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Home » Singing » How to Extend Your Vocal Range
Last Updated: May 2023 | Article Details: 2551 words (13 – 15 minute read)
Learning how to increase your vocal range is something a lot of new singers look into. It’s the idea of increasing the number of notes you can hit comfortably when you’re singing.
Can it be done? And if so, how?
We’re going to get into the best exercises you can use to extend the range of notes your voice can hit, whether that means high notes or low notes. This stuff will help with both.
If you don’t currently know your vocal range, you can find it using this guide.
Aigh, let’s get to the good stuff…
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The first thing you want to remember is that you can damage your voice if you’re not careful. You don’t want to cause any injury to your vocal cords, so take things slow and steady. If you feel ANY pain or strain you should stop, take a break and come back to it later.
Consistency is also key. This is something you have to work on over time. It’s not going to happen overnight, but if you do this stuff consistently, you’ll notice big improvements in your singing voice.
But keep in mind, you may not be able to expand your vocal range by an octave or more – that’s asking a lot. But you can definitely get those higher or lower notes that you’ve been struggling with. (Don’t know what an octave is? Take our free basic music theory course.)
Sing Properly to Allow Your Vocal Range to Improve
This is important. We won’t get into it a ton but it needs to be said.
If you want to sing, you need to be singing properly. Technique is huge. So remember this when you’re trying to increase your vocal range:
- Stand with a tall posture (shoulders back, head reaching for sky, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent)
- Breathe from your diaphragm (your “stomach” area will expand as you breathe in deeply, contract when you exhale)
- Stay relaxed (no tension in your jaw, tongue and larynx – or the rest of your body for that matter)
If you need to brush up on technique check out our “how to sing better” guide.
Again, if you start to feel any pain or serious strain, STOP and REST. You do not want to injure your voice. (Another reason we really recommend taking structured online singing lessons so you can see how to do things the right way.)
How Expanding Your Vocal Range Works
The best way to start improving your vocal range is to allow your vocal cords to stretch out in a gradual and natural way.
That’s because the way you sing higher notes or lower notes is by how much your vocal cords are able to stretch as air passes through them.
Your cords work a lot like guitar strings – the thicker the string, the lower the pitch of sound will be when it’s played.
But your vocal folds being able to resist air effectively is also super important.
When you’re singing, if your cords stretch too thin too quickly, they can’t resist air that well. And you may just end up going into your falsetto voice, which is not what we’re trying to do here.
So, to improve our range, we want to practice exercises that allow the stretching to happen while still being able to resist airflow properly. The process of vocal range training and extended was studied here.
How to Increase Vocal Range: Step-By-Step
What we’re going to do is a couple warm-up exercises that will help us train our vocal cords to effectively stretch and resist air flow. Then we’ll do 2 isolation exercises to help us hit those notes that are currently outside of our range much better.
This is kind of like working out. You exercise to increase your muscle mass or the strength of your muscles over time. The same principles apply here.
Ok, let’s get it…
Warm Up Exercises to Extend Vocal Range
Do these exercises before you move on to the next set. They will warm us up while also working to strengthen our vocal folds.
When you do this stuff, it’s helpful to be by a piano (or piano app) so you can know and match the pitches/notes you’re trying to sing.
This might take a little practice. Sometimes it can be hard to pull off, especially if you’re a beginner. You’re basically trying to make a “motorboat” or “raspberry” sound with your lips pursed together like you’re about to kiss someone.
Stand up tall and straight, and while breathing from your diaphragm:
- Take a deep breath in using your diaphragm
- Close your lips slightly (but not tightly)
- Blow air threw them and let them flap against each other (vibrate) to get a “raspberry/motorboat” type sound
- If you’re having trouble getting the sound, try using your thumb and index/middle fingers to lightly press your cheeks in while blowing.
- Now sing this way while trying to use the “uh” vowel sound (like in the word “judge”)
- Start at middle C and work up the C Major Scale until you hit an octave above (C4) and then work back down to middle C
- Use your piano/app to help
- Now go backwards (start at middle C and work down to C2 and back up to middle C)
- Repeat the exercise for 2-3 minutes
This exercise will help you strengthen your vocal folds by providing a little bit of “edge” to the sound.
The sound you’ll be using is the “nay” consonant and vowel combination (like in the word “navy”). But you don’t want to say it totally normally. You want to say it in almost a nasal voice – like you were playfully mocking what someone else just said, in a bratty/childish way.
Don’t get TOO nasally, but you do want it to be nasally to give us that sharp edge in sound.
- Take a deep breath in using your diaphragm.
- Sing the “nay” sound a few times to find it.
- Find a comfortable starting note – something like E3 for guys or C#4 for girls.
- Go to the higher/lower end of your current range (almost where your voice wants to “break” as you transition to the higher note).
- Sing the “nay” sound working upwards using the notes of the major chord, plus the root note an octave above (1-3-5-8 notes of scale). Repeat the octave of the root (i.e. the “8” note) 4 times, before working your way back down the chord.
- Example when using E3 – sing E3->G#3->B3->E4->E4->E4->E4->B3->G#3->E3
- Do the same thing but move downwards on the piano to the lower octave from your starting point.
