An overview

A vocal break is an abrupt change in sound when going from one mode to another. Used as an effect, a vocal break can evoke many expressions such as surrender or devotion. Vocal breaks will always involve the change to a non-metallic note or a flageolet. Vocal breaks can be used between all the metallic modes and Neutral, or flageolet and consequently at different volumes, with different sound colours, in many parts of the voice and on many vowels.

Vocal breaks are produced in a combination of levels from 1-6. The vocal cords produce a note and the vocal tract gives it a mode and sound colour (see ’Various levels of the vocal tract’).


Intentional and unintentional vocal breaks

Vocal breaks often appear spontaneously in untrained singers, because they do not have sufficient technique to maintain a mode when it becomes difficult. The voice changes abruptly and spontaneously into another mode. These uncontrolled breaks can strain the voice and may interrupt a singer’s planned line of vocal sound. As a singer’s technique improves the unwanted breaks are eliminated.

The singer may want to use vocal breaks as a means of expression later in her/his career.


Singers who often use/used vocal breaks

Sam Brown, La Voix Mystere Bulgare, Patsy Cline, Dido, Gypsy Kings, Emmilou Harris, John Hiatt, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, KD Lang, Leadbelly, Professor Longhair, Vera Lynn, Chris Martin (Coldplay), Alanis Morissette, Little Richard, Dolores O’Riordan (Cranberries), Linda Ronstadt, Hank Williams, and Brett Anderson


Control the modes

Vocal breaks are often found in the marginal areas of a mode and the skilled singer has a fine technical control to determine where, when and how the vocal breaks should appear.
Often the bigger the difference between the two modes, the more distinct the vocal break. That is why vocal breaks are often heard between full-metallic (Overdrive, Edge) and non-metallic (Neutral) modes.
The modes used in a vocal break is often sung with a predetermined pattern of vowel, volume and sound colour ,according to the the rules of the modes.



Yodelling is a series of rapid changes (breaks) between Overdrive and Neutral, often with leaps of sixths or sevenths.

#280 (Female)
#280 (Male)


Vocal Breaks in a song

#284 (Female)
#284 (Male)