If you read my post Blending Your Head and Chest Voice to Increase Your Vocal Range, you can see how using your mix (head and chest voice) can help to expand your range. Instead of over crowding that post, I decided to dedicate a section to exercises you can to start to do, to help connect your bridge (the “break” where your vocal cords tighten to the point where you are forced to stop singing in chest voice and transition to your head voice register).
Let’s recap the two vocal registers first.
1. Chest voice
Chest voice is you common “talking” voice. It is the “normal” register that is mostly used and you can feel that voice resonating or vibrating in your chest. Merely place your hand on your chest area and you can literally feel the vibration. This register will have more of a bright and forward resonance, coming more from the front of your mouth.
2. Head voice
Accessing your head voice involves zipping up or what is technically called “adducting” your vocal cords. At this point, your vocal cords are shortened and less air is needed to properly sing in this register. You will feel this more from the back of your throat and will resonate through your nasal cavity and vibrate in your head. You should never try to push more air and keep singing in your chest voice when reaching your bridge.
How do you know how to access the head voice? Sometimes it’s better to listen rather than to explain. Below is the right way to help you access it, and then the wrong way. Please understand that you may start trying to access your head register with the falsetto tone in the beginning. This is common, however just know that it is not head voice. Listen to the distinct differences between the two:
The right way: chest to head voice (Can you hear the vocal cords zipping up?)
The wrong way: chest to head voice (This is the falsetto, not the head voice. Very weak with no adduction of the cords.)
Three exercises that will increase your range
Now, here are the three exercises you can start to do now, to expand your vocal range by connecting the bridge between your chest and head voice.
1. Head voice octaves (slides)
This is great technique that will help you connect with you head voice and create more awareness of that register. It’s a little more advanced, but this octave exercise will greatly improve both your range and connection between the two registers. I’m starting on an A4 here, but you can start on a note that feels comfortable, that is just a little below your head voice register on the higher octave.
2. Octave arpeggio scales
These scales will really help to beef up your vocal power. Using an octave arpeggio scale (I’m starting on C4 or middle C on the piano) sing the following after each 1/2 step up: Nay, Nee, Noh (like saying “no”) and Nooh (rhymes with “new”). If you want a real workout, go through all of these in one key and then move to the next 1/2 step and repeat. Stop when it feels uncomfortable. You don’t want to hurt yourself.
3. Compressed grunts (shortening cords)
Grunts are good way to compress your cords. When you grunt, use an “Uh-Uh” sound like your pushing something (or you have constipation, one of the two!). Then, directly after, break into singing a note with the word “mom.” This exercise will help you to sing higher, stronger and with more ease, because your cords are shortened. The key is to learn how to adduct and this gives you a tool to learn how to shorten your vocal cords, which is the only way to sing higher. Try these and build up to your bridge. When you get good at this, try moving into slides after the grunts. I think you will notice a considerable difference in your vocal power within a few weeks if you do this consistently. That being said, do not overdo these or you will wear out your cords!
Hugh Hession owns and operates Emerging Artists Entertainment Marketing & Consulting, LLC – a company devoted to cultivating aspiring music artists, He is also the head of Hession Entertainment Group, LLC (artist management). He has over 25 years experience in the music business as a performer, composer, producer and artist manager. Hugh holds a BA in Marketing and is a professional member of NARIP and a voting member of The Recording Academy. He often speaks at seminars and workshops on artist development. You can read his blog, Making it in Music at www.makingitinmusic.net.