Here is a familiar scenario for many of us… You are singing your favourite songs as loud and as passionate as possible (because no one is around) and then all of a sudden your voice cracks and yodels uncontrollably. From then a vow is made that you will never sing that song again without thinking of that terrible time you had last time you sung the song. Without fully knowing what the vocal flip is we tend to deem this sound as a bad thing and then live in a constant fear of it happening. Why does it happen and why are we so scared of it?
So, what is a vocal flip?
The way we see the vocal flip at Bradford Halifax Singing Lessons is that it is more of a safety mechanism in the voice than a “bad sound”. In the most simple way, our voice flips to stop us pushing way to hard and damaging the voice (even though we can push this limit too far).
It is an abrupt relaxation of the muscle set that gives us the heavier chesty sound (thyroarytenoid) as the vocal mechanism engages the muscles that guide us with a more floaty heady sound (cricothyroid). In other words, the throat muscles tighten and tighten as we ascend through our range until we start to reach a pushing “limit” at which point our muscles all of a sudden, relax or “let go” creating a form of yodel sound resulting in a weaker sounding voice from before. The feeling of the throat tension will also dramatically reduce.
Though these muscles can efficiently work hand in hand the process of swapping between them and creating perfect balance is something we long for, start to train early and when performed incorrectly can produce the vocal flip. Though we aim to eliminate the flip, I don’t think it should be forgotten about.
Okay okay, if it is so natural then why do we not like the sound?!
As we grow up and our body goes through the changes that every teenager dreads, our voices start to change (predominately in males). During these changes, the vocal tract tends to grow which can set the cords and musculature slightly off balance. These vocal flips/ breaks are then present in everyday speech which causes others (teenagers) around us to have a little giggle creating a feeling of embarrassment every single time it happens in public. Due to this, we tend to deem this vocal flip as a “booby prize” and shy away from it. This is extremely present it comes to singing. To avoid this from happening we then try to either push our way through it (strain) or get very angry every time it happens (flip).
I do not think that the sound is the major issue though. We tend to have a preconception of what the voice should feel like and the flip tends to fight against this but, the freedom and major relaxation is actually a lot closer to perfect voice technique than the: tight, pushing and “powerful” feeling that we tend to drive towards.
We don’t like it because it feels foreign to this pre-conception of ‘the correct voice’.