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Deliberate1 08-06-2021 10:21 AM

Vocal Range
 
Friends, I would be very interested to know how you accomplished singers determined your vocal range.
I am two years into the guitar. I took it up after decades of jazz woodwinds in order to give life to songs I was writing; songs that were vocal pieces. And I learned and worked up these songs with open chords, for better and worse. I never sang much, so that was new too. As my speaking voice is quite low, I assumed that my singing voice would have the same pitch. I tread on the cusp of bass/bari.
But all that changed when I went to a bluegrass camp a couple weeks ago, and was introduced to the mystery of the capo. Seems that most of the tunes we did were in B with the capo on the second fret. It obviously brought my singing voice up correspondingly, and it felt pretty good to be out of the basement. The tunes had limited range so I did not top out.
Since then, I have played a few of my songs with the capo on the second and even third fret. It feels, voice-wise, pretty comfortable, so long as the range of the song was somehat condensed. I also rather like the sound of my guitar with the capo on as well (Fairbanks SJ), though I do find that the intonation can suffer, with my cheap capo.
So, am I on the right track - basically figure out what the range of the song is and try to match it to my vocal comfort level. Or is there a more "scientific" approach to determine one's optimal range.
Obliged.
David

Glennwillow 08-06-2021 10:38 AM

Hi David,

I determined what my vocal range was because of my early experience with choral singing. I worked with the choir director on the piano and she had me sing scales with the piano to determine where my vocal range limits were. I ended up singing as a bass, though my vocal range marks me as a baritone. They enlisted me in the choir because they thought I was a tenor, but I do not have the very high range of a true tenor. My son, for example, is a true tenor. Check out this recent video for a comparison between my voice and my son's voice.

In my early days on the guitar, I used to use the capo to keep raising the pitch of a song to see how high I could sing the song. I still do that today, looking to see where I really sound best when working out a song. None of us sound good if we are pushing our voice too high or too low.

I hope some of this helps you. :)

- Glenn

rllink 08-06-2021 10:55 AM

I thought that I had an octave maybe, and it had to be in the right key. At the urging of my wife I took voice lessons. A whole two months of them. I discovered that I had a much wider range than I thought, I just had to learn to let it out and my voice coach was very good at helping me do that. He also helped my confidence, not just a with singing but musically over all. I recommend voice lessons, if just to get an idea of what you have that you aren't using. You don't have to take them forever.

Glennwillow 08-06-2021 11:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rllink (Post 6779922)
I thought that I had an octave maybe, and it had to be in the right key. At the urging of my wife I took voice lessons. A whole two months of them. I discovered that I had a much wider range than I thought, I just had to learn to let it out and my voice coach was very good at helping me do that. He also helped my confidence, not just a with singing but musically over all. I recommend voice lessons, if just to get an idea of what you have that you aren't using. You don't have to take them forever.

A good voice teacher can be extremely helpful, but he or she needs to be good. A bad voice teacher can put nodes on your vocal cords. It can really help to ask multiple sources around your community regarding who is a really good vocal coach. Local colleges usually have some very good voice teachers.

- Glenn

ljguitar 08-06-2021 11:15 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6779903)
Friends, I would be very interested to know how you accomplished singers determined your vocal range.d

Hi David
I was a music major in college & graduated with a teaching degree.

I always knew what my singing range was in the practice room, on stage, in the choir, or on an especially good or bad day. I rarely performed to the limits of either my highest nor lowest 'capable'.

Adrenaline changes things…





rllink 08-06-2021 11:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Glennwillow (Post 6779932)
A good voice teacher can be extremely helpful, but he or she needs to be good. A bad voice teacher can put nodes on your vocal cords. It can really help to ask multiple sources around your community regarding who is a really good vocal coach. Local colleges usually have some very good voice teachers.

