For the aspiring singer and the regular karaoke-ers, knowing and mastering one’s vocal range is of utmost importance. After all, becoming Mariah Carey or Barry White at the next karaoke party is going to take a bit of practice! Knowing your vocal range allows you to develop and improve without being gripped by the fear of falling into a black hole of shame and embarrassment should you inadvertently put your foot (in this case your mouth) in unchartered high and low key waters.
Step 1: Find your vocal range
There are three main types of vocal ranges, covering sharp, medium and low pitched voices: respectively, the head voice, the mixed voice and the chest voice. You’ll notice that the vocabulary is taken from the body because this is what allows you to identify where you fall.
Try this out: put your hand on the top of your head then alternate to your chest while testing the different voices that were previously mentioned. The location of the two ranges will become evident.
Ok, now do this: Place one hand on level with your nose and then again to your chest. According to the place where you feel the most vibrations, you will be able to determine if you naturally have a head voice (sharp), chest voice (low pitch) or a mix (between the two).
What’s it all mean? Knowing the two locations of your voice as well as where you vibrate the most, allows you to figure out your range. Learn to master your range before trying to hear it! Hitting the highest notes doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a better singer. A good singer knows and masters his range before all else.
Step 2: Practice a zen-attitude
Reaching the sharpest notes can prove difficult if you don’t master the zen-attitude. If your entire face and body are contorted into odd positions, you’re likely doing it wrong. A distorted face and body may mean that you are trying to reach a note that is out of your capabilities or you’re just too tense to reach it. Let’s try to compare it with a sports analogy, we’re not talking about a high jump or weightlifting contest. Think about it more like a javelin throwing contest where the only thing that counts is a consistent projection forward. Contrary to what we may think, muscular strain will not help you to reach higher heights. Just the opposite, your throat will close up blocking the air from flowing freely.
The key word here is relaxation. Some advice in order to get there:
- Relax your jaw, letting it fall to the lowest possible point.
- Practice some singing exercises before getting ready to sing your song.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Move your head in a circular position (don’t strain yourself too much, no need to become the girl in the Exorcist).
- Drink water at room temperature as this relaxes your vocal cords.
Step 3: Use your body to your advantage
Before anything, get in the right position. Sit up straight, but relaxed, keeping the head straight. We have a habit of lifting or lowering the chin in order to reach the highs and lows, which is actually an error as it blocks the air path. Open up the throat (think about how your throat contracts when you swallow, that’s the opposite of what you want). An open throat means that the sound isn’t hindered and will be more powerful. The highest and lowest notes require a bit more air so as not to “fizzle out.”
Use your diaphragm and make sure that your rib cage stays high! It’s your stomach that will do the work, push with it to propel the note. Don’t hesitate to put your hand on your stomach in order to accompany the mouvement.
To refine your interpretation, crack a smile on those low notes as this will give you clarity in your tone.
Step 4: Pay attention to transitions
The three ranges that we have described, the head voice the mixed voice and the chest voice can be passed from one to the next easier than you may think. If passing from one to another quite quickly within the same song then make sure to really work on transitions. Try imitating the long progression of a siren from high to low and then the opposite as a good practice exercise.