest throughout. Listen to the recording by Patti Lupone later in the article to see how this can be done effectively and liberally by a good technician.
Cover: The way that vowels can be ‘darkened’ (with an open throat, not the tongue) in order to ascend the voice from low to high. For instance, a healthy “Ahhh” vowel can be altered slightly to “awwh” in the middle of the voice and “uuuhhhh” (male) or “ooooh” (male/female) in the high range.
Food for thought: Listen to great singers from different genres. You will notice that different genres will involve different vowel production. For example an opera singer may alter to an “uuuuh” or “ooooh” sound in the top of their voice, while a musical theatre belter may have elements of “aeh!” at the top, as in “carrot”, “an” or “dandy”.
In this article I am going to focus primarily on the passaggio. You will, however, notice that the definitions of mix and cover apply to a lot of the things I will be referring to throughout.
What is the passaggio? More detail.
Passaggio means ‘passage’. I like to think of the voice as one, single instrument from top to bottom.
Imagine that you have two rooms. They connect to each other through a hall-way. Let’s say that there are no doors, just a hallway from one room to the other. If you start in one room, you have a little more space to work with, then as you walk down the hall way, you have less room to move in, but nothing is stopping your movement, no breaks, no doors, the hallway is not squashing you. Then when you are in the next room, you have a little more space to move around in again.
This is basically what the passaggio is. One exists between the chest voice and mixed voice, where the singer will notice a ‘lifting out’ of the chest register, but NOT a flip or a break. The second main one exists between the middle voice and head voice. To an untrained singer, this feels a little like a ‘roof’ that they are either yelling up to or squeezing up to. Some singers will have another passagio between head voice and whistle register, which is where the voice becomes extremely fine and whistle-like in quality.
Primo Passaggio or lower passaggio
To find your primo passaggio, you simply need to know where your voice breaks. If you sing an ascending scale in your chest voice, two things may happen if you do not know how to access your passaggio correctly:
- Your voice will break into a falsetto (breathy) tone.
- You will keep pushing your chest voice past this like a high ‘yell’. People mistake this for belting. This is not the correct way to belt.
For argument’s sake, if number 1 is occuring, then you are closer to the end result than you think. You will never access your passaggio by yelling or pushing your chest voice up where is comfortable. In order to access your passaggio, you need to let the voice lose it’s extra weight without flipping. This is most easily done using the ‘ooh’ vowel at first. When done on an “ah” vowel, it is prudent to imagine that you are altering slightly to an “awh”. Do not, however, try to alter the vowel in the throat, simply do this with a slight movement of the lips. the ‘awh’ vowel allows the larynx to start tilting in the throat. This is extremely subtle and should not occur due to ‘darkening’ or ‘moving the vowel backwards’.
Secondo Passaggio or upper passaggio:
This is where your middle voice transitions to become your head-voice. This is a little harder to work out. When you sing through your lower mixed voice, you will feel like your voice is resonating a lot around your hard palate (roof of your mouth), cheek bones and behind your eyes and nose. If you correctly sing into the upper passaggio, you may feel a sensation between your eyes – imagine the location of the hindu bindi dot. If you sing an ascending scale from your passaggio into your head voice, you will notice a point where you feel the voice subtly lift into the upper half of your skull. If this is done incorrectly, you will notice significant tension and a desire to either over-cover (making the vowel sit further back in the throat where it feels more protected) or yell.
Males, I recommend at this point to try singing and developing your falsetto above such notes. This is the voice that, with enough vocal development, will open up into a full head voice. Females may already have access to this part of the range, particularly if they are classically trained. Female musical theatre singers will need to let themselves transition into the ‘lighter’, ‘flutier’ part of their voice and develop this in order to find correct head voice mechanism. In order to correctly train the upper passaggio, you need to develop your head voice, and your lower-middle mixed voice. I would not recommend repetitively singing in your upper passaggio until both mechanisms are sufficiently developed. Please see this blog article for more details on correct development of the middle voice.
What does it sound like to the listener and where do people place it?
When the listener hears a successful singer moving through their passaggio, the sound is fairly distinct, but the voice still remains as if it is a part of the same instrument. The listener will notice the ‘weight’ coming off the voice as it starts to become more penetrating. It will be as if there is a buzz out sound coming straight out of the singers face. The sound is narrower, but more intense and the vowels sound altered – an “ahhh” will sound more like an “awh” while an eeee will sound more like an “iiiirrrhhhh”. I have included case studies below for you to understand this effect.
