Vocal performance tutorial 5 - The Break by Tina & Ben Henderson

You have two areas of pitch production in your voice - The upper register and the lower register. They are separated by a phenomenom known as the break. The real trick to singing is being able to disguise your break by ‘building a bridge’ between the two registers.

The Lower register (Chest voice)

Start singing a low note, and sing all the way up a scale. You’ll find that before you hit your break your voice seems to tighten, to get strangled, and your chest tries to rise as it attempts to sing notes that it was never designed to. So, the chest voice is best suited to singing those low notes, and if it tries to sing notes above its register, your throat will constrict and you’ll sound pretty awful!

The Upper register (Head voice)

Now start by singing a really high note - think of the Bee Gees...how high can you go?

This is the head voice, your upper register, and its tone is slightly different because you are using your head resonance instead of your chest. It is musically known as falsetto when singing above the break like this, but it is musically useful to us as we can attain many notes we would otherwise never be able to reach. Sing down a scale, and you’ll find that you either feel the voice heading downwards, or you reach a breaking point.

The Break

You don’t want to sound like a yodeller, or a teenage boy with a squeaky, breaking voice, now do you?  Well, the break is that area between chest and head voice, and we really need to disguise the break so that the tonal quality of both registers is even.

The best way to do this is by practicing arppegios and scales - here are a few arppegios.

                                  C                                        D

                            G        G                               A     A

                        E                E                       F#            F#

Sing:           C                       C                D                      D     etc...


Keep going up and you’ll notice some of the notes going into your upper register. Keep those upper notes in the head and the lower notes in the chest.

Next practice some fast scales, ascending and descending:

                                     C                                              D

                                  B    B                                       C# C#

                              A         A                                   B#      B#

                           G               G                             A             A#      

                        F                     F                        G                   G

                     E                          E                   F#                       F#

                  D                               D              E                             E

Sing:       C                                    C         D                                  D

Keep practicing these arppegios and scales, and you will be able to disguise your break, without anyone ever noticing it was there in the first place!

© Tina & Ben Henderson 2007

Vocal performance tutorial index

Tutorial 1 - Breathing

Tutorial 2 - Pitching notes

Tutorial 3 - Lip twisters

Tutorial 4 - Rib cage control

Tutorial 5 - The break

Tutorial 6 - Your head

Tutorial 7 - Volume production

Tutorial 8 - Vowel production