Extending Your Vocal Range
can I increase my own range, or for that matter the range of my worship
team or choir. This is a common issue as most people would love to sing
more notes in better form then they currently do. Divas like Moriah
Carey or the late Minnie Ripperton may come to mind for many women.
Steve Green, or any of the "Three Tenors" may come to mind
for many men. Is it possible to extend your own range to such en extent?
although most of us are stuck with more average ranges than the above
mentioned exceptions, over the years I have experienced this phenomenon:
as soon as someone starts to learn how to sing properly, their range
increases. Most of my students have ended up extending their range no
less than an octave. How does this happen? I believe that two reasons
are largely responsible for the change; elimination of fear and accumulation
of proper technique.
of fear. Most people are very fearful of all but about an octave (max!)
of their range. Why is this? Simply stated, people are the most comfortable
with their speaking voice range. All day long and for their entire lives
they have been exercising this part of their range and most people can
use this part of their range pretty efficiently and without much strain.
So it follows rather naturally then, that most people will find this
range comfortable to sing in. The minute they move beyond this very
comfortable and well used part of their range they begin to "panic"
as they start to feel a different sensation then they're used to and
most of the time they begin to tense up making it difficult to sing.
At this point they generally conclude that they have reached the end
of their range.
of course is rarely a true indication of the extent of their range,
however it does demonstrate to me where they are most comfortable singing
and therefore how far they have worked their voice. My job at that point
is to try to push them farther and here's how I do it. The first thing
is to simply introduce them to the other notes available in their range.
Many of them go kicking and screaming, but they go! Once they've experienced
the new territory, the fear starts to dissipate and they become more
comfortable with themselves in the new range. Many times they are also
quite impressed with themselves! So the first order of the day is to
TRY! Try some new notes, a couple higher, a couple lower all the while
making sure to keep proper vocal technique.
development of proper technique is the key to range expansion. Learning
to relax is so important. Using a mirror can be a vital component to
learning to relax. Many times people have no idea how much or where
they are tensing. Keeping ALL muscles relaxed enables the vocal mechanism
to function at peak capacity. Learn to use the diaphragm to power your
sound, NOT the muscles in your throat. So as you look in the mirror
make any necessary changes to be sure that you do not strain and tighten
the muscles in your throat, neck and face. Stay in front of the mirror
for all of your vocalizing and practicing.
while you're looking in the mirror, locate your voice-box in your throat.
This may be simpler for the men whose "Adam's Apple" is larger
than most women's. As you're facing the mirror, put a finger on your
voice-box. You can be confident you have placed your finger correctly
by "yawning". As you "yawn" you will feel and see
the voice box move downward. As you are able to become more aware of
your voice-box placement you will begin to be able to lengthen your
range as you are able to keep your voice-box as low as possible. As
you lower your voice-box to the maximum (your yawn) you'll notice a
completely different sound coming out (the sound you make when you yawn).
This is your throat in it's most open position. Although this is NOT
the sound you're looking for, it will give you an idea as to how to
control the placement. The lower you're able to keep it, the more relaxed
position your throat will stay in.
the opposite just for comparison. Try (while keeping that finger in
place on the voice-box) to make a sound equivalent to "Minnie Mouse".
You'll see the voice box practically disappear up into your throat.
I try to use the illustration of a garden hose when I teach this concept.
Think of your windpipe as a garden hose that carries air from the lungs
to the mouth. IF the hose is left unrestricted you'll get the best flow.
When you keep the muscles relaxed and the voice-box out of the way the
flow is the least restricted. However, when your muscles tense and the
voice-box is forced upward, it "kinks" the hose much as if
you were bending a hose as the water flows out. What happens then? The
airflow is impeded. Sound gets distorted and you don't have the same
control over the flow-it doesn't go where you want it to.
Pratice Practice! One of the last keys to a great range is to maintain
what you have. This is only done through practice. What you don't use,
you lose! When I was in college choir and sang first soprano, I was
forced to sing high "c's" on a daily basis. After many years
out of college and much less challenging music, those high "c's"
do not come nearly as easily as they once did. Are they still there?
but they need to be found and then exercised! So once you
start to develop that new range, keep at it. You will gain confidence
and eventually those notes that were at one time unthinkable will become
yours and what used to be the extreme parts of your range will suddenly
become easy to sing!