I know a musical theatre belter whose passaggio sounds like it resonates right at the front of his mouth on his top teeth. You can tell this just by listening to him as well; when he sings, his sound is ‘pointy’, like an arrow shooting through his teeth.
As an opera singer, and from what I know of other opera singers, most of their passaggio resonance feels like it exists around the top teeth and the cheek bones. Notice how when an opera singer is performing, their mouth is not overly wide when they are singing through their passaggio. Instead, you will ‘hear’ that there is a lot of space inside the pharynx due to a lifted soft palate and a forward tongue. As a result, the sound tends to exist in the nasal cavities, while for my musical theatre belter, the focus is on directing the sound to a more ‘spoken’ part of his resonators, near the front of, and around his mouth.
You need to listen to other singers who are singing the same repertoire as you and decide where you think they are in there passaggio.
Juan Diego Florez (Leggerio Tenor):
Listen from 0:53. Notice how until 1:00, he sounds as if he could be singing from his spoken voice (chest voice). At 1:00 on Désormais, you will notice a distinct change of resonance. It sounds tinnier and the vowel is more neutral, as if there is a bit of ‘iiiiiihhhhh’ in the vowel.
You will notice that he is out of his passaggio and into a strong head voice at 2:09 Je vais marcher sous vos drapeaux. At this point, the sound of the Bb sounds a little like a lid has just come off his voice – the sound is higher in his skull and extremely rounded. The vowel is more of an “uuuuhhhhhh” even though the French sound for vos is more like “oh”.
For an opera singer, Juan Diego Florez has a much higher passaggio than most male opera singers. This is simply due to his voice type. His passaggio may shift as he gets older. This is a more recent recording of Ah Mes Amis, where his voice is darker and has a richer quality from when he was younger. It is very likely that his primo passaggio begins at a lower note than when he was younger.
Robert Merril (Lyric Baritone):
This is a much darker and deeper voice than Juan Diego Florez, but the same idea applies. Between 1:00 and 1:12 Merril is primarily in his spoken-sung (chest) voice for:
Avant de quitter ces lieux,
Sol natal de mes
When he reaches “aïeux” at 1:12-1:13, you will hear his voice ‘lift’ into a new place. The placement sounds more like it comes from a higher resonator, particularly his cheekbones and upper teeth. The note is also less ‘heavy’, as if he has had to lighten the weight of the note in order to access his passaggio. This is extremely important for darker voices as anyone with a ‘large’ voice will have the tendency to carry too much weight into their passaggio. Juan Diego Florez does not have this issue because his chest resonance is naturally light in the first place.
At 1:13-1:14 on “ah!” you will hear the full genius of the Italian-Swedish school in action. The “ah” vowel is not a pure “ah” but a more neutral “awh”. This is a result of the vowel resulting from a lifted palate and forward tongue – which makes it virtually impossible to produce a flat ‘aaah’ sound. From 1:22 on Ma sour, he ascends to a F#. For a baritone, this is where he crosses from passaggio into head voice. Notice for Juan Diego Florez it was higher, around A/Bb.
I particularly like showing my darker voiced students this phrase (1:22) because it shows exactly how the singer must alter the vowel at each stage as they move through the passaggio and into head voice. Notice that “Ma” starts on a D with an “awh” vowel, but as it climbs to F#, it significantly alters to “uuuuuhhh”. This is because in order to keep the larynx tilted, the singer must make sure the vowel becomes more pure.
Patti Lupone (Mezzo Soprano, musical theatre)
I believe Patti Lupone is one of the greatest technicians who has ever existed on broadway. She knows her voice well and knows exactly how to create a certain effects. This particular recording shows her bringing the ‘brightness’ of her passaggio fairly low in the song.
In the example below, we see how mic’d performances can be extremely beneficial. Unlike with opera singers, you can bring in far more head voice or chest voice into your passaggio notes depending on the affect you want.
At 1:22, “trembling now, I can’t know how I’ve missed” all has a significant level of head voice resonance in her passaggio. At “you”, she brings in a considerable amount of chest resonance. At all points however, you will notice that these notes still sound as if they are in the ‘middle’ of the voice.
