Change is gonna come

This week has brought a lot of change. Here in the US, we have a new president! God Bless Lady Gaga who brought us the National Anthem at the inauguration (my reaction here)

And earlier this week, my husband Jordan and I found out what the next two years has in store for us. After a long process of him applying to specialty programs, we finally have a plan- and it includes a BIG move (read that news here).

With all this going on, I’ve been thinking about change and opportunity.

Have you ever felt…?

Have you ever felt stressed out of your mind trying to make a decision, not really having all the information needed or any options laid out in front of you yet? Have you ever ran through every possible scenario in your mind, well before the choice could even be made?

That’s how I had been feeling lately.

My Uncle Ralph would say, “You can’t make a decision until you can make a decision!”

Until the opportunities present themselves, there’s actually nothing to decide. 

I think our job as artists (and human beings, honestly) is to put ourselves out there for the opportunities we want.

Submit for that audition, send in a self-tape, work on your voice now to prepare for the future, apply to a lot of schools and cast a wide net, etc.  

After we’ve done all that we can do, the opportunities start to present themselves. 

But if you never put yourself out there, there’s nothing to choose from. It’s not your job to take yourself out of the running. 

Jordan and I had hoped this next chapter of our lives would include a move back to New York City.
 That’s not what ended up happening, but we’re not upset. We’ve spend the past 9 months throwing all sorts of things out into the universe and are now seeing what opportunities come back to us.

I hope the same for your and your artistry- try a lot! See what sticks! See what comes of your efforts. Then pursue those things wholeheartedly and with an open mind. 

The Reading Wilson fam, heading to Washington State this summer!

How do I find my mix voice? And what is mixing anyway?

Have you ever tried to go for a high note and been thwarted by a massive crack in your voice? Have you ever wondered how to eliminate the break between your low notes and high notes?

Learning how to mix should help you with that! But what is mixing and how do I do it?

Oxford Languages defines “mix” as: two or more different qualities, things, or people placed, combined, or considered together.

Two or more things combined together!

In regards to our singing voice, mixing, or developing a “mix,” refers to seamlessly combining our chest voice and our head voice. No matter the styles of music you sing, your voice has two distinct registers: head voice and chest voice.

The transition or area between these two registers is known as one’s “mix” (noun). The process of that coordination is known as “mixing” (verb).

You cannot build a bridge to where there is no shore

If a mix (or mix voice) is a combination of two different registers in our voice, then you first and foremost need access to those registers before you can start blending them!

What is chest voice?  

imagine chest voice as the strong, stable base in the ‘pyramid’ of your voice.

Also known as your lower register — it’s the range of notes in which we comfortably speak. Chest voice is the foundation of your singing voice. Strength and success in the rest of your range depends on the stability of your chest voice! Imagine your voice is shaped like a pyramid: chest voice is the strongest, thickest (literally, in your cords!) part of your voice. The rest of your voice is built on that foundation!

Without utilizing chest voice properly, singers may sound breathy or weak, lack dynamics, and have a less powerful middle and upper range. Whether you sing classical music or classic R&B, using your chest voice is essential to having a strong and balanced voice. 

What is head voice?

Also known as your upper register, and sometimes referred to as falsetto (although they are not one and the same!). Say an excited “Whoo hoo!” like you’re cheering at a game  — you’re using your head voice! A well balanced voice releases into head voice at the proper time to access brilliant high notes. Resisting this transition will lead to strain, poor pitch, and a limited range. Everyone from Whitney Houston to Bruno Mars to Pavarotti use their head voice, so get on board!

What is mixing / mix voice?

Mixing is the coordination process of blending chest voice and head voice together. Sometimes this coordination is referred to as “bridging,” like bridging the gap between chest voice and head voice. You cannot build a bridge to where there is no shore…so chest voice and head voice need to be accessible, if not comfortable, before you can expect to build your mix voice.

mixing involves elements of both chest and head voices.

 While not every singer experience mixing in the same way, I’ll argue that any singer with somewhat decent technique is mixing in one way or another, from classical music to classic rock. Some people feel it as a gradual stretch out of their lower register, some people feel distinct and different “mixes” in their voice, such as a “head dominant mix” and “chest dominant mix,” etc.

If you are singing through one or more passages (transitions spots) in a connected way (ie, not flipping or disconnecting to a breathy, falsetto tone) then you are mixing through your voice!

The ratios of how much chest voice to how much head voice you’re using in different parts of your range may be different depending on what style of music you sing, but some kind of blend must be present in order to sing with ease and full vocal freedom. For example, because their genre requires it, classical sopranos may have more head voice in their recipe but the very best sopranos still access chest voice in some way. 

How do I find my mix?

The term “finding your mix” or “discovering your mix” is rather misleading. You aren’t going to stumble upon your mix voice one day after you find the magic “mixing” exercise. A mix voice is developed over time!

Like I said earlier, learning to mix (or blend) through your registers is a coordination that takes time and practice. It’s quite literally like coordinating any other muscle group in your body.  Just like any high level athlete takes years to perfect their moves, you will need to do the same! Singing is a physical activity that depends on many muscles and systems working together at once in order to deliver a seamless, smooth transition from low notes to high notes and back down again.

