Finding The Middle Register
Updated: Jan 2, 2020
I've just started working as vocal director for TIP Youth's production of Legally Blonde. I was surprised at the difficulty of some of the female ensemble parts. The show requires a contemporary middle voice sound, and many of the young girls that I'm working with are not able to do this yet, as they struggle to bridge between their middle and head registers.
Experienced singers often have the ability to sing through their whole range, spanning several registers, without any easily observable change in their timbre. In order to do this they have found a way to bridge through the naturally occurring register shifts in their voice. The middle register differs from the head and chest register in that it requires a balance between the thyroarytenoid (TA) muscle and the cricothyroid (CT) muscles with no separate muscle controlling the middle register. The voice is placed in the oropharynx and has no separate amplifier of its own, but uses both the throat and the mouth.
It is common for singers, when they are trying to get to higher notes in their range, to pull up their chest voice and then to flip or break into their head voice or falsetto voice as their TA muscles let go at the bridge. For some female singers who use contemporary styles, such as belting, a mix register would give them a much healthier way to belt higher notes in their range as attempting to belt in chest through musical theatre songs, that have notes like a D5, is detrimental to their vocal health.
Given that using this register requires a balance of muscles, it can take work and practice for a singer to be able to use it well. Junior versions of musicals are written with a younger cast in mind. The shows are shorter and the content can be made less adult, changing words like "ass" to abs". But I have noticed that the music, although cut for a shorter running time, is often in the same keys are the original score, which can be difficult for younger performers to sing. This show will be a challenge, but I'm excited to work on it.