How to Improve Your Vocal Range: Tips and Tricks to Increase Vocal Range
Knowledge is power. Being aware of your own vocal range can help you improve your singing career and of course your voice! When learning how to improve your vocal range there are a few things you need to know.
Vocal range refers to the number of octaves you’re able to sing, from the lowest notes to the highest. To increase your vocal range it’s best to start with traditional warm-ups. These loosen your vocal cords and improves the flexibility of your voice.
There are many tricks of the trade used by professional singers to expand the vocal range. So let’s take a look at what’s possible and how you too can sing notes you’d thought were out of your reach.
Can you increase your vocal range?
Perhaps you’ve always believed that the voice you’re born with is the one that stays with you for life. It’s true that some singers like Axl Rose are just blessed with an incredible natural ability (he covers nearly 6 octaves – impressive and eye-watering). However, most have to work hard to improve vocal range.
There’s a ton of effort and practice that goes on behind the scenes when discovering how to increase vocal range. And it’s not just a case of getting there and staying there. Once you’ve reached your own personal best, you’ll need to keep up the good work to maintain it too.
Some factors can cause it to change – age and sickness being primary factors. Usually, colds, flu and ageing will lower vocal range, meaning you might have to invest extra time on your top notes. On the plus side, you may gain notes at the lower end of your register in these circumstances.
You already have a natural range. The range is measured in something called an octave – each octave contains 12 notes. The average person’s range is usually between 3 and 3 and a third octave. Now that’s a lot of notes, straight off. Many people underestimate their own capacity before they realise this. But even with this existing versatility, you can increase your vocal range significantly further.
What is my vocal range?
Before we start looking at how to increase vocal range for guys and girls, we need to ascertain the current situation in terms of your voice register. In the days pre-technology, the best way to determine your vocal range was to sing through a series of scales. Once you were no longer able to reach a note – be it at the top or bottom end, you’d make a note of the notes.
When asked your range prior to, or during an audition, you’d then be able to give a clear indication. This lets others know what they can expect from you and what songs you’ll be able to sing. Nowadays there are handy apps and online tools designed to do the job for you, like this one from Playback FM. It can even tell you which famous singers you voice match with.
Understanding your vocal range isn’t just a useful piece of personal insight. It’s a crucial part of identifying whether you are a soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, tenor, baritone or bass. As a solo artist, it’s unlikely to matter which category you fall into. But if you work as a backing singer, in musical theatre, choir, choral groups or in opera, your voice type will have a huge impact on where – and how – you slot in.
Most jobs in these music genres will be advertised by voice type. So if you don’t have a clue, you’ll not only come across as unprofessional, you’ll miss out on some great gigs.
Always remember to warm up your voice through vocal exercises, water and rest! When figuring out how to improve vocal range, water and rest will keep your voice well rested and hydrated.
Tips on how to improve vocal range
Increase vocal range with an instrument
Figuring out how to improve your vocal range with an instrument can be a bit easier for some people, particularly if you’re already at ease playing one (not all instruments will work as you need to make sure you have your mouth free). Sit down with a keyboard or guitar and simply sing a note that you feel comfortable with. Then start vocally climbing up and down with some your scales. You are already halfway to finding your vocal range!.
There are many different vocal exercises you can try. Many of these not only help you increase your vocal range but improve your tone, quality and power also.
Remember your posture when singing, it keeps your airway clearer and improves your singing.
How to expand vocal range lower – and higher
Your personal pitch is dictated by the frequency of the vibration and resonance in the vocal folds. Males average around 125 Hz and females around 210 Hz, while children can be over 300Hz. If you like to understand the science behind your singing, it can help to read up on vocal physiology.
To expand your vocal range lower, work your way down to the lowest note you are able to produce, even if it sounds terrible. Then work your way to the highest note you can manage. Take it slowly and gently. It should be easy and supported by the breath at all times.
The golden rule here is not to strain. It’s about stretching and limbering your voice. Push too hard or force the sound and you’ll risk hurting your vocal cords. Make sure your core and diaphragm are doing all the hard work – not your throat.
If you don’t already own an instrument, it can be worth investing in a cheap one. Scales are easier and more enjoyable if you’re accompanied – and you can multitask by learning to play some notes at the same time as developing your singing.
When learning how to improve vocal range having someone you trust can be helpful. Perhaps consider getting a vocal coach to work with you. They can keep you on the right track and give feedback. Hitting a note and hitting a note well, are not one and the same. It can be hard to be objective. So enlist an honest friend, family member or record yourself, to gauge whether you sound pleasant.
How to increase vocal range higher
It’s often the higher octaves that are seen as the most desirable – mainly because it’s these notes that produce the most dramatic and apparently impressive results. Even those who know nothing about music are wowed when a singer – male or female – can hit very high notes.
Generally, the higher you go, the more you need to depend on your breath. So if you’re aiming to get more room at the top of your range, you’ll want to spend a lot of time on breathing exercises. These will strengthen the muscles needed to supply the power required when hitting the dizzy heights of tenor and soprano sounds.
Remember no screaming! Environments such as clubs, gigs or even singing too loudly can damage your voice. So enjoy yourself but think of the effects it can have!. If you consistently strain your vocal cords, you can develop nodules as a result of the continual trauma. So remember to open your throat by lifting your soft palate.
How to expand vocal range lower
Want to see how low you can go? Then you’ll need a slightly different technique than you do with the higher notes. The route is the same, in that it’s a case of introducing the voice to these new sounds through scales and songs. But physically, it helps to focus more on relaxing and easing the voice into the sounds when expanding vocal range lower.
