How to sing higher as a baritone
One of the biggest hurdles I personally faced as a fledgling singer learning how to navigate my beginner voice was the fact I was a low Baritone – my voice was just SO much lower than any coach I could find, and my vocal chords just didn’t behave like my Tenor or female range coaches. I practised scales and tried exercise after exercise, and my voice simply didn’t do what it was told – until I realised that baritone voices require a specific approach to vocal training that simply isn’t taught by most singing teachers and contemporary singing courses. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to sing higher as a baritone using middle voice, vocal placement, vowel shaping, resonance tuning and more!
What IS baritone singing range?
If you want the technical details – a recent study measuring the vocal fold length of various natural voice types showed that Baritone male singers low voices have LONGER and THICKER vocal folds than those of other male ranges or female voice types. In my experience, training a baritone singing voice can be a much more difficult process than that of a higher voice type, but ultimately results in a much richer and expansive vocal range. The phrase “It’s a tenor’s world” really only applies to relatively untrained singers. A singing voice is only a strong as the foundation it is build upon, and only expansive as the time and technique you have invested.
Now, in actual singing terms, the Baritone voice is lower in pitch, darker or boomier and rich in character and MUCH harder to train than a Tenor or Soprano, for example. To train the baritone voice range takes understanding of the vocal mechanism, the idiosyncrasies of actually HAVING this voice type yourself (like I do) rather than just telling a baritone to “sing better” when there is an inherent issues or characteristics that simply aren’t understood by singers in possession of a higher voice type.
How do you train the baritone singing range?
As a naturally low baritone myself, I’ve spent more than a decade researching and developing a steps-based approach to improving my own baritone singing range which has become an intrinsic part of my teaching tools as a professional vocal coach. Where higher voice types tend to resonate naturally in the nasal cavities, the baritone singing range often sits in the throat or vibrates deep in the chest due to slack and thick vocal cords, leading to a need to develop placement before other rudimentary vocal techniques like vowel modification can be introduced safely.
The biggest issue I faced as a low baritone in my youth was the distinct lack of knowledgeable baritone singing coaches out there who understood my baritone singing range, who knew how to teach my voice and understood the unique issues and needs my voice type called for.
As a baritone, you CAN sing in the Tenor range
The beauty of being a baritone is that you actually have MUCH more range and tonal control at your disposal than higher voice types – meaning you CAN learn to sing in the Tenor range, however, it takes a very DIFFERENT approach to the way a natural tenor would sing. Placement, Middle Voice and tuned vowels are integral to building your range while keeping a resonant and rich vocal tone without ‘flipping’ up into head voice, or worse – falsetto. I recently put together a video on singing into the higher register without pushing or dragging up your chest voice:
Baritones – you MUST build these 5 techniques
To build the Baritone voice range, you first need to build a foundation or diaphragmatic breathing and healthy resonance – you can book a session with me in the calendar to your right if you’re ready to start building your foundation.
- Placement – learn to control your frequencies by ‘placing‘ your resonance
- Middle Voice – build the center of your voice to do away with your vocal break
- Vowel Tuning – This is a MUCH more efficient way of modifying your vowel sounds as you ascend
- Breath Support – It’s not just about breathing with the diaphragm, you need to learn how to CONTROL you air too!
- Release, release, release – All the powerful singing techniques in the world won’t help a voice that is ‘holding on’ to chest voice
Most singing approaches aren’t made for the Baritone voice
This really was the most important thing I learned after so many years of taking both classical AND contemporary singing lessons myself – the reason it’s so hard for baritones like me to learn to sing is that most singing approaches weren’t designed for low voices. Placement and Middle Voice aren’t even something that need to be developed by most Tenors, but it’s an absolute cornerstone for a bass voice – and when a coach with a higher voice type says ‘Sing in the masque’, this is actually different to singing in correct placement. Placement requires you to LIMIT any excess frequencies that are occurring.
As one of very few professional baritone singing coaches out there who not only understands the baritone singing range because i AM a baritone, my steps-based approach to breathing, resonance, vowels, placement and diction has been developed with my low voice in mind and really DOES work for any voice type.
Find the right approach
Finding the right approach to singing is incredibly important. If your voice is struggling through the middle range, and your coach dismisses middle-voice as a technique – you’re not getting the coaching you need and deserve. The same thing with using vague analogies like “paddle like a duck under water”, “sing forward”, or “inhale while you’re singing” when the intention behind them is not made clear. These are all metaphors I heard when I first started learning to sing over 15 years ago, and only after developing my approach do I now understand the intention;
- Paddle like a duck – this simply means breath support from your diaphragm
- Sing Forward – both vocal placement and twang
- Inhale – This comes from “inhalare la voce”, basically, hold your breath as you sing.
Singing isn’t a one-size-fits all. Make sure you find a coach that understands your voice type and knows how to show you technique rather than just repeat metaphors they were once told.
If you’re ready to start building your baritone voice range into a powerhouse with the practical and simple techniques I’ve personally used and developed over the last ten years, you can book a session with me in the booking calendar and I’ll SHOW you how it’s done!
Feel free to leave any questions or feedback below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.