Now listen to 1:30-1:38. On Adventure and playground, she comes out of her passaggio and completely into chest voice on the D. You hear that the voice becomes noticeably weightier, and Lupone could potentially ‘speak’ these words if she wanted to.
Now compare sections: 1:02 and 2:10 (Everything’s as if, we never said goodbye). The first time she sings these words, she is using more head resonance. The sound is gentler and sounds as if it comes from a lighter place in her skull. The second time you can hear that there is more weight in the sound. Despite this, they are still the same notes, and in both situations they are still resonating from around the bone structures in her middle/skull.
She brings out the full power at 2:54. Notice that there is a distinct ‘belt’ sound to these notes (Can I stop my hand from shaking? has there ever been a moment?).
So why is she able to make the voice sound like it’s in chest voice in the passaggio? Belters can create this affect by developing the correct breath-support muscles. This stabilizes the larynx, which stops there being any obvious change as they go from chest voice into passaggio. They also direct the sound towards the front of their face (mask, cheek bones, teeth), which gives the affect of ‘yelling’ through their passaggio.
And finally, for the great D on “I’ve come Home” at 2:31, notice that Lupone considerably brightens the placement of the note. There is an almost operatic quality to the note as you hear her move into her head voice. The vowel has a lot more “ooooh” in it rather than the spoken “Haaawhm” sound we would normally hear. She sets herself up for a brilliant “At Last” by letting her voice go into head resonance at “Home” before coming back down into a pointier “At Last”. She can hold this note for a long time because she did not bring too much weight to the D before coming down.
If you want to learn about the passaggio or mixed voice (if contemporary singers would prefer), listen to a lot of Patti Lupone. She is utterly brilliant at doing this.
More case studies to come…
How do I access the passaggio? How it changes for different singers and styles.
You need to listen to more professional singers constantly to work out how the passaggio is fluid. If you are singing opera in an un-mic’d performance, you need to stick to a series of fundamental rules:
- Vowels must become more neutral as you ascend
- The resonance will feel as if it is constantly ‘lifting’, even though you are for the most part using as much of your hard-surface resonance as possible
- The passaggio will be lower on a dark-voice
For singers who perform with a microphone, the passaggio can have added ‘head’ or ‘chest’ ring depending on the desired effect. Opera singers can do this, but as a general rule, they do not have the same flexibility as mic’d singers.
Each passaggio is unique as every voice, body and breathing apparatus is unique depending on your DNA and influences.
There are a number of situations where you could have replaced the word ‘passaggio’ with ‘voice’ and it would have made just as much sense. You need to realize that the entire voice is just a fact of life – everyone has it, and you can actually have a lot of fun with it. Because of the flexibility of the passaggio, you can create a lot more colours and tones within it – this is where true X-factor material comes from.
How do I actually access it? How do I know I am there?
This is probably what you have mostly been looking for. The simple answer to this is; everyone is different. You need to discover how this feels within yourself.
From the singers, teachers, students and online coaches I have spoken to or watched, the general consensus is the following – remember that the following is based on sensations that people have described. The exact science is more in the realm of vocal pedagogy:
- If you don’t have it yet, you need to do the following exercise until you have a seemless ‘blend’ from bottom-top-bottom.
- In a comfortable, lower part of your voice, you are going to gently glissando (slide) on an Aaaaaahhhhh vowel to a comfortably high note.
- Start with Aaaahh, as you rise up, you must alter to Aaaawwwhhh, as you get to the higher part of your voice, you will alter to Oooooohhhhhh.
- In men, if you are more advanced, alter to Uuuuuuhhhhhhhh near the top.
- If you are warming up the voice or if you are new to this, please do it quietly.
- Do this in conjunction with good breath support (exercises here).
- You need to know how to lift the soft palate. This is done using the backwards ‘ssss’ “exercise 1” in the article here.
- Start by singing in your head voice and bring it down as low as it can go. Practise doing scales where you bring the head voice lower than where it naturally wants to go. This may result in an extremely light sound. The passaggio needs to be approached from both sides, not just low to high. This way, you will gain upper harmonics in your passaggio.
