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How to Dramatically Increase Your Vocal Range by Diane Hamel - HTML preview

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Contents

Introduction..................................................................................................................................3

The Starting Line.........................................................................................................................4

Understand How Your Voice Works--the "Vocal Athlete"............................................................7

II. The Game Plan.....................................................................................................................17

III. Training Camp......................................................................................................................19

IV. Game Day............................................................................................................................28

Choosing Repertoire.................................................................................................................31

V. In Conclusion........................................................................................................................31

Recommended Reading: Singing Made Simple.......................................................................32

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Introduction

Learning to sing well is much like mastering any physical skill. It takes time, effort, and training. Just as athletes spend many years practicing their sport, singers must invest the time to hone their art. Think of yourself as a "vocal athlete", training to achieve whatever goal you have set for yourself.

Like great athletes, most great singers are born with a genetic predisposition to talent. But that innate ability isn't enough by itself. It takes discipline, motivation, and hard work to turn your natural aptitude into prosperous success.

If you're a beginner, this book will help you start to develop your vocal talent. If you've already had some training and experience, you may find some helpful suggestions. You shouldn't expect immediate results, but if you work diligently you should see progress over time.

We’l outline the steps to becoming a vocal athlete. After assessing your voice at the "Starting Line", you’ll create a "Game Plan" that details your goals and development strategy. You will then progress to "Training Camp", which includes exercises designed to improve your voice and increase your range, and finally to "Game Day", which focuses on performance and vocal maintenance skills.

Good luck, and have fun!

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The Starting Line

Before working to improve your vocal skills, it's a good idea to first explore and assess your vocal instrument.

Speaking Voice vs. Singing Voice

Singing and speaking are closely related. In fact, your speaking voice can teach you a lot about your singing voice, and the two can help or hinder one another.

Your Speaking 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 pitch that’s closest 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", and find the matching pitch. Many people make the mistake of trying to speak at a lower pitch than is natural for their voice. Ideally, the pitch should be the same for speaking as it is for Discover how to boost your vocal range by more than 8 notes with the world best selling and most effective Vocal Training

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monosyllables or non-speech sounds.

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, experimenting with higher speaking pitches. See how high you can go. Along the way, note where your voice is most comfortable and where you start to hear and feel strain.

Your Singing Voice

Voice Type

The first step in assessing your singing voice is determining your natural voice type. There are four main voice types: soprano and alto (contralto) for women, and tenor and bass for men. Within each type are subtypes, such as mezzo-soprano or baritone. However, during the course of training, it is possible to change from one type to another.

In general, sopranos and tenors have a higher range than altos and basses, but this is not the only determining factor of voice type. Tone quality is also a defining characteristic. Lower voices tend to have a deeper, richer chest resonance, while higher ones are lighter and brighter.

The highest voice type is the soprano. The most common subtypes of soprano are the lyric (1st) and the mezzo (2nd). Both can usually sing the same range, but the lyric soprano has a lighter tone and more power in the upper range. The mezzo's tone is a bit deeper and more powerful in the lower range.

The soprano repertoire used in most high schools and church choirs is written for lyric and mezzo sopranos. Some lesser used soprano subtypes include the coloratura--a very high, light, agile voice--and the dramatic soprano, distinguished by a wide range with power throughout. Both are usual y found only among highly trained opera singers.

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The lowest female voice is the alto (contralto); it is subdivided into first and second altos. The first alto's tone is warm and rich, while the second alto is darker and heavier. Many untrained female singers begin training as first altos and discover that they are actually mezzo or even lyric sopranos.

Female Vocal Ranges Commonly Used in Choral Music

1st (lyric)

2nd (mezzo)

1st alto

2nd alto

soprano

soprano

The high male voice is the tenor, subdivided into lyric or dramatic. The lyric tenor is the

"leading man" voice used in many musical theatre roles. Most male pop/rock singers are also in this category. The dramatic tenor has a heavier but more resonant tone and is better suited to classical and operatic works.

The lowest voice is the bass, subdivided into baritone (1st bass) and basso profundo (2nd bass). The baritone has a light, popular, lyric quality, while the basso profundo is low, heavy, and powerful. Many untrained male singers begin training as baritones and find out they are actual y lyric tenors.

