Exploring Bel Canto and Mix Singing

Bridging Classical and Contemporary Techniques

In the world of vocal performance, understanding and mastering various singing techniques is crucial for any aspiring singer. Two such techniques that hold significant value are Bel Canto and mix singing.

Each has its unique principles and applications, yet they share some fundamental aspects that contemporary singers can blend to enhance their vocal abilities. In this article, we will explore the basics of Bel Canto and mix singing, and discuss how contemporary singers can incorporate elements of Bel Canto into their training and performances.


Introduction to Bel Canto

pavarottiBel Canto, an Italian term meaning “beautiful singing,” refers to a classical vocal technique and style that flourished in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is characterized by its emphasis on smooth, even tone production, agile and precise coloratura (rapid vocal runs and ornamentation), and expressive, legato phrasing.

The primary focus of Bel Canto is on achieving a seamless blend of vocal registers (chest, middle, and head voice) to create a unified, resonant sound throughout the singer’s range. This technique prioritizes breath control, vocal placement, and the natural resonance of the voice.


Introduction to Mix Singing

Mix singing is a contemporary vocal technique that combines elements of chest voice and head voice to produce a powerful, versatile sound. This technique is widely used in genres such as pop, rock, and musical theater. Mix singing allows singers to achieve the strength and depth of chest voice while maintaining the ease and brightness of head voice. It is designed to work well with microphones and amplified settings, providing a balanced and dynamic sound that can adapt to various musical styles.

In songs like “Somebody to Love,” Freddy Mercury demonstrates fluid movement from lower chest tones to soaring high notes without any noticeable breaks or shifts. This seamless blending contributed to his signature sound, making his performances both captivating and technically impressive. While often employing mixed voice technique, Mercury also uses belt in his sound production.



Incorporating Bel Canto Elements into Contemporary Singing

Contemporary singers can greatly benefit from integrating elements of Bel Canto into their vocal training. Here are some key aspects of Bel Canto that can enhance contemporary singing techniques:


1. Breath Control and Support

Bel Canto places a strong emphasis on breath control and diaphragmatic support, which are essential for producing a steady, sustained tone. Contemporary singers can adopt these techniques to improve their breath management, allowing for longer phrases and better dynamic control.

Exercise: Practice slow, deep breathing exercises to strengthen diaphragmatic support. Inhale deeply through the nose, allowing the diaphragm to expand fully, and exhale slowly through the mouth, controlling the airflow.


2. Smooth Register Transitions

One of the hallmarks of Bel Canto is its seamless blending of chest, middle, and head registers. Contemporary singers can use this principle to avoid noticeable breaks or shifts in their voice, achieving a more consistent sound.

Exercise: Sing scales or arpeggios that span your vocal range, focusing on smooth transitions between registers. Use a vowel like “ee” or “oo” to help maintain consistent resonance.


3. Vocal Placement and Resonance

Bel Canto singers utilize precise vocal placement to maximize natural resonance. Contemporary singers can benefit from this by learning to place their voice in the “mask” (the area around the nose and cheekbones) to enhance clarity and projection.

Exercise: Practice humming with your lips gently closed, focusing on the vibrations in your mask. Gradually open your mouth while maintaining the same placement to transition to open vowels.


4. Expressive Phrasing and Dynamics

Bel Canto encourages expressive, legato phrasing and dynamic variation, which can add emotional depth to contemporary performances. Learning to control dynamics while maintaining vocal quality is a valuable skill for any singer.

Exercise: Select a phrase from a song and practice singing it with different dynamics, from soft to loud, while keeping the tone smooth and connected. Pay attention to how changes in dynamics affect the emotional impact of the phrase.


Sound Placement in Contemporary Singing

Sound placement, or vocal placement, refers to where the sound vibrations are felt in the body and head during singing. Proper placement helps achieve a resonant, balanced tone and prevents vocal strain.


  • Chest Voice: Vibrations are felt in the chest area, providing a strong, full sound. Useful for lower pitches and powerful, grounded singing.
  • Head Voice: Vibrations are felt in the head or skull, producing a lighter, more ethereal sound. Useful for higher pitches and softer dynamics.
  • Mixed Voice: Combines chest and head resonance, felt in the mask area. Useful for a balanced, versatile sound that can navigate a wide range of pitches and dynamics.


By incorporating the breath control, smooth register transitions, vocal placement, and expressive phrasing of Bel Canto into their practice, contemporary singers can enhance their technical proficiency and artistic expression. This blend of classical and modern techniques equips singers to tackle diverse musical genres with confidence and finesse.