Singing in Crossover Voice

Mixdown Magazine Article

Do you want to sing really high in True Voice?

Have you ever wanted to sing really high in True Voice? But when you attempted to do so your voice just cracks and breaks and goes into falsetto?! Have you ever wondered how the singers in bands like Iron Maiden, The Police, Rush, Karnivool, Sleeping With Sirens, Paramore, Maroon 5 and artists like Bruno Mars, Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson sing so high consistently for long periods of time? Well I’m going to let you into a little secret. Let me introduce you to the Mixed or Cross Over Voice.

Let’s be frank here, this is not easy! However everyone is capable of doing this with the proper technique, perseverance and persistence. I have given countless students the ability to sing an octave and more higher in their “mixed” voice. Two of my students who regularly use their mixed voice are Kim Benzie from Dead Letter Circus and Christopher de Cinque from Closure in Moscow. Both are great examples of this technique done well.

Okay, So What is  Mixed or Crossover Voice?

Crossover or Mixed voice is not so much a traditional register such as is chest, middle or falsetto registers.   Crossover uses both falsetto and true voice vocal folds at the same time to produce a ‘mixed’ sound or crossover sound.  In other words crossover can help you sing the same notes in the high end of your middle voice or low end of falsetto that you may normally struggle with.  Crossover voice helps to close or bridge the vocal break in your voice (so that it doesn’t sound like a pubescent teenager) as you ascend or descend between false and true voice.  So basically, it’s the sound the voice makes as it’s ‘Crossing Over’ between true voice and falsetto voice.  If done well, no one can tell when you have ‘crossed over’ between your registers.

Why sing Crossover? DLC2

Because it’s fun, invigorating, challenging and once you learn how to do it, it will open up your whole upper register, giving you around a whole octave and more to sing in and use in a true sounding voice. So many more colours, keys and registers are now available for you to use as a singer and artist.  The trouble is, that this slide-over or crossover sound, when done well, is probably one of the hardest vocal techniques to master.  But it will open up many more opportunities to sing in parts of the voice that may have been neglected or never used at all.

But isn’t Head voice my crossover voice?

No it isn’t. Head voice is a lighter, thinner version of your true voice.  So it can be sung anywhere in your true voice register but it often doesn’t carry the same clear tones that the chest or middle registers have.  Crossover is located at the higher end of your true voice range and the lower end of your falsetto range.

Getting started!

There’s an old saying that I like to use in regards to singing practice at home: “practice doesn’t make perfect.  PERFECT PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!”  Before you even begin to start doing higher range singing in crossover you have to make sure that you have established the correct basic singing techniques first.  You must build yourself up physically, mentally and technically.  In other words, get yourself a good teacher that will give you the correct singing techniques to build your voice up first before you attempt to learn crossover voice.

Peter Vox with Christopher De Cinque and Kim Benzie

Peter Vox takes a happy snap shot with his successful students Christopher De Cinque (Closure In Moscow) and Kim Benzie (Dead Letter Circus).

Often for beginners, it may take anything from 6 to 18 months before they can sing like Kim Benzie from Dead Letter Circus.  It really depends on a range of factors but there is a degree of patience, practice and a clear goal required.  After all if you love singing, you don’t want burn your voice out by singing your heart out to songs that you are not yet ready for.  Lets go through a checklist to build up your voice to sing in crossover.

1. Find a great teacher that teaches mixed or crossed over voice techniques.

2. Expand your vocal range as high as it will go in your true chest voice, preferably using crying scale techniques.

3. Expand and strengthen your falsetto range with correct scales and techniques.

4. Properly support all crossover techniques with correct diaphragmatic breath support.

5. Start challenging your voice and try to sing along with artists that use crossover or mixed voice.
Once you have established a solid foundation for singing, you can begin to start doing higher range singing in your Crossover voice. You’ll need to expand your vocal range as high as it will go in your true chest voice, preferably using crying scale techniques.  In addition, work on expanding and strengthening you falsetto voice and range with the right scales and techniques. Also very importantly, remember to breathe correctly.  When doing the Crossover technique it is essential that you draw on your diaphragmatic strength so that you don’t damage your voice.

Okay so how do I do crossover?

I’m going to share with you the secrets to connecting or blending your true voice seamlessly into your falsetto, every time. To successfully accomplish this, there are four main points that you need to do to achieve a smooth and consistent sound throughout your range. I suggest doing the below techniques on an octave sliding scale (1st, 8th, 1st note) on the piano.

1. Always keep your volume crescendoing and de-crescendoing through the entire scale. Do not ever bring your volume down when you hit your falsetto register as this will expose your crack in the falsetto register and we don’t want that.

2. Remember that the crying technique is the glue that will connect/glue your 2 registers together seamlessly. So keep sobbing and crying throughout the whole scale, right to the very end.

3.Do not stop moving or sliding through the scale especially before the transition from true voice to falsetto. If you stop or pause before this bridge your voice is sure to crack. Keep moving the entire way through the scale.

4. Finally, keep your neck, throat and mouth relaxed at all times. Let your diaphragm and stomach do all the tightening and supporting of the notes.

The Next Level

Perfect practice, practice, practice! Keep challenging yourself to sing songs that are slightly higher (or lower) in range.  Sing songs that have 1 or 2 notes that are outside your natural vocal range.  These more difficult notes will be your target crossover notes until you learn to master how to sing them (with the help of a coach or teacher).  Eventually these songs will start to feel like they are in your natural range and they won’t be as much of a challenge.  In effect, you’ve actually increased your ability and extended your vocal range.  You should now have the confidence to sing even higher or more difficult songs!!

Remember that this skill is one of the more difficult singing techniques you will learn. But if you like a challenge and are willing to put in the hard work then Crossover Voice will help you to expand your natural vocal range and it will give you much more ability and variety with your instrument. I encourage you to regularly challenge yourself to sing songs that are slightly higher (or lower) in range and that have 1 or 2 notes that are outside your natural capabilities. Crossover is a skill that not many vocalists have or are able to do well. But if you put in the time, patience and practice required to learn this technique you will have gained a unique vocal skill that will set you apart from your average vocalist.

Rock on!

By Peter Vox