Weekly Teaching Tip – Dec. 2, 2015
by Dean Kaelin
Question: I have 2 male students who want to take their voices LOWER. This is not something I have come across often. They are both getting into their mixes, and their upper ranges have expanded with my help, but now they want to go lower.
Are there any exercises or techniques that you can suggest? I’ve mainly just had them go into more of a dopey sound. I’m also not sure if it’s even feasible to go lower than the range we are born with, and at the same time, not sure if I can determine exactly what their lowest notes SHOULD be.
Answer: First, there is much more possibility of increasing range on the top end then there is on the lower end. A cello can get to the violin notes, but a violin cannot get to the cello notes. So, there are definitely limitations on how low a voice can go. Accessing the higher range is mostly a process of coordination, which is definitely something a person can learn. The vocal folds are only so long and so thick so the lower range is more limited by the mass of the vocal folds.
Having said that, it is possible to increase the lower range through better coordination and technique. The key is “connection”. In other words, to go higher the vocal folds must “thin out” but stay together. You need to learn to keep the vocal cords “touching” or coming together and not allow them to “blow apart” or “let go”. You also cannot get higher by simply squeezing the vocal folds together. This is the coordination and balance that we teach in Mix singing.
The same is exactly true with the low end. We need to get the vocal folds as big and loose as possible to allow a slower vibration to get the lower pitch. And it is true that getting a dopey sound will increase more low end frequency, giving a “deeper sound”, however, to actually get lower notes you must keep the vocal folds together (connection). The best way to do this is to use a vocal fry. Unfortunately I can’t demonstrate this in writing, but you just allow the vocal cords to be as loose as possible and get a kind of “bubbly” sound. Kind of like the old Kenny Rogers scratchy voice. Once the singer gets comfortable with this they can go lower and lower. I have taken some voices clear to the bottom of the piano. Of course, many of these lower notes aren’t really useable to sing with, but they can be reached. But by practicing this, singers can add at least a few extra notes to their low range. If you use only the “dopey” sound, the vocal cords will fall apart and only air will come through producing no sound. You need the vocal folds to keep touching to get a sound.
This is why the key is “connection”. So, many times once the singer finds the balance on the high notes they will automatically pick up some extra low notes as well simply by finding the balance in the voice. And as they keep the “connection” as they go lower, moving into the “fry” they can begin to develop lower notes as well.