Male Vocal Ranges Commonly Used in Choral Music

1st (lyric) 2nd (dramatic) 1st bass 2nd bass

tenor

tenor

(baritone)

(basso profundo)

So, your initial voice classification is only a starting point. Record yourself singing a song you know well that has a comfortable range. Listen to your tone and try to objectively describe it: light, heavy, dark, or bright. In what part of your range do you have the most power and confidence? Do you like the way your voice sounds? Most people are unpleasantly surprised the first time they hear their own recorded voice.

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Listen to recordings of professional singers of various voice types, and see whose tone quality is most similar to yours. Below are some examples: Dramatic soprano:

Anna Netrebko

Coloratura soprano:

Mariah Carey

Lyric soprano:

Céline Dion

Mezzo soprano:

Jennifer Hudson

First alto:

Taylor Swift

Second alto:

Miley Cyrus

Lyric tenor:

Michael Bublé

Dramatic tenor:

Placido Domingo

Baritone:

Josh Groban

Second bass:

Tennessee Ernie Ford (here's a link to some of the songs he recorded before he died in 1991: http://www.last.fm/music/Tennessee+Ernie+Ford) Recordings of the other listed singers should be easy to find online.

Range and Tessitura

Your vocal range is the total number of notes you can sing. The average untrained singer has a range of about one-and-a-half octaves--twelve notes. With some training, most singers can achieve two or perhaps two-and-a-half octaves.

Tessitura is your comfortable range, in which you can sing the notes consistently, on pitch, Discover how to boost your vocal range by more than 8 notes with the world best selling and most effective Vocal Training

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and without strain. The term is also used to describe the average pitch range of a song or choral part.

Many mezzo-sopranos, for example, can sing an occasional high C at the top extreme of their range, but their tessitura is probably an octave to half an octave below that: perhaps from the A above middle C to the second A above middle C. If they attempt to sing a piece in which the tessitura is from high G to high C, they will experience vocal strain and fatigue.

The key is locating your own tessitura and choosing songs with the same tessitura. If you try to sing higher than your natural tessitura, you run the risk of straining your voice.

To get an idea of your existing range and tessitura, try singing some arpeggios and scales.

See how high and how low you can go on a piano, and notice the points where you begin to feel strain or hear a reduction in tone quality.

Remember, this is only the starting point from which you will measure your forward progress.

So if your range isn't very large right now, don't let that worry you.

Understand How Your Voice Works--the "Vocal Athlete"

How We Produce and Perceive Sound

Tuning the human voice is not as simple as tuning a piano or guitar. On those instruments, the tension of each string is adjusted to vibrate at the correct frequency for the desired pitch.

To understand pitch and tuning, it helps to know a bit about how sound is transmitted and how our ears perceive it.

Without getting too technical, sound is a wave--a back-and-forth movement of air pressure with three properties: wavelength, frequency, and amplitude. Wavelength and frequency determine the pitch, and are inversely related to one another. Amplitude determines the volume (loudness) of the sound.

A pitch we perceive as high has a shorter wavelength and greater frequency than one we Discover how to boost your vocal range by more than 8 notes with the world best selling and most effective Vocal Training

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perceive as low. When a sound wave strikes the tympanum (ear drum), the vibration causes tiny hair cells in the cochlea (inner ear) to generate a nerve signal that is interpreted by the brain as sound.

All musical instruments have a mechanism to generate sound and a resonating chamber to amplify it. In the human voice, the mechanism is air flow across the vocal folds and the resonating chamber consists of the nose, mouth, and throat (collectively called the pharynx and subdivided into the nasopharynx, oropharynx, and laryngopharynx).

How Our Voice Works

Our voices produce sound as air from the lungs flows across our vocal chords (which are actual y vocal folds). We control the pitch of our sound in two ways: 1) by the placement of the tone in our resonating chamber.

2) by the tension of the folds as air passes over them, controlled by tiny muscles in the throat

The human voice has three qualities of sound: pitch, volume, and timbre. Pitch measures how high or low the sound is, and is determined by the larynx; volume indicates how loud or soft it is, determined by the lungs and breath muscles; and timbre refers to the resonance of the sound, determined by the placement of the tone in the resonating cavities.

