What Is Range and How Easy Is It to Find Yours?
Generally speaking, your vocal range is the lowest note you can sing (slow vibration) to the highest note you can sing (fast vibration), and this requires your vocal folds to stretch and thin out, or not, according to the pitch you are trying to attain.
We have some great muscles in and around our larynx that adjust the length and thickness of the vocal folds, which when working against the airflow, enables the folds to vibrate at different speeds. Our vocal folds’ response to thinning also enables us to transition between vocal registers.
Now let’s consider this; if the mass and thickness of the folds were to stay constant, you would only be able to vibrate between a limited range of notes based on their length and tension of the folds. So, aren’t we just the most amazing instruments that we can actually control their length and tension?
The purpose of today’s article is to help you discover your ‘functional range.’ By ‘functional’ I mean the vocal balance between your lowest note and highest note that is easily available to you. The notes you can access comfortably, on multiple volumes, vowels and on a variety of tonal options. Options you can use to communicate lyrical and emotional intent of a song easily.
Before you start exploring, it’s important to note that your functional range can fluctuate slightly from day to day based on a multitude of reasons; lack of suitable hydration or sleep, the time of day you’re vocalizing, inflammation of chords due to things like allergies or colds or even vocal load on any given day.
To discover your range, you will need to have access to an instrument such as a piano or guitar. You can download free piano apps at an app store. Follow this step by step guide to find your range:
- Warm up; its important when exploring your outer edges of your range that you do this with a warmed up instrument.
- Look for a note on the piano or on an instrumental that sits in the middle of your range.
- Sing a sustained ‘LA’ on that note for approximately 3 seconds.
- Move a semi-tone or half step DOWN and sing another sustained ‘LA’ on the new note.
- Continue the process moving to the next half step down and so on until you get to a point where it no longer ‘feels’ comfortable to sing the note, or you are finding it harder to match the pitch of the note.
- Write down the name of that note and where it sits in the octave range eg G3, C4
- Now starting back at the note you started on in the middle of your range, sing a sustained ‘LA’ on that note for approximately 3 seconds.
- Move a semi-tone or half step UP and sing another sustained ‘LA’ on the new note.
- Continue the process moving to the next half step up and so on until you get to a point where it no longer ‘feels’ comfortable to sing the note, or you are finding it harder to match the pitch of the note.
- Write down the name of that note and where it sits in the octave range eg. B4, E5
YOU HAVE NOW DISCOVERED YOUR FUNCTIONAL RANGE!
Some things to remember when going through the process:
- You are searching for the point in your voice where it ‘feels’ like it needs to work a little harder to produce the note. This may be an indication that you have reached your lower or higher threshold.
- The aim is not to push to get to the note, so please be aware of your dynamic level. If you are singing louder to get to the higher note pattern or softer to get to the lower note, this may be an indication that you are overextending.
Now that you have discovered your own ‘functional range’ it can be useful for:
- Defining your classical voice classification. Are you a Bass, Baritone, Tenor, Alto, Mezzo-Soprano or Soprano?
- Profiling yourself in vocal auditions. A requirement for most singing auditions today is to disclose your vocal range.
In conclusion, a singer’s range can grow with the right kind of training. Working intently and consistently on each of the Throga dimensions can create remarkable changes in the limits of your vocal instrument.
Good luck in finding your functional range, and if you have any questions, head to our Throga page and ask a Certified Throga Teacher for assistance.
*photo by Samuel Scrimshaw