When speaking about singing in your “chest voice”, sometimes referred to as “full voice” we often correlate this sound to the big, brassy, “belty” voice quality that is used often in the music industry; namely in musical theatre, rock, pop, and jazz. When we refer to a “chest voice” we are referring to the specific vocal register and what the quality of sound is like when we use our vocal folds and vocal muscles in a certain way. Vocal registers can be thought of as “zones” of the voice, where the pitches feel similar within that “zone” range. Your chest voice can be compared to your speaking voice register since most of us do not speak using our head voice. The main terms to describe the registers of the singing voice are the chest voice, middle voice/mixed voice (passagio), head voice, falsetto, and whistle (flageolet). Because using chest voice is so popular in modern music; many professional singers, especially female singers, strive to strengthen their chest voice and lower mixed voice to achieve the brassy and full “belt” sound even as they go into a higher register.
Young singers are often eager to expand their vocal range and conquer the challenge of singing higher in chest voice to produce a more powerful sound. While the journey to achieving a controlled, strong chest voice and beautiful high notes requires patience and practice, it is indeed an attainable goal. In this blog post, we will explore effective techniques and strategies that will help you unlock your upper range and confidently sing higher in your chest voice.
Understand Your Voice: To embark on this journey, it is crucial to have a solid understanding of your voice type and its unique characteristics. Every voice is different, and each individual has a specific range. Further, each voice type has different notes where they turnover to different registers. This means different voice types tend to “sit” in different registers most comfortably. Identifying your vocal range and knowing your registers help a singer to know their voice's natural limitations and will help set realistic goals and develop a healthy approach to singing, and overall expand your range.
Establish Proper Vocal Technique: Building a strong foundation of proper vocal technique is essential before attempting to sing higher in chest voice. Focus on breath support, tone, good vowels, correct posture, and a relaxed vocal production.
Breath control is especially crucial in accessing higher notes, as it provides the necessary support and airspeed for the voice. Taking low, expanded breaths allow the breath to flow smoothly while avoiding tension or strain in the throat. Thinking about expanding around your lowest ribs and feeling your diaphragm lower can help engages the correct muscles and pelvic floor to support your singing voice. Proper and healthy singing should never cause pain, so if it hurts, stop what you're doing. This is where a trusted voice teacher or coach can help you navigate your voice so that it continues to grow without risk of injury.
Warm-Up Exercises: Begin each practice session with a series of warm-up exercises to prepare your voice for the challenges ahead. Start with gentle vocalizations such as lip trills, sirens, or humming scales, gradually ascending through your comfortable range. These exercises help to relax and warm up the vocal cords, ensuring a smoother transition to higher notes.
Be Patient with yourself: Expanding your chest voice range requires a gradual and systematic approach. Pushing your voice too far, too quickly can lead to strain or vocal damage. Begin by identifying the highest note you can comfortably sing in your full voice. From there, gradually work your way up, note by note, utilizing proper technique. Implement slides, breath exercises, and “calling” out to help navigate range extensions. You only get one voice in your lifetime, but you have a lifetime to sing so never compromise your vocal health. Remember, progress takes time, so be patient, persistent, and consistent.
Resonance and Placement: Understanding the concept of resonance and proper placement can significantly aid in accessing higher notes in “chest voice”. Experiment with feeling the buzzing sensation of your voice in different places. As you ascend into the higher ranges, focus on directing the sound forward, upward, and out while maintaining a grounded connection to your breath, and an open throat.
Vocal Exercises: Incorporate targeted vocal exercises into your practice routine to specifically target the expansion of your chest voice range. Work on exercises that gradually ascend through your range, paying attention to maintaining consistent breath support and a relaxed throat. Lip trills, sirens, scales, slides, and arpeggios are particularly beneficial for developing control and flexibility in the upper range.
Work with a professional: Working with a voice teacher or vocal coach who specializes in the development of the voice overall will always be the most efficient way to learn. Working with a professional is also a team sport, so actively communicate with your teacher your singing goals and what feels good/bad when singing. They can provide personalized guidance, identify areas for improvement, and offer a training program tailored to your voice. A professional's expertise and objective feedback is the best way to accelerate your progress and ensure that you are practicing in a healthy and efficient manner for your vocal health.
Expanding your chest voice range to sing higher notes requires dedication, perseverance, and a solid foundation of vocal technique. With a patient and disciplined approach, combined with proper warm-up exercises, gradual range expansion, attention to resonance and placement, targeted vocal exercises, and professional guidance, you can unlock your upper range and confidently soar to new heights in your singing journey. Remember to enjoy the process and celebrate every milestone along the way. Keep singing, keep practicing, and embrace the beauty of your expanding unique voice.
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