Is It Possible to Improve my Range?
In my first blog post I answered the question I get asked most often which is Can You Really Teach ANYONE How to Sing? In today’s post, I am going to answer one of the next most popular questions that I hear, which is “Can I Really Improve My Range?”
I love this question because this was a question that I often asked as a young singer. And I’ll start off with my answer:
Absolutely, unquestionably, 1000%, and #yaaas.
If you’re in a hurry and need to race to the next exciting blog post on the internet, I’ll cut to the chase. It is very possible to improve a singer’s range. I do it everyday. Many of my clients experience a range increase of an octave or more. I keep close documentation of my singer’s range from the time they begin with me and I often find notable improvements to their high end AND their low end. So be excited people- the sky is the limit when it comes to your range!
Now for those of you who have your popcorn and are ready for the full ride, lets start the movie.
“How?! I have been singing my whole life and I have never been able to sing higher than _______ note!?”
Young grasshopper (or old grasshopper) I have to tell you that you sound a lot like the former grasshopper that is now writing this blog.
By the time I was 17 years old I had been singing in more churches, singing competitions, and school functions than I could count. I had trained with many vocal coaches up to this point and from their estimation and my own it seemed as though my voice had reached the pinnacle of its abilities. There would be no higher high notes and no lower low notes. I was just going to have to milk the range that I had for all it was worth. At the time I was planning on being a famous singer/ songwriter, so I knew I was really going to have to use the cards I was dealt to play to my strengths. There were songs that I just couldn’t sing. They were just too high, too low, too in the middle- you name it. So I would simply write songs that fit my voice perfectly. The end. And I’ll spend the rest of my life praying I don’t get stuck with the wrong song on karaoke night.
It wasn’t until college that I began to train with a vocal coach who taught me about a little technique called “mix voice.” Until this time I thought there were two registers: chest voice, and head voice. I had never heard of the “bridge,” and I had no idea that it was possible to transition smoothly from chest to head. My coach at the time, Ebony Childs (Jan Smith Studios), explained to me that there was a lot more to my voice and my range than I previously thought. The secret was the technique called mix voice.
Despite her explanation of this technique, the truth was I didn’t believe in mix voice! Maybe it seemed too good to be true, and maybe it was simply too hard for me to understand, but I truly thought that the range someone was born with was set in stone. When talking about mix, Ebony once said to me, “Beyonce can belt a G5, but in “Halo” she also hits a low C#3. How do you think that is possible?” My answer: Uhhhh wasn’t she was born with it!? Wasn’t Celine, Mariah, Whitney, Aretha, Stevie, Michael, and all the other one-namers just born with freakish vocal ranges?! Didn’t they come out of the womb like that? That had always been my conclusion. When Mariah Carey jumps the octave in “O Holy Night” I thought we were simply hearing a genetic lottery winner casually take us to the third heaven. When Patti LaBelle hangs out on an F5 for days at a time, I concluded that she was just the Shaq of the vocal world- she was born with a “taller voice” than the rest of us mere peasants. Right?
Boy was a wrong! The singers I just named are certainly born with incredible talent, range, and artistry. They are some of my favorite singers of all time! The thing that I thought separated them from the rest of us was their ability to sing high notes that were out of the question for the majority of the population. The reality is, with the right training, most singers can hit the exact. same. notes.
Its all about that mix baby! You really can improve your range and hit higher notes. I help singers do this every day and its one of the most rewarding parts of my job. But that leads us to the other side of range improvement…
The Low End (*Darth Vader voice)
I mean come on, there’s no way to improve the low end is there?
The low end is trickier than the high end. I once heard it explained like this: think of the voice as a rubber band. Stretching a rubber band out is similar to singing higher and stretching for higher notes, and going for lower notes is like allowing the rubber band to relax and become thicker. If you think about it, its not very difficult to stretch out a rubber band and eventually make it “stretchier,” but it is a bit difficult to make it “thicker.”
This is sort of how the voice works. When we go low there is a thickening in the vocal folds. When we go high there is a stretching in the vocal folds. Because of this, there is less budge in the expanding of the low end. In my years of teaching I have seen many singers increase their low end significantly. One girl I was working with for a few months came in to her lesson and we discovered that she could go 6 notes lower! Training a voice and vocalizing daily can have endless benefits to a singer’s instrument. Even the low end is subject to improvement with the right approach.
So there is my fun little answer to that fun little question. The range can be increased. Above and below. There is probably a LOT more to your voice than you currently have been able to realize. Just yesterday I was working with a client who is in her mid 20’s. She wanted to sing “This is Me” by Demi Lovato from Disney’s Camp Rock. She told me that as a kid she had gone into her bathroom and screamed to the top of her lungs trying to hit the notes in this song, with no success. We have been working together for almost a year and yesterday she sang this song with absolutely positively zero issues on any high notes. She sounded awesome! She laughed at how easy it was now compared to 10 years ago! It turns out there was a lot more to her voice and her range than she thought possible 🙂