- Glenn

My voice coach had been my wife's voice coach, so he was a known entity. He asked me straight out what my goals as a singer were and I told him not to embarrass myself. He replied that was a pretty obtainable goal. But starting the third lesson, after the exercises to warm up, he would have me play and sing, which is something a lot of people have trouble with. So he coached me through that as well. He kept telling me that there was more to singing than just singing. He also accompanied me with a piano sometimes and at that time I had not done a lot of playing with anyone else. So I really felt like I got my money's worth out of those eight lessons.

Glennwillow 08-06-2021 12:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by rllink (Post 6779976)
My voice coach had been my wife's voice coach, so he was a known entity. He asked me straight out what my goals as a singer were and I told him not to embarrass myself. He replied that was a pretty obtainable goal. But starting the third lesson, after the exercises to warm up, he would have me play and sing, which is something a lot of people have trouble with. So he coached me through that as well. He kept telling me that there was more to singing than just singing. He also accompanied me with a piano sometimes and at that time I had not done a lot of playing with anyone else. So I really felt like I got my money's worth out of those eight lessons.

Hi RL,

I'm so glad your time with your voice teacher was a good experience. I'm also glad you had the benefit of your wife's experience to guide you! :)

- Glenn

KevWind 08-06-2021 12:08 PM

Couple thoughts. Even though it sounds counter intuitive (understanding that placing a capo up the neck will raise the pitch) sometimes the key change actually works better for a lower vocal range :confused:At lease that has been my experience

I have always just assumed I was an upper Baritone

Like Glenn stated I use a capo to find what feels best for my vocal and any particular song

Here I am doing a cover and have the Capo @2 I am playing from the G form so I assume it is in the Key A


Andyrondack 08-06-2021 12:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6779903)
Friends, I would be very interested to know how you accomplished singers determined your vocal range.
I am two years into the guitar. I took it up after decades of jazz woodwinds in order to give life to songs I was writing; songs that were vocal pieces. And I learned and worked up these songs with open chords, for better and worse. I never sang much, so that was new too. As my speaking voice is quite low, I assumed that my singing voice would have the same pitch. I tread on the cusp of bass/tenor.
But all that changed when I went to a bluegrass camp a couple weeks ago, and was introduced to the mystery of the capo. Seems that most of the tunes we did were in B with the capo on the second fret. It obviously brought my singing voice up correspondingly, and it felt pretty good to be out of the basement. The tunes had limited range so I did not top out.
Since then, I have played a few of my songs with the capo on the second and even third fret. It feels, voice-wise, pretty comfortable, so long as the range of the song was somehat condensed. I also rather like the sound of my guitar with the capo on as well (Fairbanks SJ), though I do find that the intonation can suffer, with my cheap capo.
So, am I on the right track - basically figure out what the range of the song is and try to match it to my vocal comfort level. Or is there a more "scientific" approach to determine one's optimal range.
Obliged.
David

I just got into the habit of warming up the voice by humming then singing up and down a scale, doesn't matter which , toward the lower end of my range I can still sing the notes but the volume starts to drop of, beyond my upper limit I sound like a rusty hinge so my range is between the two. I'd love to have a few singing lessons once this covid situation is easier, if just to learn how to protect my voice from strain, some singers seem to sound fine into their 80s and that would be a pretty cool achievement I think.

JonPR 08-06-2021 12:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6779903)
Friends, I would be very interested to know how you accomplished singers determined your vocal range.

Well, I'm not a "accomplished" singer by any means, but working out my voal range was easy. I hummed the lowest and highest notes I could comfortably reach and found them on the guitar.
My lowest is E (open 6th string) and my highest - on a good day with a following wind - is probably D, 3rd fret 2nd string; although I wouldn't want to have to hit it too often. Singing live I can usually hit the E above that.

Then I just looked up the vocal range classifications to discover that means I am a bass.

This is not rocket science!

