Extend your singing comfort zone – 7 steps
This article gives you advice on how to extend your singing comfort zone in 7 steps.
Just adding one semitone to your comfort zone will increase the number and type of songs you can perform. -says Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher.
In Gillyanne’s PhD research the singers with a 2 octave comfort zone tended to be rated more comfortable in performance than those with an octave or less. So, how do you extend your comfort zone?
First off: don’t start at the bottom and work upwards. This will not help you as it’s like pushing your car uphill in first gear. Your voice is naturally heavier on the lower notes (because your vocal folds are thicker) so it’s harder to stretch for the higher notes if you start low. If you already know what your comfort zone is, work from the middle upwards, then the middle downwards.
Remember that the aim here is to add notes onto your existing comfort zone, one at a time. At the moment we’re not focussing on extending your total range.
This exercise will help you increase your comfort zone in incremental steps.
Start on a comfortable note with this three-note pattern – Mi Sol La Sol Mi (for example, E-G-A-G-E). Notice you only sing the top note once in this pattern, so you’re touching it and leaving it rather than trying to sustain it. Move this pattern up note by note until you start to feel less comfortable or not in control of the sound. Then move down two steps! This is the point that your comfort zone needs embedding.
Repeat the exercise (two notes down from your uncomfortable pitch). Sing it several times without moving up, until you are confident that your muscles have learned this position. This helps to ease your muscles into the right approach for this note.
Repeat the exercise but hold the top note slightly longer to help your muscles find and hold the position for this note.
Now start adding words (because the vowel and consonant shapes sometimes change the feel of the note).
So far we’ve been using the first three notes of the chorus of Cohen’s Hallelujah, so sing these now with the words (think Mi Sol La La, La Sol Mi Mi for the first two Hallelujahs).
Sing the phrase in different keys, moving down and up in pitch. Notice how many keys you are comfortable in.
If you want to extend your comfort zone downwards, use a pattern that just touches a low note and moves back up, such as Do La Sol La Do (for example, C-A-G-A-C). Start in the lower end of your comfort zone and move downwards until you feel uncomfortable or the lowest note gets weak. Move up two notes from that point and repeat.
Having extended your comfort zone up and down, test it out on a song you have found difficult in the past. Make sure you choose a start note within your comfort zone. Follow steps 2-4 first moving up, then down.
Just adding one semitone to your comfort zone will increase the number of keys you’ll be comfortable singing in, and will increase the number and type of songs you can perform.
Discover more vocal technique exercises in our book (now out in paperback). This Is A Voice: 99 exercises to train, project and harness the power of your voice’. Speaking, singing (opera, rock, pop, soul, jazz, country and everything in between), beatboxing, finding your voice (and someone else’s).
Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher are eminent educators who run ‘Vocal Process’, a multi-genre and multi-media practice.
Gillyanne has a doctorate in female voice research and authored the bestselling book ‘Singing and the Actor’. Jeremy’s work has been commissioned by London’s Science Museum and after winning a national piano competition, represented Yamaha as a guest artist.
Voice experts, authors, team-teachers for 20 years, Gillyanne & Jeremy train performers and their teachers to find the most appropriate techniques to sing their best, whatever the style of the song.
This article first appeared in the Voice Council Magazine