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Expending Vocal Range, Part Two - BY Jeannie Deva
To fully expand your range, it is necessary to eliminate throat muscle tension. When I speak of expanding range, I mean having a wide "playing field" of many notes high and low within which you are able to create varied volumes, colors, textures and emotions. In Part One of this lesson, we looked at vocal warm-up as the first remedy. Let's continue our exploration of the Five Primary Causes of Throat Muscle Tension.

2. Air Over-blow - Air vibrates the vocal folds. Too much air pushing under the vocal folds can push them out of position. They will either tense in resistance or blow apart. If they tense, you will sound strained or off pitch, and will reach what could feel like a "ceiling" in your range. The muscles of your vocal instrument will lock up preventing them from vibrating faster to give you higher pitches. Excess air passing through the folds also produces the quality of voice often referred to as "head voice."

All of the reasons for air over-blow and their remedies are fully covered in my home study course: "The Contemporary Vocalist Volumes I and II."

Here are a couple reasons:
If you think you need to push up to "hit" the pitch, your body will respond by pushing out too much air. (See the Free Voice Lesson "Exploring the Mind/Body Connection of Singing," at

If you push-in your stomach you will force your body to push out too much air in relation to the needs of your vocal folds. In fact, if anything happens to cause your lungs to compress as you sing, you will have air over-blow.

3. Over-Articulation - If you manipulate the movement of your lips and/or jaw while singing, it can tighten your tongue and the muscles in the back of your throat. This is called hypertension. (Hyper = too much) In turn, your larynx, which houses your vocal folds, is stiffened and made inflexible. The best way to sing includes the relaxation of the lips and jaw. Let your inner instrument do its job. Tightening your lips and wide stretches of your jaw promote hypertension. This prevents your inner vocal apparatus from moving easily.

This gives the appearance that it's harder to sing or reach higher notes. This is a self-imposed difficulty. Yes, you have to move your lips and tongue to form your consonants. However, you do not need to exaggerate the positions of lips and tongue in order to be understood. The vowels, not the consonants, should be the heart of your sound.

To explore this further, let's use the word "HOW." Choose a pitch slightly above your usual speaking voice. Sing the word "How" on this pitch as follows: Push on the "H" and hold the pitch as you tighten into the "W." If you sounded like a wounded dog, you did it correctly. You probably also noticed your voice tighten and the sound quality was not as pleasing as you might like. Try it again. Really exaggerate the "H" and the "W." OK, I'm sure you get the point.

Now try it differently. This time, think of the actual sound of the vowel of this word and go for that vowel sound on the pitch you choose. The vowel of this word is an "A" sound pronounced as in the word "Apple." Try it with that sound in mind. You should find that the "H" and the "W" naturally reduce without your having to really think about it. Just determine the sound of the vowel (not its letter name, the sound of it as you would say/sing it) and sing that on the pitch. This would be your mental focus, while still singing it in the context of the word itself. You should find yourself singing it more freely and sounding much better.

Exercises in my homestudy course: "The Contemporary Vocalist" address this more completely.

© 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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