Being able to sing with as wide a range as possible, and to do it well, is a typical goal among singers. Yet, singers often feel stifled. Quite often, I get questions like:
“I used to be able to sing so much higher. What happened to my range?”
“Why do I have such a small (usable) range?”
“How can I increase my range?”
I love these questions because this is one of the few vocal issues that have a relatively simple solution.
What Is Vocal Range?
To start, let’s clarify what we mean by vocal range. For a working definition, let’s just say that what most folks are referring to is how high or low they can sing in a full voice. This is an important distinction because once we start to add in additional types of singing, (falsetto, flageolet tones, whistle registers, etc.) that changes things up and can get confusing. These types of singing can certainly add a type of range to your voice, but most of my students are looking to extend their FULL range – the range that involves full vocal cord adduction.
Each individual has a unique physical make-up which enables him or her to sing with a variety of sounds and pitches. There are definitely limits to the sounds each individual can make based on this make-up. However, most people I have worked with have not come close to actually reaching their full potential range. I can safely say that most of my students increase their range by about an octave after they’ve learned to sing thoroughly and properly through their entire range capability. That’s usually a great encouragement to them.
How do I Increase My Range?
The first question I ask people who are questioning ‘what happened to their range’ is: “What is your vocal routine like?” and most of the time I get a blank stare or a sheepish grin. This is because most people don’t have any kind of vocal routine. What everyone needs to keep in mind is that the vocal cords (folds) are muscles. Without conditioning, stretching, and strengthening, one will never reach their full vocal capacity. But with regular, healthy and proper use, the cords can be strengthened, made more flexible, and able to readily hit pitches with ease that were previously unreachable.
So, the answer to getting a better range is to start with a regular warm-up/ work-out routine. I’m excited to have, just this week, released a new warm-up and work out DVD that can help you with your vocal goals, but there are also lots of other resources to help you. If you have questions about how to go about getting started or are looking for material, don’t hesitate to contact me through my website (sherigould.com). I will do my best to direct you based on your needs.
Stretch, Stretch, Stretch!
Many singers give up way too easily when trying to stretch their range. The minute they think they sound “funny” or feel out of their usual element, they stop– often becoming their own worst enemy vocally! If you convince yourself that you “can’t” sing something, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll start to believe it. One of the ‘magic’ tricks I can use as a coach is to position the student in such a manner so that they cannot see the keyboard I’m using. When a student is taken higher or lower than they are used to, because they are with ME and can’t really tell where they are in their range (since they can’t see the keyboard), I can usually take them much farther than they would ever try to go on their own, and it’s exhilarating for them!
It’s important to note, however, that I am able to keep an eye on them to make sure they are singing correctly while doing this and not employing any harmful techniques. I can ensure that they are using proper breath support, they are keeping their larynx relaxed, their throat and neck muscles are relaxed, and they are otherwise not tense. These are all important elements to being able to reach your vocal potential. Without keeping an eye out for these things, a person might do damage while trying to push themselves too far vocally. A mirror is mandatory while trying to do any vocal work-out. Most singers I know are not studying with a coach who can give them that valuable feedback. With a mirror, a singer can get immediate feedback and do a proper self-check.
God bless you as you seek to serve Him with your voice!