1. The 3 major vocal ra...
2. Optimal positions fo...
3. Breathing properly &...
Now, that’s a thing to strive for! But before you start applying all sorts of tips and tricks at once, you need to know the path that is best to follow.
The 3 major vocal ranges
When talking about singing ranges, we often identify three different ones:
- Low: Your low notes. They are lower than your speaking voice. Most often, there are far less low notes you can (comfortably) sing below your speaking voice, then there are high ones above it.
- Mid: Your regular, middle range notes. They are around the pitch of your speaking voice. They are identified as being easy, painless and comfortable for you to sing, at any time.
- High: Your high notes. This is everything from where it starts to feel outside of your comfort zone until you hit the highest pitch you can possibly get.
I’ve used a lot of positive words on the midrange, and for a reason. You should first master this range. Being able to sing all notes here gives you a good basic range to work from, and eliminates any tension or other problems with your speaking voice (so you don’t hurt yourself when speaking).
After you’ve done that, I’d actually recommend starting with the low notes. Although you can also start with mastering high notes, I have found starting low the best way. First of all, because trying to blast through low notes usually hurts your voice in a different, more negative way. It lowers your voice, until the point where those low notes become your midrange. Second of all, because they are easier to master, as they usually lie closer to your comfortable range and there’s a lower tendency to create lots of tension.
Optimal positions for every part involved
In the previous chapter we’ve discussed all parts involved in singing. Here I’ll give you the optimal position for them, which means that if they are in that position, and you’re still experiencing tension or vocal cracks, it’s got nothing to do with that part.
- Vocal chords: Their position is determined by their container, the larynx.
- Vocal box/voice box (larynx): This should be in the same position as it is when you’re relaxed and just breathing in and out. This is usually a bit below the top of the neck. When singing high notes, it tends to move upwards. When singing low notes, it tends to move down. Keep it in roughly the same spot, always.
- Jaw: Down and open. If you have a small mouth, a tendency to close your mouth or just a habit of speaking with only a narrow opening you might need to exaggerate this movement a bit. This doesn’t mean forcing it down – this means letting it drop as far as it can. It’s perfectly possible to sing with an only slightly lowered jaw, but opening it creates more volume, more resonance and forces some other parts to stay in place.
- Tongue: As mentioned earlier, your tongue should be out of the way on vowels. This means that when singing vowels or any note that isn’t extremely short, your tongue should be down and touching the back of your lower teeth. When singing consonants, your tongue should just be in the regular place for that consonant (which is usually a bit higher or even touching the upper teeth). However, you may need to exaggerate the consonants and vowels a bit to keep them distinct and not let the tongue make a mess of it and blur the sound.
- Swallow Muscles: They should not be tensed up or engaged, but should be in their regular spot. Eating before or while singing is therefore never a good idea, and vocal exercises before singing should help relax them.
- Soft palate: This should be raised. You might think that you don’t really feel the difference, or don’t know when it is up or down, but with practice you’ll feel what I mean. When it is down, you’ll notice that when you sing the sound feels like it resonates in your mouth. You feel tension, the sound is flat, muddy or hoarse, not what you want. When it is up, you feel the sound travel up and like it is resonating between your eyes/in your head. Lowering your jaw usually opens it up a bit, but a good tongue position is most decisive in the matter.
Breathing properly – adding support
One thing I have not mentioned is your lungs. Why? Because if you’re alive, it means they are working and you have nothing to worry about.
But, because all sound starts with breathing or ‘pushing air out’, they also have their own preferred settings, so to speak.
When we’re talking about this, we usually call it support. That is because a good breathing technique supports your sound, while a bad one leaves all the technique to your vocal chords.
We’ll talk about this more in another chapter, but the key things to look out for now are these:
- Maintain good posture: This means standing (or sitting) up straight, with a straight back, shoulders back, your neck straight up, and your face perfectly horizontal and looking straight forward. This is optimal for air flow, and also for singing in general.
- Abdominal breathing: There are two ways to breathe, and one of them is actually very wrong but used by everyone and everywhere. This may seem strange, but we do it without noticing it, when we’re stressed, tired, whatever.
- Chest breathing: The wrong one. When inhaling, your shoulders lift a bit and the top of your chest may expand a bit. Your using all of your facial, neck and shoulder muscles to breathe in and out, and the air never fully reaches the rest of your body.
- Abdominal breathing: The right one. When inhaling, you should feel no pressure at all in the upper are of your body, and you should feel your belly expand a bit outward. It should feel like the air drops right to the bottom of your longs when inhaling. You use your abs to control this type of air flow (hence the name), and that is also the only area that you should feel some pressure in. Or rather you should feel that there is something happening only there.