One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “How do I stretch my range?” Often times I’ll get this question from an older person who feels they’ve lost range they once had. Is it possible to stretch your range? Even when you’re older? The answer is a resounding YES!
Perhaps it seems obvious that having a larger range would be beneficial, but, in spite of that, many people never really make the move to acquire all that they can with regard to range. The more range you have, the more notes you can sing…ha! Of course that’s true, but it also can enable you to be more flexible overall as a singer. Being able to sing a song in a multitude of keys makes it easier for you to fit in many more places. It can enable you to sing different parts of harmony, or simply switch from a lower to a higher harmony, depending on what your team might need. Flexibility and adaptability are both wonderful traits to have in a singer, especially a singer in any type of team or choir.
Flexibility and adaptability are both wonderful traits to have in a singer, especially a singer in any type of team or choir.
But there’s more. Having more range is kind of like being in better shape. When you stretch regularly and work out to strengthen your body, you are able to function better overall– not just when you are working out. It’s the same way with your voice. When you take the time to work on your range, you are less likely to push yourself in an unhealthy manner vocally. Instead, you become more familiar with your voice and can better assess what is attainable and what is not. Of course, the outer reaches of your voice will become stronger, clearer, and more usable, but the other parts of your voice will benefit as well. Suddenly, the rest of your range seems easier to sing!
The vocal cords are muscles. They function much the same way as other muscles. You can strengthen them. You can stretch them. As with any other set of muscles, you’ll want to stretch them gently. The way to stretch vocal cords gently is by doing vocalises (vocal exercises) incrementally. Take your exercises slowly at first, using exercises that involve only half steps and whole steps. Move systematically up and down scales by moving up only a half step each time you restart your vocalise. Once you are fully warmed up, you can get a better stretch. Be sure to stretch on a daily (or as close as you can to it) schedule. Your cords will respond much better to a daily routine. We want the vocal cords to remember how to stretch so they respond easily to those bigger stretches. Those of you who have heard me teach know my mantra is “Warm-up every day of your life and you won’t lose what you have” (even if it’s just in the shower!)
Set out to discover what your comfortable range is now. Make good notes as to how high and low you are able to go at this time, and how it feels when you do. This will help you to recognize your actual progress as you make it. Then set your sights on stretching past those limits. Do this slowly. Don’t look for miracles overnight; be patient and set a goal for one extra note at a time. If you find that it’s getting easier to sing, then go ahead and stretch as far as you comfortably can. Sometimes, simply the process of warming up fully and correctly will help you stretch your range quite a bit!
Always pay attention to your body when you are singing. Your body is always talking to you. It’s telling you the good and bad of what you are doing. Please pay attention to it. If something hurts, stop doing it. If you are sore or hoarse after warming up, do something differently next time (don’t push yourself so hard). Make sure you watch yourself as much as you can when you attempt these types of exercises. Your body may be doing things that you don’t necessarily feel, but can see if you are watching. So be mindful and pay attention.
Having a wider range is a joy! I hope you are able to put some time into it and enjoy the benefits.