- Do the following exercise when you are a little more advanced:
- Scale: 1,2,3,4..,3..,2..,1.. (the first three notes are shorter notes, the last three have a time value of 1,2,3)
- Sound: Dih, dih, dih, diiiihhh, diiiihhhh, diiiiihhh, diiiiihhhh
- This exercise should only be done around your chest voice and primo passaggio – for instance, 1,2,3 might be just below your passaggio, but 4 will be the start.
- If your voice wants to change, LET IT CHANGE. Don’t resist this by forcing your chest voice higher than it needs to go.
- You should sense that the resonance should feel as if it ‘bounces’ off the tip of your tongue into your upper teeth and mask/cheekbones.
Problems between chest voice and passaggio tend to be caused by the following:
- The singer has psychological fears at this point and does not want a weak sound.
- The tongue is not properly forward. The tip of the tongue should always be touching the back of the bottom teeth unless you are using it to make a consonant.
- The singer disconnects their breath support in order to ‘think through’ or ‘navigate’ the gear change. Stop doing this immediately. Here’s the thing, if your main problem with the passaggio is that it is too weak, I can put my money on the fact that you are dropping your breath support. Don’t believe me? Think again! You need to read this article thoroughly. For your voice to sound the same, your larynx needs to remain stable. It can only remain stable if your breath pressure is being controlled by your support. The reason why you go through a ‘clunk’ or an obvious change is because your larynx is adjusting too much or your vocal cords are adjusting too much. This is a clear sign of breath support issues. The best thing for you to do is to do every exercise in your How to Sing guide, from websites or your teacher in the hugging the tree position in the breath and support article.
- The soft palate is not lifting. As a result, the resonance is flat and the larynx will overcompensate. Generally if someone sounds too nasally or if they are opening their jaw too wide, they probably have a soft-palate issue.
How do I stop cracking and becoming tense at my second or upper passaggio?
For a lot of singers, as they go higher in the passaggio, they run into a different issue. Oddly enough I notice that most singers tend to have more trouble with one part of passage than the other. The upper passaggio is a problem that a lot of advanced singers tend to have, while more intermediate singers have trouble near the lower passaggio/break.
A problem up here normally involves the singer cracking as they go to sing a top note – particularly because a lot of top notes are a part of an interval where the upper passaggio precedes it. What tends to happen up here is that the singer will revel too much in the ‘forward power’ of their passaggio. As they ascend towards head voice, they will not lighten off this power. This means that they will carry up way too much weight.
Problems in this part of the voice are caused by:
- The singer has psychological fears at this point and this creates muscular tension in the body, face or neck
- The singer does not know how to support properly. Instead of letting the support result from good posture and intake of breath, they are simply ‘squeezing’ and ‘oomfing’ from their lower abdominal area. This is a useless task. All you are doing it forcing air out inconsistently and tightening your body, which makes it harder for your next intake of air. This is why I cannot stand teachers who simply yell “SUPPORT MORE” when students are approaching a high note.
- The tongue is depressing. This is probably one of the most common reasons for trouble up here. The singer wants to keep their larynx in a mid-lower position, so when they start going into their passaggio, the tongue goes backwards and forces the larynx down. Only this also blocks a lot of your pharynx-space and dulls the resonance. Remember: The tongue does not have to feel sore or tense for it to be secretly bunching at the larynx.
What happens when the resonant space in the pharynx is reduced? We get less resonance in the mask and bones around the face.
What happens when we have less of this ‘mask’ or ‘head’ quality? We end up going flat and sounding swallowed as we get higher.
At this point, it’s only a matter of time before the singer reaches a note where they do not have enough head resonance to go properly into head voice.
Listen out for this one. When you are at a masterclass or voice class, you will notice that some students have a magical sound in the middle of their voice. But once they go towards that high note or sing the high note, they will hit it, but it sounds like the sound is coming from the back of their neck.
- The soft palate is not lifting. I personally don’t think the singer can make it past the primo passaggio with soft palate problems, but if you are having soft-palate issues, I can guarantee nothing above it will work.
- The vowels are not neutralizing: You need to think of your voice as the underside of a bridge that goes under a road. When you speak down there the sound echoes off the concrete. If you were to reduce the size of that space to that of a small hallway, the sound would not be anywhere near as resonant. Even though the concrete walls are still there for the sound to bounce off, the sound does not travel as far, so it dissipates faster.
Now let’s say you want to sing an Aaaaahhh vowel. The space in your pharynx (throat) is less because the tongue will be flatter and further back in the throat (see image below).
