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Opera/Expanding Vocal Range


Hello Ms. Thomas,
I have recently started taking voice lessons again with a new wonderful professor of voice and she has me do an exercise that I have not done with previous voice teachers.  It is the faster exercise where you go up the whole scale plus one more step and then come back down.  We do that exercise to the top of my range, the very last note I can sing.  

Since I have not done this exercise with my previous voice teachers, I am curious to know what is the purpose of this exercise.  Is this how the range is expanded? If so, how does this work to expand the range? And how does a voice teacher know when a student has really come to the end of their vocal range?

Thank you for your help.

Denise Bailey

Hi Denise,

That exercise is a rather common one and yes, it will help you to extend you range.  It also will help you with learning how to keep the voice flexible and should also help you with maintaining a steady breath exhalation.

I have also used an exercise that moves up an octave and a third - so if you begin on middle C it would be:


You can do this on various vowels - E or OO or Ah.

Sometimes I will have a student sing a very fast perfect 4th - let's say you begin with the D an octave above middle C

Oh the vowel Ah - I would have them sing D-G-D - very fast.  Then move up in half steps.  This can help the singer just touch the high note - not hold it - so that it gives you an idea of how to sing the higher note with "grabbing"

Of course extending the range will take time.  Your teacher sounds like she is on the right tract.  One thing to be aware of is not to allow the tongue root to bunch up or grab and that the jaw is relaxed.

As to how high the student can go   often I will just take a student up until they can't do it - for that moment.  Eventually the student is able to extend the range and sing notes he/she couldn't sing before.

I wish you the best of luck.  It sounds like you love your teacher and she is helping you!




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Pamela Thomas


Questions on Opera performance, repertoire, vocal technique, acting for opera. I have some 20 years experience in opera in both leading roles and chorus. I have sung with New York City Opera since 1981. I have studied voice in NYC for over 20 years and have also taught technique and coached singers in acting.

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