Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
Richard Miller’s book “Solutions for Singers: Tools for performers and teachers” is full of great ideas on how to troubleshoot common technical issues. On pages 140-141, Miller answers the question “How do you develop female chest and mixtures in low range?” Miller is of course approaching this from a classical standpoint. Therefore, he does not advocate isolating chest register and strengthening it separately as many CCM pedagogues do. Instead, he suggests an approach that begins with full head voice and gradually progresses into descending scales that incorporate various combinations of head and chest mix. As a CCM teacher, I find his suggestion quite useful for developing multiple colors of mix in my students. Miller suggests you first descend on a five note pattern in full head voice from top to bottom. He suggests beginning on a B major scale and instructs the reader to add a little more chest into the mix over several repetitions before ending again with full head as shown below.
Since CCM singers are not looking for one consistent tonal quality but rather multiple options, I think this is a great exercise. You can use it as notated above and/or add your own variations to even further develop your student’s mix. Also be sure to try different vowel qualities in conjunction with registration changes. Can your student begin on a head voice /i/, use chest/head mix on /e/ and end with a full chest /a/? What if they reverse that and start with a head voice /a/ and descend to a chest voice /i/?
Experiment with as many variations as you can think of. I would suggest starting with blocked practice (focusing on only one vowel and exercise variation at a time over multiple repetitions) and then try random practice in a few weeks (changing the variables on each repetition). Have fun exploring and feel free to leave other related ideas in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading! ~Matt