What is a vocal passage?

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Most singers experience some kind of change when singing from the bottom to the top of their voice. Some people call it their “break,” “bridge,” or “that horrible place where it all falls apart!”

We like to refer to this part of your voice as a passage, or passagio, because it is a transitional place in your voice—a passage from one place to the next!

How we perceive our voice

When you sing from the bottom to the top of your voice, how you perceive your voice changes. This happens due to muscular and acoustical adjustments that take place when you change pitch. 

In a perfectly coordinated voice, the change of perception would happen gradually, bit by bit from note to note. To the singer, this creates the feeling of one voice: a mix of chest voice and head voice qualities in different proportions on every note from the bottom to the top of their range.

Image showing chest and head voice blended together

Why do I feel different “voices”?

But most beginning singers struggle with blending chest voice and head voice smoothly. Many beginners haven’t developed the coordination and fluency between their chest and head voices, so their brains don’t perceive it as “one voice.”

Instead, the brain labels notes that feel similar as belonging together, separating them from other groups of notes that feel differently. So instead of one voice from the bottom to the top, you may experience several different “voices” as you sing from low to high, labeling them as chest voice, head voice, falsetto, etc.

If this is how you perceive your voice (as most all people do!), the idea of vocal passages comes into play.

Vocal passages are the transitioning zones in between these different voices. Sometimes you’ll also hear terms like vocal bridge, passaggio, or transition being used as synonyms. 

If your voice isn’t coordinated well through certain passages, you are very likely to experience strain, a break, or a loss of power and presence in your voice. Learning how to get smoothly through these passages is the key to building one voice from bottom to top. 

Vocal passages don’t necessarily go away completely; they instead become a smooth transition zone over time. 

Where are these passages in my voice?

In most female voices, the first passage starts around an A♭4/A4, the second passage around an E♭5/E5, and the third passage around an A♭5/A5.

In most male voices, the first passage starts around an E♭4/E4, the second passage around an A♭4/A4, and the third passage around an E♭5/E5.

There may be more passages in a voice, but they usually have less relevance.

Image showing the vocal passages in the voice in relation to chest and head voice

When the voice works well, passages seem to disappear!

Don’t forget that vocal passages are just a concept that helps you achieve the skill of blending chest voice and head voice. 

If this skill is already in place at the location of a certain passage, you may not feel that passage at all. So when the voice works well, these passages seem to disappear, then you have no reason to worry about them!

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Photo of Andreas Grussl
Voice instructor, vocal producer and lawyer, Andreas Grussl runs a very successful voice studio in his hometown of Graz, the second biggest city in Austria.