The Basics of Extending Vocal Range

Learning to Sing Higher or Lower

Sopranos are paid for their high notes and basses for their low ones. If you want to compete, then it is in your favor to have a large vocal range. Extending range requires discovering and developing various vocal registers. Diligence and practice are needed to do both.

Extremely Small Range -- Discover Head or Chest Voice

There are several vocal registers that differentiate themselves by how the vocal folds look and vibrate.

If your range is extremely limited, then you may be using only one register. Sing low, but not high? Then learn to sing in your head voice. Others may notice their voices get weak and quiet as they sing down the scale. In those cases, you should explore chest voice singing. Though other registers can extend your range, most singers vocalize using a mix of chest and head voice.

How to Learn to Sing in a New Register

The first step to extending your upper range is learning and strengthening the head voice. You may also explore the falsetto and whistle tone registers. Chest voice allows you to sing lower and the vocal fry even lower. Whenever you learn a new register I suggest the following: 1) Speak in the range and quality of the register you seek to learn; 2) Explore a sing-song version of the register; and finally 3) Sing in full voice in the new register. Once able to sing a couple of notes, exploration will strengthen and stabilize the new register.

After using several vocal exercises to increase ease and comfort, the next step is to learn to transition smoothly between various registers using slurs.

Mix Head and Chest Voice to Extend Range

The head voice has a lighter, brighter quality and is your higher mechanism; while the chest voice has a warmer, stronger sound and is your lower mechanism.

Mixing the two allows singers to access the strengths of both as well as eliminate the transition between the two. Unfortunately, singers often forget that the ratio between head and chest voice should change depending on the range you sing in. For instance, a singer who sings a high C with too much heaviness or chest voice will sound strident, while a singer who sings the same note using a much larger percentage of head voice will sound free and easy. The key for many range problems may just be about managing the mix of head and chest voice efficiently.

Practice Outside Your Comfort Zone

Learning to sing higher or lower is similar to improving muscle flexibility. Pain can damage, but some discomfort is normal. Be daring enough to find the part of your voice that is uncomfortable but not painful to sing in. Strengthening that part of your voice will not only allow you to perform in it, but the painful range just above or below your problematic notes will become accessible and ready to improve without causing damage to the vocal cords.

Perform Within Your Usable Range

Your usable vocal range is the part of the voice that sounds pleasing. Avoid singing outside of it, as audiences are likely to remember one squeaky note over all the beautiful ones.

If you must sing a song that is too high or low for you, then re-write notes outside your comfort zone. Just pick something within the chord of the song or try out a few lower or higher notes until one sounds good. Some famous actors/singers simply shout or speak notes they can’t sing.