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There are a bunch of songs that I'd like to sing that sit just under my vocal range (the low E of the guitar range, or the D under it). I can reach these notes with some effort, but it feels forced and the volume drops dramatically. What can I do to improve matters?

Some possibilities I'm aware of:

  • Warm up and practise. Yep, that'll do it I guess. I'm hoping for advice here that's more low-end specific though: particular exercises or techniques or whatever.
  • Get good and drunk the night before so I look and feel (and sing) my best. Seriously, this gives me exactly the range I want, the question is how to get it reliably (and without a hangover).

I'm an instrumentalist not a singer, and not really ready to put large amounts of effort (and practising time) into this project. Is it even realistic to hope for a whole tone's worth of range extension without applying myself seriously to the problem?

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I also wonder why drinking gives the extra low register. –  Gauthier May 15 '11 at 15:27
    
@Gauthier I wonder if it has to do with dehydration? –  Matthew Read May 15 '11 at 15:30
    
I guess the drinking (and also early in the morning before you have talked too much) gives the extra low because your vocal cord is relaxed, and easier gets down to the low frequencies. Normally, your vocal cord is a bit tighter, and it is more difficult to relax it enough to get down. –  awe May 16 '11 at 7:26
    
I doubt it. Rather the shouting at the pub means the chords are slightly irritated and inflamed. –  Lennart Regebro May 16 '11 at 14:40
    
practice Ohm.... is a best option –  user6948 Aug 28 '13 at 17:12

7 Answers 7

up vote 8 down vote accepted

One technique I know helps is to lift our head just a bit and try to relax as you go down. This will open up your airways to the maximum and also leave more room for your vocal cords to vibrate freely (the lower frequencies requires larger movements of the vocal cords). Just be care to not raise your head too much; If you raise your head too much, the vocal chords will stretch, and you will get the opposite effect. You need to find a perfect balance here.

I'm not sure if this technique will give you a whole note more down (it will probably give you some improvement), but it will certainly improve the performance and strength of what you are already capable of. And sorry - to do it well, you need to practice...

Note:
In the other end, when you go up in the frequencies, lower your head so you chin gets closer to your chest. This will help you to be more accurate in hitting the right note when you go up.

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If your looking for a quick fix, the only reliable one is to transpose the songs you want to sing. Even in areas with trained singers such as opera and broadway, the songs were written in keys comfortable for their first performers. Even today, some revivals of broadway shows may adjust particularly rangey songs up or down a small amount. As for anything in the popular realm (rock, pop, etc. anything with guitars…) transposing is easy, and extremely common. I've learned to play some songs with bands in 2 or 3 different keys, depending on the singer.

However if you're willing to give it some time and effort, do some vocalises (like the warmup 5-4-3-2-1 Monica Cellio mentioned above). There are a great number of these, and you can make them up yourself. When working on range, you especially want to make sure you're singing correct; relaxed and in a healthy manner. Too many people try to press and force the voice beyond what is comfortable for it.

You mentioned you're an instrumentalist, but another thing to keep in mind is that trained singers don't regularly sing at the edges of their range. Most singers know their highest and lowest notes, their highest and lowest reliable note, and neither will be regularly used (in most cases). For example, though I'm far from a trained singer, my highest note full voiced is tenor Bb. I can rarely ever get that high though, and it's not pretty. My Ab's are more reliable, but I would not sing that high solo; I'd transpose. G is the highest I'm comfortable singing in a solo song, however if the transposition is easy, I might take it down to F.

If I were putting more time and effort into singing (as I would do if I land a choral teaching job) I'm sure I could strengthen my voice up to the Ab to make everything more reliable, relaxed, and pleasant-sounding, however it's doubtful my overall range would increase by all that much.

Finally, I don't know how old you are, but the human voice doesn't fully mature until the late-20's or even early 30's, depending on your voice type, so don't push anything that's beyond your range right now.

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This is a good answer. In addition, range is limited by physiology and even with training and warming up, some low notes will not be singable for all singers. –  MunchyWilly Feb 23 at 20:42

I take a drink of water, or something to relax my vocal chords. After, a glass of water, I find the lowest note I can confortably hit, and starting from that note, I make a "wah" sound (W-AW) and on that 'aw' vowel, make your voice drift down lower (about a semitone). Be sure not to push, and make sure you drink plenty of water and give your voice time to relax, before starting this exercise from a lower note. You're gunna want to do these in intervals of 5. Do this about 5 times (say 'wah' 25 times) before relaxing, and moving to a lower note. Hope this helps!

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Every choir I've ever been in has done the 1-2-3-4-5-4-2-1 warmup (sing on open vowels, go up half a step, iterate), but I found that I got some help on the low end when a director added descending runs to the lineup: 5-4-3-2-1, then down a half-step and repeat. You'll produce sound in warmups below where you can sing, just as ascending runs get you above where you would actually sing, but over time these kinds of exercises can stretch the range.

This isn't a quick fix, though; you'll probably need to do it daily for several months.

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Try singing to the actual song on YouTube when you're beginning then try alone. It helps rather than singing acapella from the start. But seriously, you DO need to warm up, your voice will sound croaky otherwise.

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Personally, I'm working on my lower range myself, and what I find works best in terms of long term development is when you're relaxed (whether that by drinking a warm, not hot, drink, getting a bit of a buzz from some alcoholic drink, or something like that) doing a 5 4 3 2 1 on an open vowel (ah, oh, and oo work well, I find). I also find singing after a nap gives me a wider range, again because of relaxation. The biggest thing whether for long term voice development or short term getting that slow note is relaxation. Relax down into the new note, don't force it down, and try not to let the larynx drop, cuz that doesn't help and puts pressure on the voice that cuts off the range.

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To extend your lower register, try to relax your thread open. Let the sound resonate in that big tub. To add resonance, let your jaw drop (pulling down your chin with your fingers may help in the beginning). You can also try to expand this area by using what we call the bullfrog effect. Good luck!

Val Bastien http://www.voiceyourselfsinginglessons.com

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