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High, Low, Soft, Loud – A Mantra To Live By

Dead man -

With these articles I’m going to share a few vocal coaching rationales which have served singing voices for years. This training essential is steeped in research, but I won’t bore you too much with the details. Just enough to scare you into to trying it (wink face).

Your voice will die if you don’t do it

Dead man -

There you go. Motivated? Obviously I’m being dramatic, but it’s not completely made up. There were test studies done on how male and female voices change over a lifetime. Some of the subjects were singers who used their voice in a varied way everyday, and some were just your average non-musical speakers. To skip to the point, those who sang regularly experienced better longevity and function in their voices over time, despite the fact they probably used them more than the other group. Speaking pitches can deepen considerably as we age and range suffers, but the wider use of pitch and loudness through daily singing hugely offsets the ‘aged voice effect’. This is compared to speaking which uses a very limited range of pitch and loudness.

Stay alive

In order to not end up on the scrap heap early, sing. I’m sure you came here for more than that advice but it’s a cracking start. A more controlled approach is to consider exploring a VRP (snazzy abbreviation for Voice Range Profile). It sounds technical, but really it’s just a chart that measures the lowest and highest notes, combined with the softest and loudest volumes.

Voice Range ProfileTo exercises and stretch each of your tiny laryngeal muscles properly, you must try and go to the extremes of pitch and loudness safely each day. Safely being the key word, and there’s nothing safer than singing in a straw to start with. This massively reduces the risk of injury when exploring both high notes and high volumes. Using a straw routine, be sure to take yourself to the high and loud in each daily warm up, or even several times per day to keep your voice tip top. Just a for a minute, and then go and practice whatever you want.

As part of fulfilling the extremes, you’ll also need to practice low and/or soft singing as well. Singing softly whilst at the top of ones range is a brilliant test of vocal health and control. A classic test for that is singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in the smallest, highest voice you can manage with little to no breaks or instabilities. See how you get with that!

Explore every corner

In singing it’s worth extending your range in both directions, working on falsetto, learning to belt or call, and generally practicing expression will all contribute to a full and varied voice use. Especially if your job requires you to be varied (like in Musical Theatre) or you’re an amateur. It’s going to be exactly that which keeps you in business longer. If you’re a professional lyrics soprano however, there’s a little more strategy involved to maintaining your current skills.

The only caveat is that you try and clear up any potentially dangerous flaws in technique, as taking those on to extreme pitches and dynamic levels could be devastating. It’s recommended to stick to the safety of singing in a straw if you’re worried you may get hurt. That, and visit a vocal coach to get some help and advice.

Chris Johnson Vocal Coach

Expert Vocal Coach. Performer. Utter Geek. at Chris Johnson Vocal Coach
Chris is an expert vocal coach and mentor based in London. He works with major label recording artists, West End actors and songwriters, helping them maintain a voice that's ready for a demanding industry.
Chris is also a writer for iSing Magazine, a founder/presenter of The Naked Vocalist podcast, a voting member of Pan American Vocology Association, and a teacher trainer/vocal coach with the Vocology In Practice network.
All that aside, he's a pure and true music fan with a penchant for Donny Hathaway and songs about heartbreak.
Chris Johnson Vocal Coach

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