The ‘break’. It’s every singer’s challenge: the place in the voice where things feel like they’re shifting gears, where transitions happen. The Italian word for it is passaggio, which means passageway. I notice that in my own speaking voice the notes in my passaggio happen to be where my voice naturally goes when I’m sad, angry or happily excited. It’s where my voice is most physiologically and emotionally vulnerable! What a fascinating contradiction. The most emotionally charged bits of my voice, which convey the strongest emotions, live in a delicate place: a passageway where physiology, resonance and sensations shift and change, and where an emotional journey takes place.
Our challenge as singers is to balance excellent technique with open-hearted vulnerability. There are certainly wonderful tools for navigating the passaggios in the voice, and those can be learned and practiced like any other technique. But we need to be gentle with ourselves, too. Our greatest offering as singers is to allow ourselves to be truly seen, and that kind of vulnerability is scary. Walking the delicate tightrope between technical control and emotional surrender is a lifelong practice. I’m definitely still working on it, and I love sharing everything I know (and learn!) to help singers find that magical balance.
Here’s the beauty of the ‘break’: it is, by design, the most vulnerable, most expressive, and arguably most truthful area of any voice – it’s where change happens, if we allow our emotions passage instead of blocking or hiding them. If we are willing to surrender ourselves to the journey, we can offer our audiences a passageway into the depths of the human spirit.