From time to time, a female singer will come to me with suffering from a kind of mid-voice anorexia: the lower notes are strong, but there is no sound in the mid-range. Usually this type of singer has been trained to separate the registers, and to vocalize in a heavy chest voice as a means of “strengthening” the “vocal muscles”. Frequently, they proceed from there to an empty middle range, and an overly light, breathy high voice.
For the mid voice to be healthy, the low cannot be forced. If you produce the low notes with a heavy chest adjustment, and do not allow the vocal cords to make a smooth series of lighter adjustments as you ascend the scale, you are in for a bumpy flight!
This heaviness in the low range may feel strong to the singer; but it takes its toll on the middle register. Encouraging the singer to find a lighter chest adjustment in the low can aid the transition on the way up. The insight that a feeling of light chest adjustment is possible is often the beginning of achieving a balanced middle voice.
I often tell a student who has trouble bridging the gap between an overly heavy bottom and an overly light top to aim for a feeling of light chest as she ascends the scale, but to accept what ever the vocal cords want to do, that is, not to impose registration on the voice. Usually, these singers are surprised to find that they are actually singing in head voice in the middle register: they aimed for a light chest, and got head register instead!
How it feels to sing, and what is actually happening on the physiological level may be quite different. Part of our job as teachers is to help the student find the ‘feel’ of good singing. Depending on the pitch and the dynamic level, we may aim for chest and get head, or vice versa.
Sometimes the best registration is achieved through not trying to registrate.
More on solving problems in mid-range next time.