Extending the Range of the Female Voice
I suggest work on balanced onsets until the student can do them easily and consistently . The onset exercises in Miller’s “The Structure of Singing” works for me but I more often now make up my own as seems to be needed by the student. Keep in mind that a balanced onset is neither a breathy onset nor a harsh attack onset; it is a an onset that is neither breathy nor preceeded by a glottal stroke but somewhere in between these extremes.
Once such balanced onsets are achieved, sing arpeggios up and down an octave in easy middle voice moving each arpeggio downward so the lower notes are in chest voice (female) or a very free chest voice (male) on a single vowel keeping the same vowel feeling but suggesting slight vowel changes as the arpeggio approaches the passaggio or changing to a more closed vowel as the passaggio is approached.
Females for High Voice: Do octave leaps downward on the /a/ vowel into chest voice to free or release the raw chest voice. If needed have the upper note of the octave sung with a very breathy tone quality (breathy phonation) and allow a yodel down on the octave drop into chest voice. The chest voice will usually require a change to a schwa vowel at the lowest note. The goal is to release the chest voice and remove all the various methods singers use to make chest voice ‘pretty’. This is all done at a normal mf dynamic level.
Using that chest tone with no changes or adjustments in the vocal tract, sing a double octave arpeggio up and back rather rapidly, as fast as is comfortable. Inform the student that she will be experiencing changes into other registers and to let that happen and that the register change points will become very obvious and sound clumsy and not to worry about it at this time.
This is the best exercise I have found to help a singer discover her high voice. The second passaggio is often very awkward but the high voice that appears is usually very fine and is sung with ease. It is not uncommon for a student to discover a whole octave of high voice through this exercise.
The resonance space discovered by the singer when the chest voice appears is the resonance space that can tune to all of the notes in the two octave arpeggio with only a gradual opening of the mouth when the voice sings above the treble staff. This exercise is a good example of tuning the vocal tract to one of its largest spaces to properly resonate the chest voice and simply allowing that same space to also tune harmonics of the fundamental or the fundamental itself, as the double arpeggio is negotiated. The point at which this vocal tract space leaves the tuning of one overtone and switches to another creates the awkward register change points. Once the student can perform this exercise accurately and easily it is then time to suggest some closing of the /a/ vowel to /awe/ or a smiled /o/ or even schwa at the register change points. Doing so re-tunes the vocal tract to vowels whose second formant occurs near one of the harmonics of the sung pitch. When the altered vowel is changed back to the /a/ vowel the passaggio has been transversed with little difficulty and the benefits of the new high voice /a/ tuning will re-appear. The surprise of this vowel alteration is that it is seldom noticed by the listener; sometimes not even by the teacher. All that is observed is that the passaggio is no longer apparent