A mixing exercise for Mix it up Monday!
Aaron Johnson, PhD is a researcher, educator, clinician, and performer who was most recently on the faculty of University Illinois Urbana-Champaign and will be joining the Department of Otolaryngology at New York University School of Medicine beginning in the fall of 2016. Today I am going to share a summary of the mixing exercise he contributed to The Vocal Athlete: Application and technique for the hybrid singer by Marci Rosenberg and Wendy LeBorgne. The exercise consists of three steps that help singers get over the fear of their break, learn to control where they transition, and eventually learn to smooth it out. I think this is a great exercise for CCM singers, especially musical theatre performers. When singers know what their options are, they have more freedom to communicate the human experience through song. I’m presenting Dr. Johnson’s exercise in bullet points below. For the full explanation, please read his contribution on pages 98-101 of the book. To see an excerpt of Dr. Johnson’s work with real-time MRI machines, watch the video at the end of this blog (I know you will enjoy it!).
“Register Transition Exploration”
- Step 1: Exploration and Acceptance of the Break
- Glide from chest to head using a comfortable vowel at mezzo-piano. As the student glides up, encourage them to take their time going through the register transition and ask them to be a passive observer of what is happening. Do the same sliding back down. Allow them to take a breath between ascending and descending glides if needed. Encourage the student to embrace the instability of their voice and let go of their fear of cracking.
- Step 2: Adjustment of Transition Location
- When the student is comfortable embracing their break, explore shifting the break to different pitch ranges. For instance, slide upwards and ask them to carry the chest register up higher than they normally would before transitioning over to head. Then as they slide down, ask them to carry the head register lower than they normally would before transitioning over to chest.
- On the next ascending slide, ask them to transition to head registser earlier than they normally would. Then on the descending glide, ask them to transition to chest register earlier than normal.
- Have the student continue to explore until they begin to feel like they have control over where their voice transitions.
- Step 3: Smoothing the Transition
- Now that the student has some control over when they transition, begin coaching them through the process of smoothly gliding up and down their range without a noticeable break between registers.
- Bonus advice: Using semi-occluded vocal tract exercises for assistance in register transitions
- Using straws and other semi-occluded vocal tract positions will help the student smooth out register transitions by increasing impedance (see The Vocal Athlete pp. 236-239 for more information).
- For the greatest amount of impedance, use a small cocktail straw. For less impedance, use larger drinking straws.
- Vowels such as /i/ and /u/ with the lips protruded and consonants such as /v/ and /z/ will also add impedance.
- Open vowels such as /a/ provide the least resistance and are the most difficult vowels to use while learning to navigate the transition.
Now for a little fun:
Thanks for reading!