Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
It is very common for women to struggle with excessive airiness on their journey towards finding a solid head-mix. There is no silver bullet for this issue and it is important to note that age can have a significant impact on the development of this part of the voice. I created the three-step process I am sharing today as one way to develop a strong head-mix in my high school and college age female singers.
The first step is to have the student vocalize on /ng/. The setup of the /ng/ is critical in order for this exercises series to be successful. For this approach, the tip of the tongue needs to rest behind the bottom teeth, and the hump of the tongue should touch the roof of the mouth where the hard and soft palate meet. Slightly fronted is preferable to slightly retracted. In this position, the soft palate is completely lowered and all of the singer’s output will be through the nose. However, in this position, the throat is open behind the tongue, which is critical for resonance in the upper part of the voice. By sending the sound through the nose, the student also begins to awaken their sense of conductive hearing. This can help them be more aware and accepting of the strong upper harmonics that must be present in a clear head mix.
The second step is to use a straw in a bottle of water as detailed here. Have the student place their tongue in an /i/ position that closely resembles the /ng/ position from the last step and sing through the straw. The goal is to slightly lower the tongue into a vowel position while allowing the semi-occluded vocal tract to help raise the soft palate. This should keep the back of the throat open without manipulation. In addition, the student can monitor their airflow by watching the bubbles in the water bottle.
When the student can successfully vocalize through the straw, have her vocalize on /i/ while maintaining the same freedom she found through the first two steps. If the throat tries to close up, go back to steps one and two.
As I mentioned before, no exercise is a magic bullet for all singers. However, I have found this combination to be very effective in strengthening the head mix without getting overly technical. Do you have a go to exercise regimen for strengthening the head voice? If so, please share in the comment section below. If you are not already following the blog, please sign-up on the bottom right side of the page to receive an email each time there is a new post. If you enjoyed reading and think your colleagues may as well, please consider sharing this post on social media using the buttons below.
As always, thank you for reading and have a great week of teaching!