The Ancient Mythology Of Mixed Voice - Part 1 "The Italian School Bias"

I'll edit this and consolidate it into a full, well sourced article in the near future. Same with my ideas on breathing.

Intro: There is an inherent Italian school bias in mainstream american voice pedagogy. Pedagogues like William Vennard & Richard Miller are guilty parties! It's not their faults, entirely, there wasn't much research for them to go off of 30-50+ years ago, which is what their writings are based on. However, as a result, modern mainstream singing technique is riddled with mythology and pseudoscience.

This article is a the introduction to my Debunking Mixed Voice Article. While I highly recommend reading it, feel free to skip to Part 2 if you're only interested in learning why mixed voice is a myth.




This article is in response to a question I received on Reddit: *"I'm genuinely curious - if mixed voice "doesn't exist", what do you call the middle balance between cricothyroid and thyroarytenoid action in vocal phonation?"*

I believe the concept your referring to has been dis-proven; particularly in studies since early 2000s. The idea of "mix" being, in terms even I can understand, that the vocal cords participate in a "zipping" function to produce mixed voice. It’s a myth that’s been floating around for centuries (similar to just about every aspect of “singing technique” being taught today.)

The myth stems from the "classics" of voice pedagogy. For example, Richard Miller's "The Structure of Singing." A book which, unfortunately, tended to support his own existing opinions and **bias in favor of the Italian school** of vocal technique. Vernnard's "Singing: The Mechanism and Technique" had a similar bias.

For example, in Richard Miller's "National Schools of Singing: English, French, German, and Italian Techniques Revisited" he states

>“Less attention is directed toward conscious breath management in the French school than any other.”

Ok! This is fine! I think most pedagogues would agree with this, including the French. And, in fact, it’s also in line with a lot of *modern* pedagogy research (early 2000s – present) that the support process is a much more unconscious than was widely believed in Miller’s time. There are some amazing French singers who follow this line of thinking! For example: Roberto Alanga, one of my absolute favorite operatic tenors. His hair is cool, too!

>Asked about his (Mr. Alanga's) technique for breath control, he is quick to reply, "It's not difficult. It's only professors who make it seem difficult. It's something instinctive -- a child knows how to do it. You need only to analyze how you breathe ... find the position where your vocal emission is optimal, and when you find this position, just maintain the tension. It is not necessary to force. Find the balance between tension and relaxation." Source: http://www.operanews.com/operanews/_archive/596/Alagna.596.html


"Roberto ALAGNA - Ah! Lève-toi, soleil! - Roméo et Juliette"


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDWHNfzW9x8

Miller continues..

>“Pedagogical perils abound in ignoring the breath process”
**Citation?**

>“Singers trained in the French school often demonstrate a shallow breath…”
**Citation?** Does Alanga breathe shallowly?? Is there a study on french singers that I'm not aware of?? Or is this un-scientific opinion being peddled as fact so blatently?? Surely, we should expect more from someone who is  one of the most referenced and mainstream voice, often regarded as one of the most influential pedagogues of the century ( which he is, but that doesn't mean he's right about everything.)

>“The energization of sound in the French school is at a lower level”
**Citation?** "Energization"?? What is he talking about?? Is that even a pedagogical term??

He then goes on to praise the Italian “Appogio” method, using scientific and anatomical examples. His writing on the Italian method is roughly 3x longer than the French method. Why the disparity? Why the inherent bias in his approach?? **He does the same when referencing mixed voice.** With, of course, little to no evidence to support his conclusion.

>“According to Miller's description of the Italian vocal pedagogy tradition (1977; 1986, pp. 115-149), the primo passaggio was the passage from chest register to middle register and the secondo passaggio was the passage from middle to head register.”


Part 2 will discuss modern research on the "mixed voice."