If you were to sing an “oooooohhh” vowel, the tongue is more forward, which makes the space in your pharynx larger.
So, if you sing higher notes, where you are using less of your vocal cord mass, you need a larger space for your voice to resonate. This means that as you sing higher, your “aaahhhh” vowel needs to move more towards an “awwhhh” vowel to “ooooh” vowel. Or for belters, the vowel may shift towards a ‘nasty’ ae vowel, as in “pan”, “dandy or “can”.
Please note that this “ae” vowel involves a properly released jaw. If you unhinge from near your ears and let it drop, this gives room for the tongue to stay out of the pharynx. The sound in your own head will probably be very ugly.
Disclaimer: Singers who use a microphone can get away with less vowel alteration; however, they still need to change the vowel slightly no matter what. As a singer, I believe we often have to work out the best vowel changes for ourselves depending on the affect we want.
What will it sound like to me?
This is where the problem of ‘self-listening’ comes into play. The sound you hear in your head is nothing like the sound the audience will hear. This is because you are creating so much resonance within your skull that your eardrums are buzzing along with it.
I am going to keep this section short: Basically, your passaggio should sound quite awful to your ears. It will probably sound tinny and potentially a lot quieter than the rest of your voice. You need to rely on your sensations. The sound will feel like it is originating our circulating around your upper teeth, roof of your mouth and cheek bones.
At the bottom of your passaggio, the voice will be noticeably ‘buzzy’. Perhaps it will remind you a little like there is a faint fly buzzing along with your note. You will not feel this buzzing in the throat, you will just hear it faintly.
At the height of your passaggio, the voice will sound a little quieter to you. It might sound a little bit like you are not giving enough oomph to the note. It might even sound a bit ‘churchier’, as if your voice is becoming more angelic – but it will still have some of that harsh quality. This is just the voice correctly preparing itself for head voice transition.
What does this resonance actually feel like?
It should feel a little bit like there is a ‘whirring’ around your upper teeth, hard palate, nose and cheek bones. If you are trying to feel for a lot of buzzing to the point of itching, stop. The feeling of resonance is very different when your mouth is open than when it is closed.
When you are humming, you will often feel a lot more ‘buzzing’ around your face. You might even become itchy around your mouth or nose.
When you are singing, you will not get this. The mouth is open, which means that your vibrations will not be in as much contact with your lower jaw and tongue. Resonance should feel a little bit like an ‘energy’ existing at a certain place. Your ears may also locate the sound as coming from a certain area of your skull – i.e. around your forehead and side of face for head voice and around your molars and roof of mouth for chest voice.
If you sing a pure ‘oooooooohhh’ with your tongue in a forward ‘ng’ position, you can play with resonance. See if you can feel the resonance around your lips at first, then behind your nose, in the roof of your mouth, even higher in your head! Take some time during exercises to understand where you feel resonance for different vowels.
Why do I not use the word “cover”?
Luciano Pavarotti is famous for using the word ‘cover’ to describe this part of the voice. To be fair, when you are that good, you can call it anything you want. I encourage you to call it anything you want once you have become more familiar with it.
I would, however, be very carefully using the word ‘cover’ in the early stages. It is used to suggest that you are basically ‘covering’ the sound by using a an altered vowel to come off the weightiness of the chest voice. The problem with saying ‘cover’ is that some singers will not add upper-harmonics as they sing through their passaggio. They will over-alter the vowel to over-protect the voice.
As a result, the singer sounds like there is a ‘lid’ on their voice. It is a safe sound, it is a cutting sound, but it lacks brilliance. So please be careful when using terms like ‘cover’.
The issue with the word ‘forward’
I have used the word ‘forward’ a lot to describe where the singer will feel the most resonance in their passaggio. It will feel far more ‘forward’ than either chest or head voice. It will also feel ‘brighter’ because of the mask, cheekbone resonance.
The issue that you commonly see with many students is that they are taught to sing more ‘forward’ and ‘brightly’ when they go into their passaggio. As a result, they have the tendency think too hard about ‘forward’ sensations. This brings the larynx higher and squashes the soft-palate down. A good way of knowing if someone has been taught the ‘forward’ and ‘bright’ method is that the voice is pointy, but it sounds extremely strained. This practise is lethal for bigger voices. It is extremely common to listen to competitions or voice classes where a female sings and she sounds shrill and metallic. These are secretly much larger voices that have been forced to conform with the ‘forward’ and ‘bright’ method. David L. Jones, who is a greatly respected vocal pedagogue, openly speaks out against the ‘high and bright’ approach of teaching for this reason.