Here’s the honest truth: It’s unlikely you’ll be able to teach yourself how to mix, despite the hundreds of YouTube videos available on the topic. Acquiring any new skill requires coaching! How do you think Serena Williams became the world’s greatest tennis player? Or Michael Phelps the most decorated Olympian of all time? Or Mariah Carey one of the most enduring pop singers of the last 30 years? They certainly didn’t do it alone!

My top two tips for learning how to mix:

1. Get a copy of my Warm-Up Series for Mixing.

Click here to check it out.

Want to improve your mix voice but aren’t sure where to start? My guided vocal warm-up recording takes you through a series of exercises designed to help you strengthen your mix.

Your digital download comes with a PDF guide, walking you through how the exercises work and tips for how to get the most out of the warm-up series.

Plus, with any purchase of the Warm-Up Series, you’ll be added to an exclusive Facebook group with hours of additional video content to help you improve your voice, plus direct access to me for all of your questions!

2. Take a voice lesson.

Click here to learn about lessons with me and my associates.

A voice teacher’s job is to point out the things you can’t hear about your own voice and to guide you through exercises specifically designed for your vocal goals. Investing in private lessons is the most efficient and effective way to make progress with your voice. There’s simply nothing else like it!

With proper guidance tailored to your unique voice and singing goals, you will be well on your way to building your mix and finding vocal freedom!

What is Vocal Balance?

Have you ever struggled for a high note, felt out of breath after singing a single phrase, or experienced a break in your voice? Have you ever hoped to train your voice to sing in multiple styles but felt limited by your current abilities? If so, you’ve probably longed for a magic bullet that would solve all your singing problems.

What is it that allows some singers to sing with total freedom? It’s vocal balance.

Think of your voice like a three-legged stool: If one of those three legs is shorter than the others—or, worse yet, is missing!—you will have a difficult time sitting on that stool . . . that is, if it even stands at all!

Singing is made up of three systems: respiration (breath),  phonation  (your vocal folds coming together), and resonation (how your vocal tract is shaped). 

If any one of those three systems is out of whack, you’ll feel that familiar frustration or even discomfort in your voice.

When you are able to bring these three systems of singing into (vocal) balance, you will have access to your full range of notes, with control, ease, power, dynamics, and flexibility. 

These three systems of singing are the only things we singers are in direct control of. 

We can choose how much air to inhale and then how quickly or forcefully to expel it (respiration). 

We can choose (with GREAT amounts of practice!) how thick or thin our vocal folds are when we go to speak or sing, therefore affecting how heavy or light of a tone we create, as well as on what pitch (phonation). 

And we can shape our vocal tract in a variety of ways to achieve brighter or darker sounds, namely by shaping and modifying our vowels and adjusting our larynx position (resonation).

Vocal balance means that in our neutral, relaxed state, no part of the voice feels more squeezed OR more breathy than any other area. We have access to our lowest and highest notes, and they sound and feel connected, meaning there aren’t any flips or breaks between our chest and head voice. 

There are certainly transitions that occur that we may be able to feel and hear, but for the most part, we enjoy a smooth singing experience from the bottom to the top of our range.

When these systems are in balance, your voice is free to make the widest possible variety of sounds! 

But how do I find vocal balance? 

There are four key steps to finding what “vocal balance” means for you:

  1. Finding basic intonation. This means coordinating your brain and your voice to match pitch and follow melodies.
  2. Finding what is known as chest voice and head voice.
  3. Finding what we call a “connection.” You’ll need to learn how to blend head voice and chest voice and find what is often referred to as “mix.” The effect is singing with one continuous voice instead of disjointed registers that don’t meet in the middle. This is really where you’ll make great strides towards vocal freedom!
  4. Eliminating unnecessary extrinsic muscular tension. The extrinsic muscles are the muscles around your larynx (voice box) in your neck, jaw, and tongue. We don’t want them to get in the way of our larynx from functioning how it’s supposed to.

The feelings you discover when working towards vocal balance may be different from other singers, and that’s ok! While certain vocal technique principles guide us all, each voice will be, feel, and sound unique. That’s the beauty of the human voice, each instrument is unique.

Think of training your voice like a gymnast might train for the balance beam.

When the gymnast is first starting out, she may only be able to very carefully, and with a lot of effort and thought, walk from one end of the beam to the other. No fancy turns, jumps, or leaning off one side or the other. 

But imagine that as the gymnast increases her strength, muscle memory, and coordination, she is able to add in a turn, then a leap, and one day somersaults, backflips, and then finally that crazy helicopter leg thing that Simone Biles does at the Olympics! 

How is this possible? 

Well, this gymnast first found balance on that narrow beam. She knew where the exact middle was. She memorized the feeling of her whole body in perfect alignment over those few inches of beam and knew how to always come back to that placement. 

Only then could she start to lean off one direction or the other. She probably fell plenty of times along the way, pushing herself too far from “balance,” but that just taught her to come back to “center” each time.

The same is true for us vocalists!

Once we find balance and are comfortable there, we can lean toward that powerful belt-y Adele song that we long to nail at karaoke night. 

Or we can lean in the other direction and commit to a legato, legit classical piece for an upcoming music school audition.

Whatever your vocal goals are, I am thrilled to guide you to finding YOUR balanced voice. Because from there, anything is possible!