Of the thousands of ranges I’ve checked, the most common distance from the lowest note to highest is 31/3 octaves. Much more rare is 31/2 octaves and extremely rare is 4 or more octaves. If someone tells you that he has an 8-octave range, ask what his definition of "octave" is. My belief is that range is determined primarily by diameter of vocal fold. Imagine that a high soprano’s folds are approximately the size of a dime and that a bass’s folds are about the size of a quarter. The diameter of one’s cords is genetic (like your height) but the ability to lengthen the cords (how pitch is raised) can be improved somewhat by vocal exercise.


One Way to Find Your Range

To find your lowest note, make an "aw" vowel with a pointy, lowered chin. Begin in a comfortably low pitch range and descend in a 5-note pattern 5-4-3- 2-1. Don’t use much support, use straight tone and don’t try to project. Then take a breath and continue downward in half-steps until you hear your lowest note. If it’s only a fry sound, you’ve gone too far. If there’s a sound on your note, it counts as part of your range. Make sure to write the note down somewhere. Don’t try this in the morning or if you have a cold or allergies. In both cases, your lowest note will appear much lower than normal.


To find your highest note, do an ascending lip trill exercise in the pattern 1-3-5-8. Sing lightly and don’t hold the top note out. If you place one hand on your lower belly and pull it in as you go for your high note, you should feel that your higher notes are easier to get out.

Toward the top of your range; when you think you’re done, try one more trick. Keep one hand on your lower belly reminding it to go in and, with your other hand, point upward to the ceiling as you approach your top note. Yes, it’s silly but it works. I call this a "John Travolta" because it looks similar to John’s dancing pose in Saturday Night Fever. It will most likely help you achieve another 4 to 5 notes. If you can hear the note, it’s yours. Write it down. Now compare your lowest note to your highest note to see if you have the standard 31/3 octaves. If you have more, hallelujah, think of those notes as blessings.


Extended Range

If you’re an experienced singer and are used to singing with your full range, then you’re probably maxed out in your capacity. But if you’re new to singing or are 50+ years old or have never sung really high (or low) in your life, vocal exercises that work your range can help you gain beauty and control and perhaps a few notes on your top or bottom.

To improve your ability to sing low notes, you do not need much support. Support creates air pressure which is not needed for your lowest notes. Also lowering your larynx (voice box), either by actively lowering it or by dropping your chin. That’s why the vowel "aw" is so useful for low notes. For your higher notes, you’ll need more "lower belly in" the higher you go. If you.re doing lips trills, tongue trills or the "v" sound (if you can’t do the first two) add more lower belly support and point upward with an index finger for your very highest notes.

If you’re practicing your high notes on a vowel, open your mouth more as you ascend. Your goal should be control and beauty on every note you possess. Then find the best, not necessarily the easiest, key for each of your songs. Always taking songs down because you’re afraid of dealing with high notes doesn’t mean you have a low voice. It may simply mean that you need to technically work on your high notes. Don’t avoid, embrace!


Originally posted 2009-01-09 03:40:56.