Below is a diagram of the anatomy of the human vocal tract. You can refer back to it later when you're learning how to make it work.

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The larynx itself is behind the thyroid cartilage at the top of the trachea (windpipe). When we breathe, the epiglottis opens, allowing air to pass through. When we eat and swallow food, the epiglottis closes over the top of the larynx to prevent food from "going down the wrong pipe".

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Front

Back

Vertical cross-section of larynx viewed from left side When we speak or sing, the vocal folds of the larynx open (abduct), close (adduct), and vibrate. The pitch of the sound (how high or low it is) is determined by how tightly the folds are closed and how fast they vibrate. When they're tightly closed, they vibrate faster and produce a higher pitch. For lower pitches, they are open wider and vibrate slower.

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interior of larynx

top view of larynx

How We Breathe

The diaphragm acts as a bel ows, and the chest cavity functions as a sealed vacuum chamber. As the diaphragm contracts and relaxes, it alternately draws air into the lungs and then pushes it out. The lungs are like balloons, and they are alternately inflated (when we inhale) and deflated (when we exhale).

Oxygen from the inhaled air enters the bloodstream and is carried to the rest of the body through a complex biochemical process. The sound of our voice is produced when exhaled air passes across our vocal folds and causes them to vibrate.

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index-14_2.jpg

relaxed diaphragm

diaphragm contracts downward, lungs fil with air, trunk expands circumferential y

The volume (loudness or softness) of the sound is determined by the quantity and force of the air flow from the lungs, and is control ed by the breathing muscles: diaphragm, abdominal Discover how to boost your vocal range by more than 8 notes with the world best selling and most effective Vocal Training

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obliques, intercostals, and spinal muscles. Proper breath support is vital to effective projection (singing without electronic amplification).

The primary muscle involved in breathing is the diaphragm, which forms the floor of the rib cage and divides the chest cavity from the abdomen. Other related muscles are the intercostals (located between the ribs, forming the walls of the chest cavity), the abdominal obliques, and some of the spinal muscles.

To feel movement of your diaphragm, sit upright or stand tall and lay one hand lightly on the center of your abdomen with your thumb resting on your lowest rib. Watching yourself in a full-length mirror, take a deep breath. Your abdomen should expand and push your hand outward.

When you exhale, your abdomen should contract.

To feel the obliques and spinal muscles, place one hand with the thumb beside your spine at the small of your back and the fingers pointing forward. Put your other hand on your side with the thumb resting on the lowest rib and the fingers pointing forward to feel the intercostals and obliques.

Take in another deep breath with both of your hands pushed outward. You should feel expansion around your entire midsection. Your chest and shoulders should not rise or move much at all.

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Controlling Tone Quality

The timbre of the voice describes its tone quality, and is a function of the resonating cavities of the vocal tract: chest, oropharynx (throat), nasopharynx or mask (nose and mouth), and head/sinuses. Some singers refer to "head" and "chest" voice. Generally, the lower the pitch, the lower it resonates in the vocal tract.

A trained singer learns to produce tones that resonate in the various cavities. A large part of vocal training consists of making smooth transitions from one resonating cavity to another as you sing different pitches, and choosing where each note should resonate to produce the desired sound.

The voice is often described as having three regions or registers: upper (head voice in women, falsetto in men), middle (mask), and lower (chest voice, which is actual y a misnomer

—the tone range actually resonates in the laryngopharynx or throat). The transition between the registers is called the passaggio.

Each individual singer has a unique passaggio, though it usually occurs between the B flat below middle C and the E above middle C. Sopranos and tenors may have a second passaggio one octave higher. Without training, the passaggio may sound rough and feel awkward.

If you notice that your voice often "breaks" and the tone quality changes on certain pitches, or you have difficulty blending with other singers, you have likely found your passaggio. The key is to realize that the registers are not actually separate mechanisms, just different levels on a continuous scale.

Posture

Proper posture promotes efficient breathing, which is essential to projection, tone quality, and vocal range. Overall good health and physical fitness are also important.

