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Expanding Vocal Range, Part 3 - By Jeannie Deva
In the first of this three-part article, I listed the five primary physical causes of throat muscle tension. Once again, they are:

1) Lack of adequate vocal warm-up
2) Air over-blow
3) Over articulation (emphasizing mouth, lip movements when singing or talking)
4) Using force rather than resonance for volume
5) Trying to compensate for under-developed vocal muscles

Lack of adequate Vocal Warm-up, Air Over-blow and Over-Articulation were the first three of the five, discussed in Parts One and Two of this article. Here are the last two sources of tension that we need to eliminate to achieve a wider, freer range and greater expression of emotion when singing.
4) Using Tension Rather than Resonance for Volume - Singers try to use force or "push" to achieve an increase in volume. "Pushing" tightens muscles, reduces flexibility and is counter productive. A Big Sound Needs Big Space. Volume is achieved in part, by letting your sound resonant in the air cavities of your body such as the lungs, mouth, throat and sinuses. Tension reduces the size of these cavities.

Try this: As you sing, put the palm of your hand on the back of your neck. Imagine the vowels of each word you are singing gently going into the palm of your hand. Don't push them there, just think it. You may notice a relaxation of the inner muscles of your throat, and find your sound becoming at least a bit bigger with less effort. This is an example of allowing your sound to resonant into a relaxed body space to achieve more volume.

5) Trying to Compensate for Underdeveloped Vocal Muscles - If you tried to pick up an object that was heavier than your body's ability to lift, you'd probably use extra effort causing strain. If you try to sing notes that your vocal muscles are not capable of producing, you might use extra effort which causes tension. As you now know, muscular tension reduces your voice's range, resonance, volume and emotional freedom.

Exercise: Vocal Exercises are not easy to explain or direct in writing. It's better to have them explained, sung and coached in person or on an audio recording. However, short of having in-person voice training sessions or working with my home study course, you can try the following: Open your mouth about a two-finger width. Let your tongue relax with the tip resting against the back of your bottom teeth. Choose a pitch that's around your natural speaking voice and start singing an "Ah." While sustaining the "Ah" slide the pitch up an interval of a whole step and then back down. Let's call this slide up and down a whole step a "wiggle." Wiggle the "Ah" about 6 times. Next start on a slightly higher pitch and wiggle the "Ah" again. Keep going slightly higher and then slightly lower. Never reach or strain for a pitch. Go only as high as is comfortable and then come back down the scale, little by little. After some minutes using the "Ah" vowel, repeat the whole procedure using an "Ee."

Try to keep you jaw open and unmoving as you do this so that your inner vocal muscles can be given a gentle and natural work out. Do this exercise for about 10 minutes. Don't push for volume nor sing breathy. A speaking approach is best. After a few days, you may notice certain pitches coming more easily than before. This is only one of many different exercises I use to expand a singer's range.

© 2003 Jeannie Deva. Jeannie Deva is the founder of Jeannie Deva® Voice Studios since 1978 and of The Deva Method® A Non-Classical Approach for Singers. While her private voice studio is located in Los Angeles, Jeannie maintains private clients across the country and in Europe. Author of the internationally published vocal home-study course: "The Contemporary Vocalist" book and CDs, she has been flown to recording studios internationally to handle album vocal production and has been endorsed by producers and engineers of the Rolling Stones, The Cars, Aerosmith, and many others. Clients include Grammy Award Winner Aimee Mann, Patty Griffin, Coppertree, Dar Williams, Moodcrush, members of the J. Geils band, cast of Fame, Jesus Christ Superstar and many more.

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