Extend Your Singing Comfort Zone – 7 Steps

Extend Your Singing Comfort Zone – 7 Steps
Just adding one semitone to your comfort zone will increase the number and type of songs you can perform. -says Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher.

In Gillyanne’s PhD research the singers with a 2 octave comfort zone tended to be rated more comfortable in performance than those with an octave or less. So, how do you extend your comfort zone?

Eurovox Masterclass Tristan Diouris Gillyanne Kayes Jeremy Fisher

Eurovox Masterclass with Tristan Diouris, Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher

First off: don’t start at the bottom and work upwards. This will not help you as it’s like pushing your car uphill in first gear. Your voice is naturally heavier on the lower notes (because your vocal folds are thicker) so it’s harder to stretch for the higher notes if you start low. If you already know what your comfort zone is, work from the middle upwards, then the middle downwards.

Remember that the aim here is to add notes onto your existing comfort zone, one at a time. At the moment we’re not focussing on extending your total range.


This exercise will help you increase your comfort zone in incremental steps.

Step 1: Start on a comfortable note with this three-note pattern – Mi Sol La Sol Mi (for example, E-G-A-G-E). Notice you only sing the top note once in this pattern, so you’re touching it and leaving it rather than trying to sustain it.  Move this pattern up note by note until you start to feel less comfortable or not in control of the sound. Then move down two steps! This is the point that your comfort zone needs embedding.
Step 2: Repeat the exercise (two notes down from your uncomfortable pitch). Sing it several times without moving up, until you are confident that your muscles have learned this position. This helps to ease your muscles into the right approach for this note.
Step 3: Repeat the exercise but hold the top note slightly longer to help your muscles find and hold the position for this note.
Step 4: Now start adding words (because the vowel and consonant shapes sometimes change the feel of the note).
So far we’ve been using the first three notes of the chorus of Cohen’s Hallelujah, so sing these now with the words (think Mi Sol La La, La Sol Mi Mi for the first two Hallelujahs).
Step 5: Sing the phrase in different keys, moving down and up in pitch. Notice how many keys you are comfortable in.
Step 6: If you want to extend your comfort zone downwards, use a pattern that just touches a low note and moves back up, such as Do La Sol La Do (for example, C-A-G-A-C). Start in the lower end of your comfort zone and move downwards until you feel uncomfortable or the lowest note gets weak. Move up two notes from that point and repeat.
Step 7: Having extended your comfort zone up and down, test it out on a song you have found difficult in the past. Make sure you choose a start note within your comfort zone. Follow steps 2-4 first moving up, then down.

Just adding one semitone to your comfort zone will increase the number of keys you’ll be comfortable singing in, and will increase the number and type of songs you can perform.

My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry

Julie Curly Julie Curly - La Belle Epoque

Catchy melody and solid playing from the band. We like the pitch bends in the opening phrases – keep them in but make sure you actually arrive on the note otherwise you’ll sound pitchy. Keep that breathy upper range, it works well. Your voice/breath balance sounds slightly unstable. You need more vocal fold contact and slightly less airflow. Practise singing the opening phrases in a “calling out” voice. You can do this by saying the lyrics in a clear speaking voice then raising the pitch a little until you are calling out. Once you’ve found this stronger, clearer sound you can reduce the volume to work for the lyrics. Check the balance between you and the harmonica at the end – it’s louder than you are so we miss the last few bars. You wrote the song lyrics – what do you want your listeners to experience? Choose three words for yourself that sum up the song, and play those words to the audience.

Vocal Process logo

Voice experts, authors, team-teachers for 20 years, Gillyanne & Jeremy train performers and their teachers to find the most appropriate techniques to sing their best, whatever the style of the song. This Is A Voice: 99 exercises to train, project and harness the power of your voice’. Speaking, singing (opera, rock, pop, soul, jazz, country and everything in between), beatboxing, finding your voice (and someone else’s).

This is a Voice exhibition | Vocal Process

Special Opportunity! Gillyanne and Jeremy are offering a special 26% discount to VoiceCouncil readers for any of their 18 voice training webinars. There are lots of specific topics like Taking chest voice higher, Finding head voice and Troubleshooting breathing. Just use the code VoiceCouncil at the checkout – and the price will go down to under $30 (£20) for an hour’s voice techniques webinar, available online at any time. Just go here for the offer. The offer runs until the end of June.