Vocalist Corner singgirl

Published on April 12th, 2010 | by Hugh Hession


Three exercises to expand your vocal range

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.

Head voice octaves

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.

Octave arpeggio scale

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!

Slide grunts

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About the Author

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) and the Music Industry Liaison for the artist discovery site, TalentWatch (www.talentwatch.net). 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.

28 Responses to Three exercises to expand your vocal range

  1. Pingback: Making it In Music » Blending Your Head and Chest Voice to Increase Your Vocal Range

  2. Pingback: Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride: Piano/Vocal/Chords | Wedding Planning Guides and Tips

  3. davenycity says:

    great blog thank you

  4. Pingback: Increase Your Vocal Range

  5. kareem hires says:

    thank you so much , this blog has helped me so much , thanks again

  6. Ahmed Haidar says:

    I’ve spent months trying to find the right exercise for accessing my headvoice and this site is the best so far. Thank you so much for the exercises. Can i get an e-mail address for the vocal coach running this site? I have a few questions. Thanks again for the wonderful exercises.

  7. Pv says:

    Great exercises! Are they available for mp3 download?

  8. Tim says:

    Just thought I’d point out, the Head Voice Octaves recordings aren’t actually jumping octaves, they’re jumping 5ths – i.e 7 semitones
    – unless I’m missing the point of this exercise, which is possible…

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Tim. Thanks for stopping by and adding your comments. You are correct. These octave exercises are not meant to jump from the root to the octave, but rather help to connect your chest voice register to your head voice so there is no break. The first is the “sliding” octave scale, which literally slides up to the A5 octave. The second exercise is jumping from the C4 root, to the third, to the fifth and then the octave C5 (an arpeggio). By practicing these two exercises on a consistent basis you will not only help to develop your head voice, but more importantly, connect both registers to sound as one (which ultimately, expands your range)!

  9. Julian says:

    Thank you very much for this site. Already seeing great results. Would love for you to do a session on how to obtain grunt or raspiness in the voice.

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Thank you, Julian. You are referring to the “vocal fry” technique. Ironically, I was just thinking about covering that! Check back and be sure to sign up to our newsletter and like our Facebook page! That will keep you up to date.

  10. Tim says:

    Hey Hugh, nice article. I see what you mean about the octave jumps.

    I’m not completely certain about what you’re describing with the compressed grunts, there is a lot of sounds I can imagine this being :S might a sound clip or link be possible? thx so much

  11. Joseph says:

    Hi Hugh my name is joseph and i live in paris, your course is very good,and I see a lot of results.
    But my voice is very grave ! I advise that as an exercise to do? to have a softer voice, lose grave, and earn voice note ?

  12. alex says:

    Thes exercises are great for those that can cathch on. Ive been singing for over 30 years and still have no idea what this head voice thing is. Ive got courses from Per Bristow and Brett Manning to name a few but still no idea how to acess it. For me this is one of those things” youve either got it or you dont” Its like Perfect pitch. Some say you can develop it. Ive never ran into the thousands of David L Burge graduates that have aquired it. Its the same with this head voice thing. Personally I have a regular voice and falsetto and after years of practice I still have only regular and falsetto. Practice and more pratice and exercises just havent worked for me.

  13. Pingback: Three Exercises to Expand Your Vocal Range - Home Recording forums

  14. Ovie Emmanuel says:

    Thanks A̶̲̥̅̊ lot

  15. MJ says:

    oh gosh! i wish i could do head octaves like you~

    but this is advance~ seriously i’ve always wanted to increase my vocal range.but i often went to falsetto when i hit high notes~ :3


  16. Jacob says:

    Are all these exercises for the head voice?

  17. Awesome exercises! I use similar techniques as well in my teaching but there’s always something new to learn :) Thanks for sharing.

  18. Kev says:

    Hi, great blog! I was just wondering if I’m accessing my head voice correctly or if I’m accessing falsetto when I do the octave arpeggio scales. I’ve recorded myself doing it here: https://soundcloud.com/kevinyipeio/octave-arpeggio-scales

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Kev. My apologies for the delayed response. I’ve been literally absent from Making it in Music for much of 2014 due to my artist management and consulting companies keeping me hopping! Good news, is that starting in 2015, I’m going to create more content for MIIM.

      Anyway, I took a listen, and yes, you are accessing your head voice. The hardest part is learning to properly “zip” up or adduct your vocal cords to accommodate the transition. But, you’re doing it! Great job. With consistent voice workouts, you will improve, smooth out that break and become stronger.

      Thanks for sharing! Here’s to a productive (and profitable) 2015!

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