Three Ways to Increase Your Vocal Range Safely and Practically - revised
Defining Vocal RangeHere are three ways to think about vocal range:
1. The distance between the lowest note you can sing in chest voice and the highest note you can sing in head voice or falsetto.
2. The distance between the lowest and highest notes you can sing without going all the way over to head voice.
3. The distance between the lowest and highest notes you can sing in both registers, blended so well you can cross registers without breaking or sounding extremely different, or straining, from bottom to top. This is your practical performance vocal range.
To define your vocal range, ask yourself these questions:
How many octaves can you sing between your lowest chest voice and your highest head voice notes?
How high can you sing in 'full voice'?
How well can you connect your vocal registers so it seems you have one smooth register without a discernible break (unless it's a little intentional yodel)?
Training for more vocal range
There are different vocal exercises and training techniques for each of the above three goals. To maximize and protect your voice, my suggestion is to train for all three!1. To increase your total vocal range through all registers:
- At the low end... I don't recommend creating vocal fry for the low end of your range; it's not a practical sound and if used habitually it can create vocal damage. Just sing as low as you can create tone with pitch.
- Try stretching your torso out instead of collapsing your chest to sound lower notes.
- For higher notes, practice carefully to lift your head voice range... don't push high notes up, intend them and let them float up. You might want to read other posts I wrote on what to do and what not to do for better high notes.
- Challenge yourself by supporting your highest head voice range solidly from the pelvic floor, but never push or strain your voice to go up another step. Just pull it up there, intending it, supporting it and controlling it by lifting above and behind yourself.
- This is also known as 'mixed' or 'middle' voice, gradually changing the mix of chest and head register involvement as you goes higher but not quite crossing into pure head voice. To do this, you must balance the strength in the two sets of muscles (TA and CT) that work your vocal cords so they can coordinate their efforts efficiently. You must also allow your vocal cord vibration to access all resonation zones. In other words, allow the note to place itself where it resonates the most freely. To gain this continually adjusting balance, here are some tips:
- First, increase the amount of exercise you do with the vocal register you use the least (usually you'll need to work more in head voice for contemporary voice singers, chest voice for classical singers).
- Then learn to do some full voice vocal exercises (almost but not quite crossing into pure head voice) with absolutely correct form. I designed humming exercises with a loose jaw for this purpose, which I call 'middle voice circle stretches'. I have my student slur up on an 'm' sound, then slur down, creating a circular hum that is an octave apart at top and bottom. Then I use an 'n' and 'ng', going up by half steps about 7 or 8 times until the singer must go over to pure head voice to avoid strain. You'll hear me demonstrate on my podcast version of this post.
- As you go higher in full voice, back off your air pressure so you don't have to go into head voice to avoid strain. Elongate and allow morphing (modification) of vowels for ease. Check my earlier blogpost for more tips on hitting full voice high notes.
- Do lots of big range vocal exercises that cross your vocal registers; learn to blend and hide breaks at the transition areas and allow a mix to develop between registers. Hint: You do this by lifting up and back - pulling instead of pushing - as you cross your registers.
- Lip and tongue trills, raspberries and sirens, also known as semi-occluded vocal tract (SOVT) exercises, that go across your whole range are just some of the great vocal exercises that can get you moving across and blending your registers smoothly. Again... pull up and back as you
- Try to make the top of your chest voice sound just like the bottom of your head voice. To do this (it may sound weird), pull your head voice notes through your mouth zone, pull your chest voice through your mask zone. Mix up where the bottom and top go!
- Learn the "pull" method of sounding your voice, which will balance you breath support/control and give you just the right amount of breath to go across your registers without breaking. It will also open your throat and allow your notes to go where they resonate the best.
How much range is enough?The answer can depend on genre-specific norms. The better question is... what should your USABLE vocal range be?
Here is the way I like to answer... As big as is necessary to singing what you wish to sing without strain. Your lowest notes can be confident and rich, not hooty or muddy, and the top of your range will never have to hurt! (What a concept!)
Need help? Book a lesson or buy a course in Power, Path and Performance vocal training. Then practice your vocal exercises!
Labels: chest voice, full voice, head voice, high notes, increase vocal range, Judy Rodman, low notes, TA and CT muscles, usable vocal range, vocal exercise, vocal range, vocal registers