All instrumentalists know which notes their instruments can play; why not singers as well? -asks Lisa Popeil
1. Your range is preset
Like your height or eye color, your vocal range is preset by genetics. Though it may change by a note or two, like when you’re sick or when you age, your vocal range is determined by the size of your vocal folds. The larger your folds, the lower your voice; likewise, the smaller your folds, the higher your range.
2. Your vocal range is huge
The average human vocal range is 3 and 1/3 octaves. That’s huge! That’s about 40 notes in total on which the average person can produce sound. Most singers, even very experienced professionals, often underestimate the length of their range capacity. See “How to Find Your Vocal Range” here.
3. What does it mean to “expand your range”?
Once you discover your range, then vocalize on all of the notes your vocal folds can make. That way, the notes which are adjacent to the extreme edges of your range. will become more comfortable and dependable for regular use. By vocalizing on all the notes of your range, you’ll have trained your vocal folds to stretch and thin as you sing higher and shorten and squoosh as you singer lower, kind of like yoga class for your voice. See how it works here: “Extend Your Vocal Range”.
4. Range doesn’t determine your sound- only which notes you can sing
Since your vocal folds primarily determine your range, what gives you your unique voice? Your head! Well really, it’s the spaces in your head: your throat, your mouth and your sinuses which determine the timbre or color of your voice. Therefore you could have soprano vocal folds with a mezzo-soprano head or if a male, you could have baritone vocal folds with a tenor head. Hybrids such as these often have the most unique voices, so it’s not at all a bad thing to have a mismatch between your vocal folds and your resonator.
5. Talent doesn’t necessarily correspond with size of range
Surprisingly, there seems to be no relationship between size of range and singing talent. Though I have heard many singers who were naturally gifted and possessed a 4+ octave range, I’ve also heard terrific singers who had less than 3 octaves and mediocre singers with 4 octaves. It goes to show that there’s a lot more to being a great singer than the length of your vocal range. It’s what you DO with your notes that counts.
Don’t be afraid to experiment to discover your lowest and highest note. It’s a vital piece of your vocal identity. All instrumentalists know which notes their instruments can play – why not singers as well?
My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry
Justin Magnaye - All Of Me
I LOVED your soft singing…so beautiful and romantic! And kudos on your phrasing choices, particularly the little pauses you put within a longer phrase. I did notice that as you increase your volume, you have a tendency to sing sharp. That pitchiness was even more apparent in the sections with the background harmonies (TC Helicon, I’m sure!). Perhaps if you were to turn the volume down on the background vocals, you’ll be able to tune your lead a bit better.
When increasing volume, you must increase abdominal breath support to reduce neck tension. Remember that high notes don’t have to be loud. Consider ‘pulling back’ on your high note volume so they feel easier.
Try singing with open eyes, with no more than 10% of the time with your eyes closed. That way, we, the audience will feel like you’re singing to us.
Overall, you have an exquisite voice and an ability to communicate the ‘beautiful pain’ of romance. Bravo!
Read More from Lisa Popeil:
Lisa Popeil is one of LA’s top voice coaches. She is the creator of the ‘Daily Vocal Workout for Pop Singers’ CD download (for Male and Female) as well as the Voiceworks® Method and the Total Singer DVD, conducts cutting-edge voice research, lectures internationally and is a vocal health consultant. Lisa is a voting member of NARAS, the Grammy® organization, ASCAP, AFTRA and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. www.popeil.com