Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vocal Range... What It Is, How Much Of It You Need To Sing Great

How can you increase your vocal range? It's a question I hear all the time. Many times, this question is uninformed. There's no need to sing in whistle register if you're not doing Maria Carey style vocal runs, or singing the part of "Tony The Tiger" in those commercials. Why people have contests over this eludes me. Here's a more informed question:

How much vocal range do you need?
Answer: You need enough range to sing the songs you want to sing... without straining your voice.

So, if you experience vocal strain or weakness trying to hit the low or high notes in the songs you want to sing, you may indeed need to extend your range. But wait...what does this mean?

Extending vocal range has two meanings, the way I see it.
  • Extending voice as low and high as you possibly can without strain.
You do this with vocal exercises designed to work your voice lower in chest voice and higher in head voice or falsetto than you would ever really sing in a song. This is very good for working the vocal apparatus out, flexing and strengthening the vocal muscles and adding to their ability to change the thickness and length of the vocal cords to the extreme. The cardinal rule is that this training and exercising must never be undertaken so far or so fast as to cause vocal cord strain. Ever pulled a hamstring? Can you imagine doing that in your throat? If it hurts it's wrong! As in other athletic endeavors, form is everything, and patience is the key to improvement.
  • Extending your middle, or mixed, voice where you will be singing in practical application.
This involves vocal exercises that enable the coordination of musculature within the vocal apparatus, so that changing the thickness and length of vocal cords is done with great finesse, which involves such things as the tilting of the thyroid cartilage and the balancing of strength in the thyroarytenoid muscles with that of the crycothyroids. It also involves a lifting of your soft palate. These vocal exercises must be designed to carefully go over the "break" point(s) in your vocal range until they erase that break and your voice blends in one seamless register.
A little understood fact: Extend your ability to mix your chest and head voice registers and it will have the practical application of extending your vocal range when you sing. I used to have the worst break of anyone I've ever heard; Power Path & Performance method cured it.

Hope this helps clarify. If you'd like a vocal lesson to learn safe and effective vocal range extending exercises, let me know.

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  • At September 8, 2009 at 10:05 PM , Blogger Adam McInnis said...

    I thought your blog was very interesting, i think a major point which i you did not dwelve into, is the difference between ARTIST and SINGER when it comes to range and vocal workouts. There are pop singers that are required to sing pretty runs and have a nice tone, we all agree on that. Pop singers are like the family on the block that always has their lawn perfect with a white picket fence painted, all of us wish something bad would happen to them so that their life doesn't seem so perfect. But at the same time know thats wrong to think that way and instead we just go on smilling at them and talking about them behind there backs. An ARTIST, on the other hand, is the shack on the other side of the train tracks where white and blacks hardly cross together, but when they do there's tension, vulnerability, and an air of animalistic nature. This kind of artist must be strained he/she must push too hard, this artist must hurt. If your always worried about singing correctly then your definitly not thinking abuot feeling correctly. Some people have "technically amazing voices" but i can't stand to hear them sing.When with others not only is hearing them important but feeling them through that is an experience in itself which you can relive over and over by just pressing rewind. So in short the only people who should be worried about extending there vocal range, are the people that with the 5 notes they are singing, they sing with so much passion and uniqueness that they leave people craving more. Below are five note singers that have grammy's or awards

    Tracy Chapman
    Jacob Dylan
    Bob Dylan
    Jack Johnson
    John Mayer

    Take the time to carve and chip away at your voice like a piece of coal until a diamond that looks and shines like no other is made. After that worry about high notes.

  • At September 8, 2009 at 11:18 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Adam; Thanks for your thoughts. I can tell you are passionate about music. That always makes for a good discussion.

    I would say that the term "artist" is a subjective one. One person's artist is another person's boring singer. It takes all kinds because there are all kinds of listeners and tastes. Heavy metal music lovers usually don't like hip hop, country singers don't usually like jazz singing, alternative singers usually are bored with torch singers, and vice versa.

    No matter what kind of singer, if one wishes to sing more notes, more volume, more passionately or controlled, communicatively or artful, one must train to do so. Vocal range is one thing a lot of singers wish to have more of.

    Also, no matter what kind of singing a person does, even if it sounds like swallowing razor blades, it can be done without excessive air pressure on the vocal cords. This is specialized training. You don't "hear" this vocal training in a performance; it sounds authentic and natural.

    When the singers you have listed feel tired in their throats, they go to professional vocal coaches like me. But you'd never guess because when wisely applied, vocal training just helps an artist do their unique form of musical art, not sound "trained". You might even call it an aural illusion.

  • At March 2, 2011 at 6:19 AM , Anonymous Ysmay said...

    I find this very thought provoking. I've recently been hounded to learn to sing by my musician friends. (I swear, it's a conspiracy) I've never done this, and so I decided to figure out this whole singing thing.

    It turns out I am a female tenor, which explains why I've felt so limited my whole life when it comes to singing. Once I discovered I am a female tenor, I felt let down thinking I am stuck in this range. I find your post inspirational!

    Thanks for all the insight!

  • At March 4, 2011 at 3:27 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Ysmay... So happy that my post inspires you! Don't let 'labels' that people would stick on your voice limit you to the full exploration of what your instrument can do. Thanks so much for your thoughts... J

  • At July 21, 2011 at 4:55 AM , Blogger Jsuyker said...


    Your idea of a "five note singer" interested me. However, I believe that the 'artists' who convey more emotion and meaning through their lyrics, those with enough musicality to convey the power of the text are not the "five note singers". They are the chromatic singers, the singers who use millions of notes and chords. John Mayer is a paticular example you used. You called him a "five note singer". This is uninformed. Have a look at the sheet music for St. Patricks day, a song with 29 chords. All of these chords are complex jazz chords. He sings far more than five notes in this song. It is the pop singers who are five note singers. They are the ones who sit in their comfortable tessatura with pentatonic meloides. John Mayer and the other "artists" you mentioned use numerous vocal tones and colours, not five notes.



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