The ideal posture for singing is erect yet relaxed. Stand with your feet directly below your hips, one foot slightly forward and your weight centered over your thighs. Your chest should be high and your shoulders back, though not too rigidly. Arms should be relaxed at your sides.

Maintaining And Caring For Your Voice

When a guitar gets hard to tune, you replace the strings. When a piano gets out of tune, you Discover how to boost your vocal range by more than 8 notes with the world best selling and most effective Vocal Training

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cal in a tuner. Along those same lines, when your voice gets out of tune, you need to take care of your instrument.

Whether you dream of having a professional career in music or are a purely recreational singer, you want your voice to sound as good as it can and to last a lifetime. The best approach is to stay physical y fit through a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and moderate exercise. It also means refraining from smoking, illegal drugs, and excessive alcohol consumption.

There is a stereotype of constant partying in the music industry, but that isn't sustainable.

Most successful recording artists have taken good care of themselves and avoided the excesses that prematurely ended the careers of such great talents as Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Elvis Presley.

Healthy Diet

Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, with only moderate amounts of fat and starchy, sugary foods.

Learn as much as you can about food and nutrition from reliable sources. Here are several good articles and web sites:

Harvard School of Public Health, (2008). Healthy Eating Pyramid, http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/pyramid/

Mayo Clinic Staff, (2008). "Food Pyramid: An Option For Better Eating", http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-diet/NU00190/rss=1

U.S. Department of Agriculture, (2005) "Inside The Food Pyramid"

http://www.mypyramid.gov/tips_resources/tentips.html

Hydration

Drink lots of water. A hydrated larynx functions better. A rule of thumb is to drink eight glasses of water each day, but it doesn't have to be plain water. Any non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage will do: fruit juices, decaffeinated soda, coffee, tea, or flavored mineral waters al provide hydrating benefits.

Although alcohol and caffeine aren't forbidden, they have a diuretic effect, which is the opposite of hydration.

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Exercise

Exercise helps keep your body healthy and your vocal apparatus strong. Strive for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity at least four days per week.

Even if you don’t have the budget for a gym membership, you can always walk, run, or ride a bicycle around your neighborhood. All you need is a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothes, or a bike helmet. In inclement weather, you can walk in a shopping mall.

If you are traveling, find out if your hotel has a workout facility; if not, you can simply take a walk. If the weather is bad or you're in an unfamiliar city, you can walk in the hotel hallways.

Unless you're toting equipment, use stairs instead of elevators.

Adequate Sleep

For many musicians, a ful night’s sleep can be hard to come by. You're most likely performing late at night, and it takes a while to unwind afterward. Then you may have to get up in the morning for classes or a day job. But it’s important that you try to get as much rest as possible, as sleep deprivation can be dangerous.

Without adequate sleep, you're more likely to get in a car accident, experience a work-related injury, or make mistakes when performing any activity that requires attention to detail. in fact, studies have shown that sleep-deprived drivers are just as dangerous as drunk ones. Sleep deprivation also lowers your resistance to il ness.

Try to take short naps whenever you can during the day. If you use public transportation, try to catch some shuteye on the bus or train. On weekends, sleep in if you can. It’s not actual y possible to catch up on missed sleep, but the extra rest will be good for you.

Stay Healthy

If you're eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep and exercise, you are already giving your immune system a boost. During cold and flu season, you can reduce your chance of catching a cold or virus with these two common-sense tips: 1. Wash your hands frequently. If you aren't near a facility with running water (such as an outdoor performance venue), carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you.

2. Try to avoid shaking hands with anyone who is coughing or sniffling. The most common method of transmission for infections is hand-to-hand contact. If you can't avoid the handshake, wash your hands as soon as possible, and don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth in the meantime.

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Avoid Vocal Strain

If you frequently overstrain your voice, it's likely that either your vocal technique needs work or you need to develop a better warm-up and practice routine. If you are hoarse after rehearsals, talk with your voice teacher—and if you don't have a voice teacher, find one! A professional can listen to you sing, identify the problem, and help you prevent future vocal strain.

Small Luxuries

Pamper yourself occasional y with an activity you enjoy. Soak in a hot tub, get a professi