When someone says ‘forward’, you need to evaluate what this means. All it really means is that the sensations you will feel when the throat is open, the breath support is engaged and the soft palate is up is a sound that is in the front of your face. It happens most in the passaggio. Now there’s a nifty thought:To have a ‘forward’ sound, the back must be open!
The issue with the words ‘lowered’ or ‘dark’
For the voice to blend all the way through the chest, passaggio and head, the larynx must be stable. It is most optimized when it is stable and slightly lowered, because this creates more space and maneuverability.
Similarly to the ‘forward’ problem, a lot of teachers demand that the larynx is nice and ‘low’; To think ‘low’ in the throat or to ‘darken the sound’. These are all essential things that we need to have a dynamic, impressive and blended sound. But if a student is simply told to ‘think’ this, they will most likely push the larynx down with the root of their tongue without knowing. This causes the pharynx to have far less space. What did we learn about resonance? That if there’s more space to travel, the sound will not dissipate as quickly. So you may have a nice, dark sound with a lot of power in the lower harmonics, but as you sing higher, it will become dull and it will have no presence at all.
These kinds of singers are extremely obvious. Next time you are at a student concert or competition, listen particularly to the larger voiced singers. They will often have a bellowing sound through their lower and middle range. A soon as they hit the high note however, the sound is completely swallowed. There are many damaging teachers who let their students get away with this because their lower sound is so impressive! It is a wonderful short-term result but extremely dangerous in the long-run.
Here’s the thing, if you have the correct breath support, which stabilizes the larynx, and a forward tongue, you will have the combination you are looking for. You will have a passaggio that blends nicely with your chest voice and head voice. This means you need to start with your breath, not your larynx. The stability of your larynx is dependent on your breath support.
This is a very detailed article, and I could go on for a lot longer. That’s why I will be posting further updates via the free subscription to this website. Let’s summarize what we have learned here:
- You cannot approach the passaggio with fear. You need to stop fearing and being frustrated this part of your voice and treating it as simply a learning curve before you can progress at all.
- The passaggio is what connects the chest voice to head voice. It consists of 3-5 notes, depending on the person.
- At the bottom of this part of the voice, you will have a ‘break’. This is where the voice changes from chest voice to a light mechanism. This is the primo passaggio.
- At the top of your passaggio the voice will lose some of its weight and become the head voice. This is the upper or secondo passaggio.
- The correct ‘gear’ after your break is the gear that feels like head voice, light mechanism or falsetto. If you are carrying your chest voice through your break to a yell, you will not progress.
- It is the part of your voice that will feel the most ‘forward’ in your face if your throat is open.
- You can use the passaggio to create more colour: By either singing with more head-resonance for a lighter effect or with added mask and hard palate placement for a more powerful effect.
- The passaggio may sound tinny and harsh to the singer’s ear. As they go higher, it may sound quieter to them.
- Beware of words like cover, forward, bright, lowered and dark. They are good indicators of a quality sound, but you need to understand the correct technique behind them.
- Everyone’s passaggio is different. Stop comparing yours to someone else – but you can see how someone else cleverly uses their passaggio, vowels, body, breath and dynamics within their own passaggio as tools for learning.
Future articles on the Passaggio:
- Voice type and passaggio
- Exercises for development of passaggio and mix
- Where do I resonate? Lowered and dark verses forward and bright.
- Exercises for correct forward and bright sounds
- Exercises for correct lowered and dark sounds
There are also two fantastic voice teachers whose articles you would benefit from:
David L. Jones: http://www.voiceteacher.com
David L. Jones is a student of renowned American voice teacher Evelyn Reynolds and past-time student of Alan Linquest. He is one of, if not the best voice teachers and provides some of the best resources on the internet for pure vocal technique, particularly in the Swedish-Italian school of training.
Karyn O’Connor: http://www.singwise.com
Karyn O’Connor takes a lot of inspiration from the voice teacher and author Richard Miller. She is another follower of the Swedish-Italian school of training.