Whether you’re just starting out with singing or just want to keep up with your improvement, it’s important to know how to expand your vocal range over time without causing damage or distress to your vocal chords. Here are a few tips I learned over three years of private vocal lessons with a professional singing coach.
Practice makes perfect.
Seems obvious, but I can’t stress this enough. Your voice is like a muscle, and it needs to be exercised all the same. Start out singing scales for 20 minutes each day, and once you’ve gotten comfortable with that, you can sing for 30 minutes at a time, then 45. Each day try to sing one note lower and one note higher than your natural range, and if you can’t do it one day, keep trying the next and the next. Like learning any new instrument, singing take time, patience, and dedication, so don’t be worried if you don’t notice any huge changes in your range right away.
Know your voice.
Another important key to singing is to be familiar with your own voice. Really listen to your voice when you sing quietly or loudly, when you sing high or low, and when you sing with a harder or softer tone. And familiarize yourself with how all of these sounds feel when you’re singing. If you place your hand over the base of your neck (without applying too much pressure), you can feel the vibrations when you talk. Keep your hand there while you sing scales, and you’ll notice that as you go higher, the vibrations will stop. When the vibrations stop, this means you’re singing in your head voice as opposed to singing from your chest. It’s important to recognize the point in your range where it’s most comfortable to switch from chest voice to head voice in order to distinguish where your natural range falls.
Envision your voice.
It might sound silly, but it really helps to create imagery in your head while you’re singing. One of my favorites that my vocal coach taught me was to picture a balloon being inflated in the back of my throat. This will allow you to more easily open your throat and avoid any tightness that tends to happen when you’re pushing to sing higher notes, and the result is a more pleasant tone. When you’re really projecting, place your hand on your upper stomach, and picture the sound coming from there. In a way, it is, as your diaphragm helps you to sustain long notes. This vision can also help your form by encouraging you to stand with a tight core and your shoulders straight. Good form encouraged more airflow which is also important.
Attach your voice to your body.
It’s important not to detach your voice from your body in your mind. Practice singing in different positions, like laying, reclining, sitting up, and standing. Next try lunging one leg forward while you sing, or sing leaning forward with your forearms propping you against a wall. Singing in different positions will better equate you with the connection between your voice and your body. Also be aware of how different foods might be affecting your singing abilities. Certain foods like dairy and sodas can increase mucus production in the body, which can give you that “frog in the throat” feeling and make singing difficult. Instead of milk or soda, opt for ice water or hot tea with lemon to pamper your throat.
Don’t overdo it.
This is the golden rule of singing: never push yourself too far. Listen to your body. If you’re feeling any pain or discomfort in relation to singing too high or too low, or singing too loud or long, give it a break. Like I said before, your voice is like a muscle and needs to be exercised gradually over time, but like a muscle can tear if you strain it too much, your voice can be damaged, temporarily or even permanently if you push yourself too far. So go easy on yourself, be patient, and take good care of your voice and your body. The rewards will eventually come, and it’ll be worth the wait.