The Quickest Way To Expand Vocal Range
Aside from vocal tone and how to sing [insert song title], the #1 query I receive as a voice coach is how to expand vocal range. Gaining access to your high range is actually easier than you’ve been led to believe, and ultimately requires coordination rather than muscular strength or brute force. A great singer isn’t necessarily a ‘strong’ singer, a great singer is a balanced singer who has an aptitude for coordination built from practice, perseverance and the right approach. If you’ve been wondering how to expand vocal range and sing higher notes, I’m about to share with you the quickest way to expand vocal range.
The Secret Key To Expand Vocal Range
One thing I wish I was shown from day one when I first started learning how to sing was the secret key to singing – balance. You technically don’t ‘extend’ your range, you don’t ‘push’ your chest voice higher, you don’t ‘reach’ for high notes or ‘hit’ high notes, you gain access to your high range by singing with balance. Every aspect of singing requires balance, and every issue you experience as a singer comes back to lack of balance. To expand vocal range, the first step is to bridge a connection between chest and head voice. While it may seem as though these are two ‘different voices’, chest voice and head voice are simply varying levels of vocal fold weight and vocal fold tension, and when you learn to balance between the two, you will attain connection between your lowest note and your highest note.
The key to expanding vocal range beyond connecting chest and head voice is learning to balance EVERY aspect of your voice, from balancing airflow with chord closure for your onsets, balancing airflow and air pressure for support, balancing frequencies for your tone and so forth.
Vowels are the linchpin of your voice
There’s a reason that great singers sing their vowels in a specific way. This is something that took me a long time to understand, but is, fortunately, something that can be explained easily now that I understand the process and can implement it with ease. In speech, you articulate your vowels using your teeth, tip of the tongue, lips and face, but in singing, you actually shape your vowels with the back of your tongue while creating appropriate resonant space for the pitch you sing using the pharynx and soft palate (bear with me, it’s easier than you think!). The easiest way to explain how to sing vowels properly is to have you alternate between an EE vowel and an AH vowel, like Feed and Far. Can you feel how you tongue is raised at the back for the EE sound and lowered to a concave in the base of your mouth for the AH sound? Congratulations, you’ve now mastered vowel shaping… no, seriously, it really is THAT simple. Each vowel sound has it’s own corresponding shape and resonant space.
How to alter your resonant space
As you sing up towards your first vocal break, it’s important that you start creating appropriate resonant space for the higher frequencies you are creating. This can easily be done by singing up into the pharynx by way of the soft palate (again, bear with me) – you can try this yourself by starting with a pure OO vowel, which occurs when the bulk of your tongue is back and your lips are pursed forwards. Now, as you ascend up an octave from your chest voice, allow your mouth to open vertically without opening your mouth wide from the edge of your lips, in essence creating a vertical 0 shape with your mouth, not a lateral spread of your vowel. The weirdest thing happens when you do this, your vowel moves upwards into the soft palate! Now, if you practice this change religiously, you can actually create this same resonant space in the back of your mouth without necessarily opening to this vertical aperture on your EE and OO vowel, while still allowing the vertical aperture to occur on your ‘open’ vowel sounds AH/OH/AA.
Now, you can practice the same thing with your small warmup sounds like the lip trill and the ‘placement’ N exercise that you’ll see on the Bohemian Vocal Studio YouTube Channel – and when you switch over to each of your vowel sounds, this transition will start to happen naturally and without resistance. How cool is that? You’re now altering your resonant space to allow room for your high frequencies and ultimately your high range!
Vowel Modification, the best technique you’ve never heard of
You might be wondering just how to apply this vertical “0” aperture into actual songs while you are articulating words and consonant sounds. This is especially difficult through the middle of your voice where you first start to make this spatial change in the pharynx. A really great ‘hack’ for forcing this space to occur is to modify your vowels. You can try this yourself by singing an AH vowel. No doubt you feel as though your mouth is open side to side somewhat. Now, change this vowel into an “UH” like the word ‘cup’ instead. Can you feel how your mouth naturally narrows at the side to create the oval aperture needed for connection between chest and head voice? Now, all you need to do as you ascend into your middle range is change your AH vowel into an UH instead and this change will happen naturally. As an example, you may sing the word “Love” as “L-AH-V” in your chest voice, but as you ascend towards your middle register near your voice break, this vowel might become “L-UH-V” instead, and then “L-OO-V” as you completely ascend into head voice. If you train this modification into your vocal technique every time you warm up, this will start to happen on a whim the second you approach your vocal break, ensuring that you can expand your vocal range with ease even when you are singing actual songs.
Foundation is King
I often remind my own singing students that their singing voices will only ever be as strong as the foundation that they have been build upon. Think of your vocal foundation as the same foundation you would use for a house, your posture, breathing and placement are literally the ‘slab’ of your foundation that your house/voice will be built upon. By setting up a strong posture, developing a healthy frequency placement while also breathing using the diaphragm to ensure breath support, your high range will come easily and appear very quickly.
A great place to start building your foundation is the free courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio’s Course HQ, which will show you how to ‘build the slab’ that your voice will develop on top of like a house. When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level, you can book a Skype Session and we’ll get started extending your high range and building consistency and control in your voice every time you sing.
If you have any questions about how to expand vocal range, 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.