One of the biggest questions I get asked is about the difference between head voice, chest voice, and a mix. Women, especially, are quick to question the sounds they produce because they want to classify it. “BUT JENNA! IS THAT A BELT OR A MIX!?” “Does it matter?” is usually my response, which I’m assuming is maddening to someone attempting to master the art of vocal production.But it’s a difficult question to answer! it’s more complicated than a one-word answer!
And when something is complicated, I like to simplify it with a practical analogy. Just ask my Russian history professor at UVA about the analogies I used when discussing Stalin and the Yalta Conference...
Your voice is like an Oreo.
Go with me.
We each have two halves of the cookie, represented by our head voice and our chest voice. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll say that pure head voice only exists above your upper passaggio (quick refresher: passaggio means passageway in Italian and describes the naturally occurring breaks in your voice). The female voice upper passaggio falls anywhere between a D5-G5. Below the bottom cookie, aka your lower passaggio (yes, we have two), we’ll say that that’s where pure chest voice lives. Lower passaggio falls in the same realm as your upper passaggio except an octave lower, so D4-G4. In between these two delicious sandwich cookies lies THE MIX, an area where the possibilities are endless, just like the wide array of Oreos you can find in a grocery store. Oreos come in a multitude of flavors including but not limited to: regular, double stuf, mega stuf, thin, birthday cake, mint, Swedish fish (?) and the orange colored ones you can get at Halloween (don’t argue with me, you know they taste better).
So we have our two Oreo cookies represented by your head and chest voice. What makes up the “stuf” you ask? Your MIX!
Your MIX exists as an entirely processed, vegan, easily morph-able, white fluffy entity and can show up in a variety of flavors based on our ratio of head to chest voice implemented in the sound. Sometimes, you’ll belt with a 50/50 ratio of head voice to chest voice. Sometimes, you’ll use a more head dominant mix with maybe 80/20 head to chest. Other times, you’ll Ethel Merman it up, and use 20/80 head to chest.
The next time you see an audition breakdown and it says show your belt, ask for more specificity. What kind of belt do they want? Do they want your Laura Osnes belt? Or your Patti Lupone? Or are they in the mood for an Audra belt? Or a Disney pop princess?
Just like you get to choose which flavor Oreo to buy at the store (cough go for Halloween cough), you also get to choose what kind of mix-belt you’d like to use that day based on the style of the music of the show.
Thanks for reading.
You’ll find me at Butch’s Café Oasis dunking my Halloween Oreos in almond milk.