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What Is Range?

Overview

  • What functional range is and why it is important
  • The muscles related to the dimension of range
  • The five vocal registers
  • How to transition between registers

Dimension Four: Range

Range refers to the vocal balance (muscle coordination) from the lowest to highest pitch.

Improving range is important because it will help you:

  • Gain consistent access to more pitches within your range
  • Remove cracks between registers
  • Reduce general stress and compromised tonal qualities on high notes

Anatomy of Range

Vocal range is dependent on the coordination of the laryngeal muscles and the ability to transition between multiple registers.

1: The Laryngeal Muscles

The primary muscles needed to coordinate the tension and mass of the folds, along with access to multiple vocal registers, include:

  • Thyroarytenoid – position and adjust the mass of the folds
  • Cricothyroid – stretch and tense the folds
  • Arytenoid muscles – open and close the folds

2: The Five Vocal Registers

  • Vocal Fry  lowest vocal register created by an irregular vibration of the folds and lack of air pressure with a slight release in the vocal folds’ tension
  • Chest Voice – when the vocal folds are in a thicker position than head register, often associated with a “speaking range” of pitches
  • Head Voice  when the vocal folds are in a thinner position than chest register, allowing them to vibrate at faster speeds, which creates a thinner quality in sound
  • Falsetto  when the vocal folds are in a thinner position than head register and slightly separated so that mainly just the edges of the vocal folds vibrate at higher pitches than head voice
  • Whistle  the highest vocal register, which takes place when the vocal folds are pulled tight with a tiny space for air to travel through, forcing air molecules to create high-pitched frequencies

How do these Muscles Affect the Dimension of Range?

  • Coordination of the muscles related to range will help create consistent access to all available notes
  • The appropriate degree of tension and position of the folds against the right amount of air pressure will allow smooth transitions between the chest and head voice registers (1st passaggio) and head voice and falsetto (2nd passaggio)
  • Avoiding unnecessary strain or tension of the laryngeal muscles will create a more relaxed tone and easier access to higher notes

What is a Functional Range?

Unlike measuring one’s range by how low and how high a singer can produce a pitch, “functional range” refers to one’s ability to produce pitches at multiple volumes, with multiple formants (vowels) and multiple intentional sounds (tone). Having dynamic and expressive choices on a given note is essential for self-expression and accurate interpretation of the lyrics and melody. Forcing a low note with an awkward tone and expression, or squeaking a high note with tension and stress, may allow a singer to reach the note, but it comes at a high cost: vocal fatigue, bad vocal habits and a disconnect with the audience.

Activity

Identify a song in which the singer demonstrates at least three different vocal registers. Identify the singer as well:

Registers demonstrated:

What did you Learn?

  • What functional range means
  • What the primary muscles related to range are
  • The five vocal registers and how they differ
  • What the passaggio is

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