Master Vocal Technique Teacher/Coach for Singers, and Published Author

Using Vocal Exercises to Increase Range

Vocal Exercises to Increase Range

I can’t stress enough how important using vocal exercises to increase range and fully develop the voice is so that when you sing it is at full potential. When beginners are starting off, I suggest practicing vocal exercises for 30 minutes a day until you can work up to more than that. I also suggest that instead of trying to learn new ways by bulldozing your way through the entire range of your voice, all in one take, break it down to one section at a time.

For every new student starting out, the biggest problem is breath control. It is most notable when trying to reach higher notes and usually ends up becoming a bad habit because you haven’t been able to find a way to sing high without using the force of your breath. The trouble is, it doesn’t work and you may often find yourself falling flat of the note. Or, at best, the sound becomes distorted. You’ll have more success at mastering the new way if you break down the practice and work the voice section by section. Otherwise, if you don’t stop to listen after recording each section on playback for when the voice got weak and take the time to correct it, then your practice will only serve to reinforce the bad habit. It’s not about quantity. Rather, it’s about quality.

With new instructions on exactly how to take in your air and use it properly without straining, pushing and giving your voice the old HEAVE HO, you may find that when you try again the following day, it isn’t as hard as it was the day before. Additionally, if you have a few bad habits, it is best to focus on tackling one at a time. Forget any other pieces of information you’ve gotten. Choose to work and concentrate on only one to improve your voice. This way practicing is much easier and can even become fun because when you tackle only one issue at a time, you’ll experience some success. That will encourage you to keep on going. And with more and more improvement, you will find that you actually want to practice. You may also start feeling like you are competing with your own voice. Who will win? Will it be you? Or will it be your voice? In truth, you must become the master of your instrument. You must be in control of it and not the other way around.

It’s almost always easier when using vocal exercises to increase range and develop your voice if you start with an exercise that descends from the top rather than ascends to the higher notes from the bottom. The higher you go, the more the cords stretch back.  The lower you go, the shorter they stretch. In order to stretch, there are two separate muscle groups attached to the cords (which are like two elastic bands). Without these two muscle groups, the cords would not be able to stretch.

For the sake of simplicity, I have labeled one group as the thyroid group and the other as the arytenoid group. The front of the cords right behind the Adam’s apple (more pronounced in men because of hormones) are attached to the thyroid group and is primarily responsible for lower-range pitches. The arytenoids are attached to the back of the cords and are primarily responsible for the higher-range pitches. Yet both groups must be equally engaged to get through the middle to bridge any breaks. They act as an anchor for one another for bracing tension as you work through the weakest sections of your voice. Meaning, they both must be equal in strength to hold the pitches through that section(s).

Some people only have one break where they flip from the chest to head register — which may actually be a falsetto uncontrollably. The falsetto is very airy. Other people can have up to three breaks in their voice. I use vocal exercises designed specifically to strengthen both the thyroid and arytenoid groups, working the lower end and then working up to the higher end to strengthen both. I liken this to taking the voice to the gym. The workout requires a lot of hard work because of the concentration it takes. But you never give up trying to “get it”. NO MATTER WHAT.

The stronger those muscle groups get, the stronger the mechanism gets. The more diaphragmatic support you have, the stronger the mechanism gets. The more you allow your mouth to open up wide and change shape for rounder vowel sounds as you ascend higher and higher, the easier it is to get the necessary mask placement in the face for more power and resonance.

Using vocal exercises to increase range doesn’t just increase the range. They develop and strengthen the entire mechanism from the diaphragm up to the vocal cords attached to those two muscle groups, and then for both to use the mask placement in the face to brace against which is so necessary for power and resonance. One doesn’t work without the other. If you don’t have the necessary diaphragmatic support, the cords won’t be able to hold. If the muscle groups that control the cords are not strong enough, you will lose the support of the diaphragm, quite likely to a point it becomes nonexistent, and consequently won’t be able to direct the voice into the mask for power and resonance. All three of these things must work together as a team.

The goal I set for each student is a minimum of a 36 note range from the very bottom of the voice to the top. There are quite a few of the singers I have taught that have been able to increase their range by at least six to eight notes. The more range you have in your exercise voice means that much more in your singing voice. Most singers find that the strongest part of their singing voices fall about eight notes below the highest note possible in their exercise voice, and eight notes above the lowest note possible.

There is no way around it; any way you cut it. The only way to fully develop your voice and sing at full potential is to concentrate and put in the hard work required by challenging yourself with the vocal exercises and your relentless practice of them. It really is the only way.