Passaggio – A Transition Between Registers

If you are not familiar with vocal registers, please read an article about them first.

One Of The Foundations In Classical Singing

Passaggio (or bridge) is a term used in classical singing. It describes the transition from a vocal register to another. In contemporary commercial music term vocal break is used to describe the change in vocal register that is heard as an abrupt change of a register or a voice quality.

The ideal of classical singing is even registration or in other words singing so that register changes cannot be heard unlike in yodeling. In addition the classical voice quality has to be maintained throughout the range which requires constant adapting to the pitch, dynamics, lyrics and so on. Therefore passaggio is one of the most important things that a classical singer needs to learn.

A Bridge Between Two Registers

Vocal register means different things; a part of vocal range, certain type of the sound of the voice, the vibratory pattern of the vocal folds or how a singer feels the tone (where it resonates). Passaggio also describes both modifications that a singer experiences and physiological changes in a singer. The latter describes in a more detailed way what happens in passaggio. The first one describes how a singer can learn to master passaggio through sensations and mental images.

Classical singers typically practice two passaggios (or passaggi as Italians say); from chest register to middle register and from middle register to head register and vice versa. Moreover it might be necessary to learn passaggios from head register to falsetto or to whistle register.

Passaggio Is Adjusting

Passaggio is not just a certain tone or a pitch but a zone in which the voice must be adjusted by the breath, by the vocal folds and by the vocal tract so that the transition is possible to do so that it can not be heard in the voice. Passaggio is not only about changing the vibratory pattern of the vocal folds but also the breath and the vocal tract are modified. This means that there are several ways to approach learning to sing passaggio from different angles mentioned previously.

A Transition From A Vocal Range To Another

When passing from a vocal range to another the changes in the pitch need modification in the voice instrument; the vocal folds stretch for higher notes and contract for lower tones. The vibratory pattern of the vocal folds can change too. In addition the larynx moves up and down with the pitch.

A singer can face some problems during passaggio if there are not enough modifications in the true vocal folds or if the necessary movement of the larynx is not allowed. Especially in the beginning of their studies, singers can feel instability in the passaggio zone which is typically helped by breath support.

Equalizing – Means To Assist Transition

Equalizing the voice throughout the range is about different means to keep the heard voice quality equal despite the changes in the register. At the same time they are means to sing passaggio successfully. Typically classical singers equalize by ”singing in the mask”, by “open throat” sensation or by breath support.

Passaggio is not just a certain tone or a pitch but a zone in which the voice must be adjusted by the breath, by the vocal folds and by the vocal tract so that the transition is possible to do so that it can not be heard in the voice

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