Question from a Reader

Miss Kaye,

Tell me how to strengthen the voice to make it more powerful etc? How to use good breath control to not lose your breath whilst singing etc? How to decorate the notes in singing to make it blend nicely? I’ve read the one when you were saying how to help assist vocal range- but what about how to increase the vocal range? What are the steps and techniques taken to do this?
Michael T.

My Comments


Whew! You’ve obviously been thinking about this for a while and saving up your questions. I like this set of questions because, believe it or not, if you answer one, you have fixed nearly all the others. OK, I’ll pick one or two for now so this doesn’t turn into “War and Peace” by Sharon Kaye.

It’s interesting that one of your questions is the MOST often asked question we get ALWAYS. AND it’s a question that people will read the ANSWER to and immediately ask the same question AGAIN. You said…”I’ve read the one when you were saying how to help assist vocal range- but what about how to increase the vocal range?”…

I get some version of this question so much that I’ve concluded that this is what you might call a very “illusive” issue. Mind you, it’s NOT difficult…just illusive. Once it “clicks” in your brain and you understand it, it just seems so simple. The bad news is…it’s somewhat like riding a bike You can’t learn to ride a bike by reading a newsletter or even 25 newsletters.

Except that SOME people have done just that. Same with increasing your voice range…you could POSSIBLY learn it from a newsletter, but it would be unlikely…because it involves muscles moving (tiny ones that you can’t even see) and precise coordination, taught mainly by listening and repeating what you hear…first in exercises, then in actual singing.  Someone would consider you out of your mind if you went around asking “I need some helpful hints on becoming a proficient Medical Doctor in time for an operation next month.”

But nobody flinches before asking “Give me some hints on increasing my range.” Maybe I AM THE ONE that’s out of MY mind because I keep giving these people tips on how to increase their range. So here are some more of my “out of my mind” tips on increasing your voice range…but I’m warning you…if you want to actually experience a “breakthrough” you need a SYSTEM.

Voice Range Tip #1:

  You must learn to get the wrong muscles out of the way.  I  have a system of exercises that do just that. They are “listen, then do” exercises. I don’t know of a way other than to “trick” the wrong muscles into dis-engaging (by my strange-sounding exercises). WHAT wrong muscles?  Under chin…gently place your entire hand over your entire throat so your chin is cradled between your thumb and pointing finger. Pretend you’re trying to hide your throat from sight but just barely touch it so you can feel movement. Now SWALLOW. Do you feel things moving? Of course you do. Over 3 dozen muscle groups go to work just to make sure you swallow correctly.

They all make sure food goes down this pipe and NOT THAT pipe. They are also designed to work for about as long as a swallow lasts (maybe 2 seconds), then rest otherwise. Unfortunately, they like to help out when you sing too, especially when you go to higher and higher notes.  I say unfortunately, because they can do NOTHING to help. They just use up energy and increase the tension around the muscles that ARE needed to sing. Remember, they are designed to work for a second then rest. But when you start singing, you have likely felt them engage and stay engaged until they literally wear you out. WHY do they do this stupid thing? Because they think you need help. That brings me to…

Voice Range Tip #2:

  You must teach the actual singing muscles NOT to over-exert themselves by staying in “first gear” as you sing higher. Your most natural sounding voice is the one you use to speak. When you sing in a “normal” tone, you will start in that voice. It is likely your “chest” voice. It’s called that because most of the resonating happens in your chest. (Resonating is a word that roughly means “multiplying the intensity and color of sound vibrations by directing them into some sort of chamber.”)

In your most normal sounding voice, you’ve learned to make a nice, strong sound by letting the tone vibrate mostly in your chest. You didn’t think about it. It’s just how most people learned to speak, cry, and sing. It’s a very open, rich, full sound. It sounds “firm,” not “mushy.” Your little tiny noise-making muscles, sometimes called vocal cords, are generally vibrating along their entire length when you are in your chest voice. They are also maintaining their full “thickness” .   Vocal cords are amazing muscles. They can do tricks. Three of those tricks are used to take you easily over a good wide range of notes (3 or more octaves).

Trick #1

  They change notes along the bottom of your range by contracting like any other muscle in your body…the tighter they contract, the higher the rate of vibration as air passes between them from your lungs. But, like any muscle, they reach a limit to how tight they’ll go without injuring themselves. At that point of crisis, they do one of two things…

Least satisfying…They protect themselves while maintaining their ability to sing higher than that crisis point by suddenly dumping their tension, swinging apart slightly, and producing an airy “false voice” called falsetto. We call it “false” because it sounds so unlike that rich chest voice you were producing just a few notes lower.

When you go into falsetto, you experience great physical relief. You go from high tension to nearly no tension. You go from struggling for the next note to easily reaching the next note. The trouble is…You seldom like the fact that your sound changed so drastically and lost the “power” you had down low. Emotionally, it’s a let-down.  It makes you write emails to people saying “How can I increase my voice range?” On the other hand, you might learn to do this…

Trick #2

 Most satisfying…If you’ve trained them, your vocal cords will do their next 2 tricks and will just as easily shift into the next gear rather than flip into falsetto. Your cords will begin to thin out, Trick #2, changing their mass so that they vibrate at a higher rate WITHOUT having to tighten more. Imagine switching to a thinner violin string but keeping the tension exactly the same…it would produce a higher note.

Unlike falsetto, they DON’T pull apart, so the tone they produce still has a “firm” sound rather than that airy, false sound. You eventually enter what is called “head voice” because the resonance moves from your chest cavity to your head cavities. I’ll say it again…this is not the same as falsetto because the cords remain together, producing a pure rather than airy tone. I’LL SAY IT AGAIN…THIS IS NOT THE SAME.

If you are training with the right system, your body will learn to FADE, mix, more resonance into the head cavities and out of the chest cavity. This produces what we call “mixed voice” and it is NOT the same as either chest or head. It’s a mixture of the two. It will produce a gradual change as you go higher and sounds like just more notes from the same big voice.

Trick #3

  Once they have taken you as high as they will go by thinning out, they will actually close a portion of their length off (like fretting a guitar string). This will result in even higher notes, like whistle tones…Mariah Carey’s calling card, because the LENGTH of the vibrating surface has been shortened.

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