While you shouldn’t lift your larynx, neither should you force it into a lowered position or push your tongue down in your mouth. Let these lower notes happen ‘naturally’ by freeing your mouth and throat of any tension. Visualise singing down into your chest and if you start to strain, give your throat a little massage.
When discovering how to expand vocal range lower, it’s good to include a lot of gentle relaxation exercises to release that tension. Especially as nerves, cold weather and excitement – all things we may well encounter when performing – can exacerbate it.
Traditionally when improving vocal range we start by finding the lower note as this produces less tension in our vocal cords and naturally warms up your voice while working our way to the higher notes.
How to your increase vocal range – the next steps
Songs to expand vocal range
Scales are not the only route to vocal flexibility. They are an important element of the base work and as tedious, as it may seem, a mainstay of the singer’s practice. Always warm up your voice and incorporate some scales to help extend that range at the same time. But, you can add in some songs to your practice time to gently stretch your vocal cords.
These songs will not be the same as your performance pieces. Once you have figured out how to improve vocal range it is important to find the correct song to suit your voice. Try not to go straight for the vocal runs like Steve Tyler and Adele. Auditions and gigs are not the time to try things like this out. Stay within your comfort zone in terms of the notes. Then in private, you can work toward the more challenging pieces. Don’t make your mistakes in public.
Find a song which suits you and that you are familiar with. Sing it all the way to the end and find the highest note and lowest. If this is one which you’d like to sing in front of an audience (live or recorded) and you have trouble with the higher note, simply adjust your first note to a lower pitch and the other way round if having trouble with the lower note.
Try writing out the lyrics, even if you know them off by heart, and mark down which notes had caused you problems, to help figure out which key you need.
When you want to have some fun and really get to work, pick a song just slightly out of your range – one or two notes higher or lower than is comfortable and preferably without large intervals. The song then becomes your target goal. Work toward nailing it, using scales in the range you’re aiming for and practising it over and over.
How to increase vocal range without falsetto
A term you’ll often come across in singing is falsetto. This is a very high, thin, head voice created by vibrating the narrower edges of the vocal folds. A large number of artists use this type of singing to great effect. There’s some controversy around whether females can achieve falsetto, with traditional schools of thought refuting the idea.
Technically falsetto doesn’t count as part of your vocal range, which is known as your modal register. Although your vocal register as a whole does comprise falsetto (also known as ‘false voice’), whistle voice and vocal fry (a toneless raspy sound often used in rock). Falsetto isn’t considered to be part of your modal vocal range, because it comes from a different place in the vocal cords and has a distinct sound. But it does help you out if you need to reach notes out with your usual capacity. Learn falsetto technique and you can take on a whole new style. Take care though. Trying to just imitate it can result in vocal strain. Get some help from a singing teacher, or a good instructional video.
How to increase your vocal range by an octave
If you’re wanting some major results, be prepared to put in some major work. If your voice is already pretty limber, you might not be able to take it much further. We can’t change the size or shape of our vocal cords and therein lies the limit. But as with our brains, there’s usually plenty of potentials we haven’t yet explored. And if you don’t already perform frequent vocal acrobatics, you’ll almost certainly be able to add in lots of new notes to your range. While we can’t guarantee you an extra octave on your modal register – that depends on your genetics, experience and effort you’re willing to invest – we can let you know about the tricks that’ll certainly get you there.
How to increase vocal range for guys and girls
We’ve already talked about falsetto and this is a widely used method of reaching very high notes, without technically increasing your vocal range. Guys, in particular, employ this method – Freddie Mercury is a legendary example, with Justin Timberlake a more recent falsetto pop star. To achieve a lower register, learn to sing with vocal fry.
Have you always wanted to sing like Mariah Carey? Whistle voice, also known as the flute register is another tool, often used by female artists. Carey is often cited as having an incredible range, when in fact her modal register isn’t as impressive as it may appear.
Perhaps you’re wondering how you know when you’re making a transition from one register to another?
There will be a point at which your register breaks, and makes the move from one to another – this is known as the passagio. This may sound like a consistently dropped note in the same area of your range. This transition is a voice break when intentional and carefully guided, but if it happens by accident, it’s more of a voice crack and not something you want as part of your song. So it’s important to know your own register breaks, so you are fully in control.
The tones of each register are quite distinct. Spend time listening to your favourite artists and see if you can begin to identify where this is happening. It’ll help you to recognise when you too are making that passagio from one register to another.
While using these different registers is a great trick to achieve an increase in vocal range, it isn’t an easy fix. They still need lots of practice, but they will take you to places your genetic modal register would not allow by itself.
Once you’ve improved your vocal range
Now that you’ve achieved an increase in vocal range both through learning to sing in more registers and by adding notes to your natural range, it’s time to flex those muscles. Singers with great vocal dexterity are in demand, as solo artists, in bands and as backing singers.
But remember, if you don’t use it you’ll lose it! So keep singing, keep stretching yourself, keep working to improve your vocal range, and once you’ve got a new sound down, sign up for an audition and let us see what you can do.
- How do I get my singing voice back in shape?
If you’ve strained your voice overreaching for notes, or are just very out of practice, don’t worry. As with your body, you can get your voice back in shape. Begin with rest, taking the right food and drink and then gradually building up with scales, exercises and some easy numbers.
- Does singing in falsetto increase range?
While using falsetto may appear to increase your range, it doesn’t. However much you use it, it won’t affect your modal register, You can, however, increase your vocal range in falsetto, separately, using the same techniques.
- How do I lower my vocal range?
Spend time learning how to relax the vocal cords and gradually ease into scales – if you’re making growling sounds you’re going too far. To ‘cheat’ your way to lower notes, consider learning to sing using vocal fry.
What techniques have you used to improve and increase your vocal range? Do you have any top tips? Tell us about them in the comments below.