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Question from a Blog Reader: Both my daughter and I have a problem: After we sing for a time in our highest range (we’re both sopranos), we can no longer reach our lower notes.  Is there something we’re doing wrong? Thanks.

Vocal Coach Answer: This is a very, very common problem and I’ve got some solutions I think you’ll like.

Common Scenario: You “kind of” warm up . . . though not all the time . . . and even then often while doing other things.  As you begin a rehearsal, or performance your voice gets stronger.  Because most songs don’t start on their highest notes, everything continues to feel good . . . for a while.  Then it’s time to move into some higher notes for a while AND THEN SUDDENLY sing some lower notes.  The same notes that were strong and easy when you started.  How hard could that be?

Plenty hard if you don’t regularly exercise through your full range, from top to bottom.  And the more casual you are about maintaining your voice the more likely you will encounter this situation.  Does the above scenario describe your experience?  If so, a great solution can be easily explained.


First Some Background

Understand that there are 19 muscles busily adjusting so that just the right length and thickness of the vocal folds (vocal cords) are able to vibrate. As the sub-glottal breath comes up from the lungs, the vibrating leading edges of the folds produce a specific pitch, or frequency. Faster vibrations result in a higher pitch; slower vibrations, a lower pitch. The many adjustments that make this all happen can be quite effortless and automatic if, and only if you have trained and prepared your voice. It’s all about muscle memory and what your voice has memorized, be it good, or bad.

Here’s Your Course of Action

  1. Review your own concept and process of warming up your voice. If you’ve been too casual about it you can change that.
  2. Determine to never do much singing without first warming up. Even if you’re singing in the shower or the car, a few minutes of humming and lip-trills can go a long way. Often, the biggest offenders are trained singers who manage to “get away with” no warm-ups. But, it will catch up, and there is danger of slowly wearing away your vocal health without even knowing it . . . until it’s too late.  An obvious parallel is the trained athlete. The good ones always, warm and stretch the muscles to minimize the risk of injury and maximize the performance potential. It’s no different for singers. Either you are treating your voice well, or you’re not.  The proof is in how well, and how consistently your voice performs.
  3. Schedule times to warm-up and workout your voice. Be creative, but find a time and place that allows you to focus and analyze the feedback you’re getting from your voice. Just singing doesn’t make you a better singer.
  4. Plan your warm-ups. In addition to the many helpful tips on this site and at vocalcoach.com try this pattern: Start in a comfortable “speaking” range, humming five-tone scales on a light Hooo.  Start going up by half or whole steps. Then, come back down to where you started. Next, go lower, then back to the starting range, back up, down to the starting area, down lower,  etc. The goal is to always exercise both extremes of your range every time you warm up.  Just preparing the higher range can leave you vulnerable when those lower notes are needed, and it’s unhealthy for the vocal mechanism. Another athletic parallel: Good physical trainers always have you work both the biceps and triceps, not just one or the other. They also have you strengthen the abdominal and back muscles. It’s the only way to have a structurally sound and functional body.
  5. Respect your voice and it will always be there.
  6. Never sing harder or higher than your voice is ready for.
  7. Use technology. Carry warm-up CD’s in your car or on your phone or iPod.
  8. Anticipate the particular challenges of the songs you’ll be singing and prepare for those challenges.  That means not only systematic warm-ups, but also getting enough rest, eating well and getting some exercise.  Remember: You are a vocal athlete.

You now have one more reason to care for your voice. As you do, you and your listeners will hear the results and you will be a happy singer.

Let me know your thoughts or questions in the “comments” section below.

Chris Beatty

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  1. Hey, Chris & Carol!

    I am a voice student at WCSU, and I just started teaching young voice students at a local studio. My students are improving, but I don’t know how to teach my older kids important techniques like vibrato and how to create a fuller sound.
    Are there any warmups or teaching techniques that can help me train them to learn vibrato and to open up when they sing?

    Thank you!
    – Caroline

    1. Caroline, you are really talking about a number of concepts and exercises. The most productive thing would be for you to work with our SINGER series so you really understand the concepts and exercises. Then, you will be able to share and lead others into those same truths. With older students you really need to know your stuff or you can take them in wrong directions. BUT, if you’re willing to work it through first, you and they will have an amazing time. It’s really exciting to see a singer really “discover” their best, natural sound, and from there vibrato and all the rest than happen. Hope this helps. If you check out the Vocal Coach Online Store you can always find some good sales going on.

  2. It’s sad, but I never really thought about it that way. I think there’s so much focus on expanding range and helping singers go higher and higher that I know for me personally, I end up losing a lot of my lower range by the end of the day (especially since I’m often singing up there with the girls). LOVED the analogy of working both biceps and triceps too! Great article!

  3. I am a young male singer who is still trying to figure out what kind of voice type I have. I’m basically a Baritone, but I can sing pretty deep but also pretty high. I actually sang Tenor in high school.
    Im just wondering if there are any vocal techniques I can do to help me expand my vocal range so I can sing low Bass notes and high Tenor notes. I just get so frustrated when Ill be singing a song, and one part of the song goes too low or too high for me.
    Any suggestions?

  4. This is really great. THANK YOU. I’ve been singing most of my life and was trained, but certainly fell out of practice. I always had this problem and this is the first time I finally looked into it, because it really distressed me. This is just what I needed to hear to be encouraged…and to get back into vocal shape by renewing greater respect for my voice. Thank you!

  5. I suppose the above advice works for the other way round? I have trouble continuing to sing high notes in a song; they simply won’t work after a while! This is embarrasing if singing in public!

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