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Most articles on how to increase vocal range focus on adding high notes, leaving altos and basses feeling left out. Lower voices, this one is for you! We’ll explore some ways to add low notes by using your chest voice.
Everyone uses the chest voice for normal speaking. In fact, your speaking voice can teach you a lot about your singing voice. The way you use your speaking voice can either help or hinder your singing voice.
Let’s start by exploring your speaking voice. Try making various non-speech sounds: laugh, cry, yawn, sigh. If you have a piano or pitch pipe available, find the nearest pitch to the sounds you made. Now speak a few monosyllables: uh-huh, mm-hmm, aha. Again, find the matching pitch on a piano or pitch pipe.
Now speak a few simple sentences, such as “my name is_____” or “I love to sing”. Once again, find the matching pitch. Ideally, the pitch should be the same for speaking as it is for monosyllables or non-speech sounds, but many people try to speak at a lower pitch than is natural for their voice. This is not a healthy thing to do.
Continue exploring your voice by speaking monosyllables at various pitch levels on a piano. Find the lowest pitch you can speak without sounding gravelly. The gravelly sound is called “vocal fry” and is not healthy to sustain. Your ideal speaking pitch should be about four to five steps above your vocal fry level.
Next, speak sentences or read a paragraph aloud. Experiment with higher speaking pitches to see how high you can go. Along the way, note where your voice is most comfortable and where you start to hear and feel the strain.
When using your “chest voice”, you will feel the vibration (resonance) in your chest when producing tones in that pitch range. Place your hand lightly on your upper chest, with your thumb and fingers resting on your collarbones. Do a yawn-slide (exhale on the syllable “hee” or “hoo” while sliding from the top of your range to the bottom). Your hand should feel the vibration as you slide down into your chest voice.
Although it feels like the resonance is occurring in your chest, it’s actually happening in your throat and mouth. The vibration you feel is the result of air moving from your lungs and across your vocal folds.
A simple low-range singing exercise is the fifth slide. Starting in the comfortable middle part of your range, use the buzz (puckered lips vibrating as air is expelled) or a syllable such as “vaw” to sing the starting pitch and slide down five steps. In the key of C major, it would be G-C, so-do. The slide should be smooth, not bumpy or creaky. Start each repetition a half-step below the previous one.
If you feel bumpy or creaky sensations as you descend the scale, you’re probably holding some tension. Pause and do some face and neck relaxation exercises. Gently massage your face and throat, then try again. As you descend the scale, close your mouth slightly from its starting position.
Next, sing an octave scale up and back down, again using the buzz or “vaw”. As you go up the scale, allow your jaw to drop and your mouth to open a bit wider, then reverse that as you come back down. It may be helpful to imagine your tone on a path leading away from yourself, with low notes nearest and high notes farthest away. Perhaps even move one hand away from your body as you ascend the scale and back to your side as you descend.
The arpeggio is another helpful exercise. Sing do-mi-so-do-so-mi-do on a vowel sound, such as “oo”, “ee”, or “ah”. Start each new arpeggio a half-step lower than the last.
As with any singing technique, adding to your lower range will take time and effort. If you are patient and persistent, you will see positive results.
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