Is it Possible to Increase Vocal Range? The How and Why

Is it Possible to Increase Vocal Range? The How and Why
Photo by Jonathan Chng / Unsplash

It's normal to feel like your vocal range is holding you back from singing the songs you love. After all, we try to copy singers who have made a career out of their voice. But you shouldn't feel limited by your natural vocal range. In this article, I will explain why it is possible to increase your vocal range and how you can do that.

You can increase your vocal range by stretching and strengthening the muscles in your larynx with regular vocal exercises. These exercises can include vocal slides, such as sirens and yawns, as well as singing chromatic scales. It is also important to learn how to sing and breathe effectively.

I will explain these exercises in more detail below. It is also important to prepare your voice before attempting to increase your range, which you will also find below.

Is It Possible to Increase Vocal Range?

Most people have a 2-octave vocal range, which can then be extended by another octave using the falsetto register. The highest and lowest notes you can sing depend on your natural vocal range, categorising you into one of six ranges.

These ranges are bass, baritone, tenor, alto, mezzo-soprano and soprano. You can read more about these six different vocal ranges here, including how to determine which range you fit into.

But knowing your natural vocal range, does not mean that you are restricted to that range. Many trained singers have extended their vocal range through regular vocal exercises. I will explain some good exercises to use further down.

How to Increase Your Vocal Range

Increasing your vocal range (higher and lower than normal) involves strengthening the muscles around your vocal cords. These muscles control how long the vocal cords are stretched and how close together they are (for an overview of how you produce sound when singing, click here).

If your muscles are not strong enough, they can only stretch so far and can only be engaged for a set amount of time. By stretching and strengthening these muscles, you are training them to pull the vocal cords longer (to sing higher) and to keep them together as they become shorter (to sing lower).

This seems simple enough, but it's like committing yourself to getting toned abdominal muscles (the 'six-pack'). It seems easy, but the repetitive nature of regular toning exercises and the effort required becomes too much for most people. We also become very busy and don't leave time for these things.

In addition to this, you will also need to learn how to sing and breathe effectively in order to increase your range. Singing notes beyond your natural range is hard work, and the effort will become too much if your fundamental technique is flawed. Therefore I will discuss these two requirements below.

Reinforce Your Head Voice and Falsetto Register

Before you start trying to widen your range, you will need to learn to sing effectively. This will enable you to reach higher notes more easily and prevent damage to your vocal cords.

Singing high in your chest voice will often lead to yelling. On the other hand, singing in head voice and falsetto (check out the difference between the two here) can help you reach higher notes, but can also be too light and airy. This is why many vocal teachers will talk about the 'middle voice'.

The middle voice (or 'mixed voice') is a term used to describe a reinforced head voice or even reinforced falsetto. It is the use of a different tone to bring volume and clarity to higher notes. This tone is the nasal tone.

Introducing nasality to your voice is a natural way of mixing the strength of head voice with the wider range of your head voice and falsetto register. Once you are able to sing high notes without risk of damage to your voice, you can work on increasing your range.

I have written a dedicated article on how to sing high and reinforce your upper register in this article. This includes how to introduce nasality. If you struggle with too much nasal tone, take a look at this article to help reduce some of the harsh tones in your voice.

Control Your Breathing

Controlling your breathing will help you to sing louder and longer when you attempt the higher and lower notes. You will find that singing above or below your natural range will reduce the power in your voice and become more breathy. This is because the muscles are under stress and can't control the airflow through your larynx as well.

As your develop the muscles in your larynx, you should also develop control over your diaphragm muscle. This muscle separates your lungs from your abdominal organs and helps to expand and deflate the lungs when needed. This is obviously used for breathing, but can also be used to control how much air escapes when you sing.

Keeping as much air in your lungs as possible will create force that will help project your voice further (so you sing louder) and will also provide more air to hold longer notes. Using the diaphragm to hold the air in your lungs is known as 'singing from your diaphragm' or 'supporting your singing'.

Take a look at this article for exercises to help control your breathing.

Exercises to Increase Vocal Range

The exercises below will help you to sing higher or lower than you could before, but it requires dedication and patience. You will find that your range will increase by a few notes simply after warming up your voice, and then another few notes again after working the upper and lower limits of your range.

After this, you will need to repeat these exercises everyday to strengthen the muscles in your larynx. As the muscles become stronger and more flexible, your range will increase.

With any of the exercises listed, follow the steps below.

  1. Warmup your voice before you begin. You can download a list of exercises to use on this page.
  2. Take note of the pitch you are able to reach at the top and bottom of your range.
  3. Try to reach the next highest note or the next lowest note. Continue trying to reach this note.
  4. Once this becomes comfortable, move to the next note again.

This process will increase your range in small increments. Keep in mind that when you sing again the following day, you will need to work back up to the notes you were working with the previous day. This is because your muscles need to be warmed up again.

However, with time, and plenty of steps backwards, you will find that your range increases more and more. It is important to know what your limits are in the first place so you can track your progress.

Vocal Slides: Sirens and Yawns

Vocal slides involve sliding the pitch of your voice up and down smoothly. Vocal slides are just one of many vocal exercises you can use to control your singing voice. For more exercises, take a look at this article.

Sirens are particularly good for training your voice to sing higher. This involves starting low, usually with an 'oh', 'oo' or 'ah' sound, and then increasing your pitch until you reach the top of your range. Once at the top, you will then come back down again, imitating the sound of a siren.

Yawns are good for training your voice to sing lower. Pretending to yawn, you will need to slide the pitch of your voice lower until you reach the lowest note in your range. Following the steps mentioned above, you should notice you can get lower and lower with time.

Chromatic Scales: Ascending and Descending

A chromatic scale is a scale where you sing each half-step, whether you are singing higher (ascending) or lower (descending). You find an example of a chromatic scale here. It is easiest to sing this scale with a piano, where you play every single note as you move up and down the keyboard.

Once you reach your highest or lowest note, practice that particular scale several times to adjust your voice to singing in these upper and lower limits of your range.

For a detailed list of scales you can sing to warmup your voice or exercise your singing muscles, take a look at this article.

Can Humming Increase Vocal Range?

Humming can certainly help stretch the muscles in your larynx, but this is not training your voice to sing normally with these notes. If you only hum when training your voice, the muscles will become used to this gentle form of singing. When it comes to singing normally, your voice will become tired and may not have the same range.

If you are worried about singing loudly due to neighbours, family or housemates, here are some tips to practice singing quietly or without being heard.

Is It Possible to Sing 10 Octaves?

It is possible to sing 10 octaves. A man by the name of Tim Storms achieved this in 2008, when he sang 10 octaves to win a spot in the Guinness Book of Records. Although anatomy plays a role in how easily this can be achieved, it was hard work and vocal exercises that got him there.

If Tim Storms can reach 10 octaves, I'm sure you can reach at least 4 or 5!

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