By Jennifer Kay
In my many years of singing, I’ve realized that the topic of vocal range can be very tricky, but always worth discussing. A singer should invest in voice lessons if they want to improve; however, if lessons aren’t an option, there are a few tips that can help. I can’t guarantee you’ll be hitting the high notes like Mariah Carey by the end of this article, but hopefully you will learn something new!
Tip #1: Proper Placement
You cannot increase your vocal range in a safe and healthy way without learning how to sing with proper placement. If you’ve ever sung in a choir, you’ve heard the terms “sing in your mask”, “sing through your eye balls”, “sing through your cheekbones”, etc. As a singer, you want to take care not to sing from your throat and that you, essentially, sing from the same place you naturally speak from. One great exercise for this is the lip trill. The lip trill is impossible to do without proper placement as it automatically closes the vocal chords, raises the soft palate, and stabilizes the larynx. The lip trill is also a great exercise to get your breath going.
Tip #2: Breath Support
Some teachers will place high emphasis on breath support, while others will tell you not to think about it too much. I side with the latter. Thinking about your breath too much can result in using, well, too much of it! If you’re singing with proper vocal placement, your breath support will come naturally. I’m not saying you should stop thinking about it altogether, as healthy singing and support go hand in hand. It’s important to know where you’re generating your breath from. Do not let your shoulders and chest rise, as that will result in shallow breathing. Think about breathing low into the ground – breathing from your diaphragm. A great way to access your diaphragm and work on controlling your breath is through hissing. Know that you have more breath than you think, and with the right combination of support and placement, your sound will soar.
Tip #3: Sending the Sound
Many singers will agree that this is very important. It’s natural for a singer to think of their sound going up and down. You may have even seen some singers raise their eyebrows and stretch their necks to “hit the high note”. However, thinking this way can easily take you out of your vocal placement. Instead of up and down, you should think of your sound as moving in an ongoing horizontal, forward motion. This will keep your voice from sounding thin and airy.
Now you’re ready for the Met! Just kidding! These tips are merely the basics in healthy singing. Of course, each voice is unique and requires different fine-tuning, and the best thing for any singer is finding the right voice teacher. In the mean time, check out Teach Yourself To Sing, a great resource for beginning singers. And remember, no matter how many years you have behind you, you can never stop learning new things. Thanks for reading.
Jennifer Kay holds a degree in voice from the University of California, Santa Cruz and has sung with opera companies all over the San Francisco Bay Area of California. She is the front-end quality assurance and website content coordinator for Sheet Music Plus.