- Repeat this for 2-3 minutes
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The 2 Best Exercises to Increase Your Vocal Range
Now that your voice is warmed-up and you’ve practiced making the right “connections” with your vocal cords and the air resistance, let’s move on.
The first exercise we’re going to work on is “vocal sirens.” It’s just like it sounds. You’re going to basically be imitating an ambulance/fire truck/police car siren.
You’ll be singing a vowel sound starting on a note, and sliding/gliding your voice up or down to the octave above/below that note in a smooth “motion.”
- Find a good starting pitch using your piano/app – a common pace to start for men is C3 (middle C) or F3 for women.
- Take a deep breath in using your diaphragm
- Sing a “yay” sound starting on that pitch and slowly slide your voice upwards to land on the same note an octave above where you started, then smoothly (without stopping in between) slide back down to the starting note.
- Example: go directly from singing a C3 -> C4 -> C3 in a smooth/gliding/legato way. You should literally sound like a siren.
- Keep in mind – you’re not singing the “yay” for each note, you start with “yay” but when sliding your voice you’ll only be singing an “ay” vowel sound the rest of the way.
- Move up a half-step (directly to the next note on the pian) and repeat the siren, now using this note.
- Keep moving up in half-step increments as high as you like.
Note: you can also do this exercise the opposite direction to work on the lower notes in your range. For example, you could go from C3 -> C2 -> C3 using the siren sound, and then move in half-step increments downwards on the piano.
Sometimes it can be easier (and also just as effective) to use the “oo” vowel sound like in the word “goose” when doing sirens. It’s up to you, but try out the “yay” sound as well.
This next exercise is the bread-and-butter of “pitch” training (i.e. hitting the note properly).
Keep one thing in mind – this exercise is the “marathon” part of training. It’s “boring” and takes a long time to do, because we’re working on one note at a time.
You’ll also need a “tuning” type of app. Any app on your phone that allows you to sing into the microphone and then displays the accuracy of the pitch being sung will work.
I use one called “Vocal Pitch Monitor” for Android, but you’ll also be able to find one for iOS as well. It also helps to have a piano handy (or a piano app at the very least).
- Stand up tall and straight
- Take a deep breath in, using your diaphragm.
- On the piano, find the note that sits on the edge of your vocal range (high or low) that you can comfortably hit.
- This is the note at the limit of your current vocal range (not beyond it). You should be able to sing it properly.
- With your phone in hand, sing a sustained “ah” vowel sound on this pitch into the mic.
- Look at the pitch monitor to see how well you’re “on pitch.” Adjust if necessary.
- Take another deep breath in
- Now on your piano, play the note DIRECTLY above (if working on singing high notes) or below (if working on low notes) the note on the edge of your current range.
- Try matching this pitch with the sustained “ah” vowel sound for the length of your full breath
- Watch your pitch monitor closely, and adjust your voice to try and be as exactly on the mark as you’re able to for that note.
- When you run out of air, stop, take another breath in and start again.
- Do this for 5-10 minutes only using this one note you’re trying to perfect
- Now switch to the opposite end of your range and repeat.
If you start to feel dizzy at any point because you’re using too much air too quickly, stop and take a break to catch your breath and relax yourself before starting again.
Again, this is the marathon – we’re trying to perfect our pitch one note at a time. This can obviously take weeks as you slowly work up/down the notes outside your range, but can also be very effective.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Vocal Range Genetic?
Sort of. Many people are born with a certain vocal range. Your genetics do help to determine your natural vocal range. But that doesn’t mean your vocal range can’t be improved or extended. You can do exercises that will help you reach notes you previously weren’t able to. Further, many people can’t even hit the notes within their natural range properly. Training and vocal exercise will help you properly sing within your range, and even increase it.
Can Vocal Range Be Increased, Extended or Expanded?
Yes, you can do vocal exercises to help you strengthen your natural vocal range, and potentially even improve your overall range. Many people can’t hit notes within their natural range. But even if you can, you can increase it by working out your vocal cords. The stronger your vocal cords are, and the better they restrict and allow airflow, the more notes you’re able to hit.
Can Vocal Range Change?
Potentially, yes. There are many things that can impact your voice and how high or low you’re able to sing. Most of these are lifestyle choices, but can also be due to health issues. For example, smoking is damaging to your vocal cords, and over time can restrict even your natural vocal range, changing the range of notes you can hit comfortably. On the other hand, if you work on strengthening your voice, you vocal range can change for the BETTER, allowing you to hit more notes than before.
Can Vocal Range Include Falsetto or Head Voice?
Traditionally, your falsetto range is known as your “false voice” and so isn’t included in your natural/comfortable vocal range. Head voice, however, is usually considered within your natural range.
Does Vocal Range Change With Age?
In some cases, it is possible that aging can impact your voice. And thus can also impact your vocal range. Your vocal cords are a muscle that need to be trained and kept strong. Neglect of them over time can definitely cause changes in your singing voice. Vocal exercises are important in mitigating any changes that may happen due to age.