In the classical music world, many Italian words are used as terms for singers and instrumentalists to learn how to increase their musical knowledge and skill. Passagio translates to "passage", which is a good term to describe the passing between vocal registers when singing. The more common term in non-classical styles for passagio is your vocal break.
A vocal register is that distinct region in your voice where the quality of your tone has consistency throughout a particular range or volume. There are three general vocal registers that males and females have regarding the singing voice. Your vocal break or passagio lies in the transition between each of these voices. The transition from your chest to your head voice is also known as the primo (first) passaggio, and the between your mixed and chest voice is known as the secondo (second) passaggio.
The highest register among these three main registers is the head voice. Most singers describe singing in their head voice as a head-ringing sensation that allows you to sing high in your range without having to strain your voice. It comes pretty easy to most if you stay in your head voice the entire time, but it can be hard to transition smoothly to other registers.
Technically, two other registers lie above the head voice that singers can tap into. One is commonly known as the falsetto range, which is a method of singing in your head voice but with a breathy and more relaxed approach that causes your vocal cords to blow apart in a cool way in comparison to your normal voice. The flageolet register, also known as a whistle tone, is a register where females can sing notes as high as a flute!
On the opposite end, your chest voice, also known as your modal voice, is the voice you use when you speak, shout, and sing in your lower range. Singers can reach high notes with their chest voice, but it can be quite challenging and damage your voice over time if you don't do it in a healthy manner.
This singing method is known as belting. Singers feel notes in the depths of their chest and stomach when signing within this range. Your passagio can be a challenge when transitioning between chest to mix or chest to head voice, often causing singers to crack or sing pitchy.
Your mixed voice is simply a mix between your chest and your head voice. A vocal mix is an act of combining the power from your head and the power from your chest into an even mix of the two to provide you with resonance and ease without causing strain. Mixing the two registers is something that will likely need to be practiced over time by a singer, and they would definitely benefit from guidance from a professional teacher to work with their particular vocal range.
Since passagio is most often studied in the classical realm, many voice teachers have agreed on a loose chart that singers can follow depending on which of the six classical voice types they fall under.
Soprano Passaggios - Primo Passagio is estimated to be around E4. Secondo Passagio is estimated to be around F#5.
Mezzo Passaggios - Primo Passagio is estimated to be around F4. Secondo Passagio is estimated to be around E5.
Contralto Passagios - Primo Passagio is estimated to be around G4. Secondo Passagio is estimated to be around D5.
Tenor Passaggios - Primo Passagio is estimated to be around D3. Secondo Passagio is estimated to be around G4.
Baritone Passaggios - Primo Passagio is estimated to be around B3. Secondo Passagio is estimated to be around E4.
Bass Passaggios - Primo Passagio is estimated to be around A3. Secondo Passagio is estimated to be around D4.
The main key to smooth transitions between your registers is perfecting the craft of singing in a mixed voice. It takes time to master, but the more comfortable you are with singing with a mix of both the head and chest voice, the more you will gain control in that perfect balanced area of your voice and be able to emphasize your chest and head voice according to your liking depending on the flow of the song.
The first step to mastering your mixed voice is to identify which voice type you lie within. Get a piano or digital instrument and run through warmups and scales to see what notes you feel most comfortable singing in your chest. After you figure out your range, continue doing warmups and scales, as they are great ways to sing through your vocal break over and over, and aim to pleasantly match the tones when you start to shift registers.
The best tips for singing comfortably and pleasantly throughout your vocal breaks involve singing with good posture, tons of great breath support, a sound placement somewhere right in your belt and head voice (usually forward through your neck or mouth area), and focusing on one main vowel sound to avoid awkward diphthong sounds. Some singers like to modify their vowels through the passaggio to improve the transition, while others like to sacrifice diction for clarity and ease.
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