Scientists who study the voice have found that the muscles that control the larynx are capable of producing several distinct patterns of vibration, each with its own typical pitch range and sound quality.
Singers tend to call these different modes “registers“, and label them with terms like upper and lower, head and chest—not to mention whistle and fry. Many singers aim for a skillful “mix” between registers, so that they can navigate that pesky “break” in the transition.
This week, we’ll be embracing this transition between registers, and asking how it can serve our music.
So go ahead — let’s roll up our sleeves and see what music is lurking in that unknown terrain in the middle of our voices.
It’s good to have options. Here we offer ways that you can meet this prompt right where you are; or, alternatively, ways you can challenge yourself more deeply with it.
Option A: Explore your own break. The break between registers is a place of vulnerability. So go gentle on yourself. Start with some tones in your familiar speaking voice. Get comfortable there. Then try flipping up or down to a different pitch range, to explore another register. See how comfortable you can get there, too. Then, when you’re ready, flip back to your speaking voice. Gradually, over a few minutes, start to work into the middle pitches that show the seams between registers. See what kinds of sounds you can get when you switch back and forth. Listen, don’t judge. See what you find.
Option B: Register jumps. Many vocal traditions make wonderful use of the “crack” or “break” or “flip” between registers. Consider this gorgeous African yodeling. Or this typically American country yodel. Or the registration pyrotechnics of this spontaneous composition by Bobby McFerrin. Inspired by all these — or none of them — find your own music in the space between your registers. Go bravely!
The steps are as follows:
- Step 0: Sign up for a free SoundCloud account here. Join the SSS group.
- Step 1: Record yourself singing for two minutes.
- Step 2: Upload to SoundCloud and post the track to the SSS group.
- Step 3: Listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow singers. (Play nice!)
Deadline: Your tracks should be uploaded by midnight wherever you are on Monday, October 5, 2015.
Length: The length of your finished work should be about the time it takes a Swiss yodeler to play a typical Bar Mitzvah.
Description: It would be awesome to include a short description of where and when you sang your piece.
Title/Tag: When uploading to SoundCloud, put “[sss-break]” in the title of your track. Also include the term “sss-break” as a tag. This will help us find it.
Group: Once the track is uploaded, click on the “Add to group” button below the waveform and make sure to select the Society for Spontaneous Singing group. (This option will only appear if you have already joined the group! So do that now.)
Linking: You are welcome to include this info in your description:
This track is a reply to “SSS Prompt 36: Explore your break.” More on the Society for Spontaneous Singing at http://singthis.org .
Thank you, sweet singers!
Jascha & Amado