After working with thousands of singers, hearing their troubles, challenges, etc., I have concluded that my supposed 'genius' is NOT so much 'genius' at all! It is instinct that comes mostly from shear repetition and experience.
I've seen (heard) the same troubles from so many singers that I often know what they will say before they say it!
So let this week's tip be one that addresses one of the biggies:
'Why does my voice 'break,' once I reach a certain point in my range when I try to sing higher?' (And the infinitely more interesting question: 'Can I get past that point?')
Here's the story...I'll bet I know you even though I don't know you. If you go to a keyboard right now, I bet I can predict where your break is (give or take 2 notes). This is not because of magic. It is because, though voices sound very differently from one another, they are *designed* very much the same.
If you are a male (and not a bass or baritone), you will be able to sing comfortably up to about E, F, or F# above middle C. Then it gets hairy. You start to feel it when you reach the E, then if you keep going, you probably REALLY feel it by F# or G! GO TRY IT RIGHT NOW--
Well, was I right?
OK, ladies, you will find the same thing happens to you about one octave above the males. Try it and see.
This is what we call the first 'bridge'. Your voice is indicating that it's time to 'shift gears'. Your vocal cords will just close off some of their vibrating length (like fretting a guitar) if they are allowed to.
Most singers who are experiencing a break at this point, are hearing their voice give up the tension all at once, slipping into what we know as 'falsetto', which is a defense mechanism for the vocal cords. To bridge this gap, we use a weird sound.
Put your fingertips on your lower jaw line and lift your cheeks up a little, pushing them slightly forward toward your lips. (If you're doing this right, the cheeks should kind of 'gather' forward, causing your lips to pooch out loosely).
Now, without making a tone, blow air through your lips, making the 'I'm tired' sound (they should flap against one another rapidly like a horses lips).
I KNOW THIS IS STUPID, but if you've never done this, you're about to experience a break-through!
Now make a VERY DOPEY tone while blowing the air through your lips again (It will sound like B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B, except VERY DOPEY). The tone should sound like Stallone when he says 'Yo, Adrien!'
Now, while making that sound, start just below middle C and sing up the scale to your normal break note, then back down. Then, start a note higher than you started, and go a note higher than before, and return. Once again, start yet another note higher, going another note higher and return.
You should have gone a full 2 notes higher than you've been able to go without breaking!
The normal mistake many people make at this point: NOT SOUNDING DOPEY enough! The DOPEY sound is coming from lowering the voice-box (where your vocal cords are). This forces you NOT to strain for the higher notes!
I recognize that this doesn't 'fix' everything, because you don't want to sing like Stallone!
However, if you did this exercise right, you finally felt what your vocal cords are supposed to do when going through the bridge.
There are several other exercises that, when used together, will get your tone normalized while keeping the strain off your cords.