I am totally untrained, and I know with a few lessons I could improve my tone and projection, certainly towards the top of my range. But I don't generally sing lead, and when I do I choose songs well within my comfort zone, or transpose them until they are.

rmp 08-06-2021 01:06 PM

what ever it is now, it aint what it was 30 years ago... I can tell ya THAT much!!

Deliberate1 08-06-2021 02:12 PM

OP here. Many thanks, as always, for the generous help.

I have thought for a while about a voice coach. I have recorded myself singing and find that my pitch is pretty good. But my voice sounds unstable. And I am sure that gets worse at a jam session, when there is no mike, and I am consciously or not pushing my voice beyond its limits. Funny, but people often comment on the deep resonance of my speaking voice - I get "you have a [public] radio voice," a lot. Clients have told me that they enjoy listening to my voice over the phone. No one has ever told me they enjoy my singing voice....

One good thing is that, even at this early and untrained stage, I have no issue at all singing while playing. In fact, I find that I do both better when I do both simultaneously. I do find it interesting when someone says that is a challenge. At least one hurdle I do not have to overcome.

Glenn, I have listened to several of your excellent videos. Funny, but I would not have pegged you as a bass. Seemed to me that you were an octave or so above that.

As some have mentioned, and it is concerning, you can dp damage to your vocal chords by inadvertently mistreating them. Got to get me a coach...
Thanks again, all.
David

N4640W 08-06-2021 02:56 PM

Some songs are fairly straightforward forward and not difficult to sing and play simultaneously……..some songs are not. At least for me. Trying to sing and play: “Scarborough Fair” (Simon & Garfunkle), “Ramble On” (Led Zeppelin) and “Fragile” (Sting) were quite difficult for me. “Change the world” (Clapton) was a challenge , but easier. “Beautiful” (Lightfoot), “A girl like you” (Rascals), “From the begining” (ELP), “Spooky” (Atlanta rhythm section), “Sunny afternoon” (Kinks), “I’ll be back again” (Beatles), “Georgie Porgie” (Toto), “Miracles” (Jefferson starship), “Stormy Monday” (Allman bros.) and “Black Magic woman” (Santana) were all effortless, [once I found the right key]. And yes, I know they are really mostly ballads. How intricate the guitar arrangements were and specially syncopation is what determined the degree of difficulty playing and singing these songs solo IMHO.

Glennwillow 08-06-2021 04:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deliberate1 (Post 6780087)
OP here. Many thanks, as always, for the generous help.

I have thought for a while about a voice coach. I have recorded myself singing and find that my pitch is pretty good. But my voice sounds unstable. And I am sure that gets worse at a jam session, when there is no mike, and I am consciously or not pushing my voice beyond its limits. Funny, but people often comment on the deep resonance of my speaking voice - I get "you have a [public] radio voice," a lot. Clients have told me that they enjoy listening to my vocie over the phone. No one has ever told me they enjoy my singing voice....

One good thing is that, even at this early and untrained stage, I have no issue at all singing while playing. In fact, I find that I do both better when I do both simultaneously. I do find it interesting when someone says that is a challenge. At least one hurdle I do not have to overcome.

Glenn, I have listened to several of your excellent videos. Funny, but I would not have pegged you as a bass. Seemed to me that you were an octave or so above that.

As some have mentioned, and it is concerning, you can dp damage to your vocal chords by inadvertently mistreating them. Got to get me a coach...
Thanks again, all.
David

Hi Deliberate,

I am not really a bass; :) I'm a high baritone, about where Frank Sinatra, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Jim Croce were/are voiced.

About the unsteadiness of your voice, I feel pretty confidant that a good vocal coach, hopefully male, could help you there. So much of it, as with the guitar, is about commitment. In singing a person has to put their whole body into it. Putting enough power through your vocal cords steadies out that unsteadiness, and that takes practice and learning to put yourself into it, using your diaphragm properly.

I think of it like airplane wings. At low velocity, an airplane will stall, and fall to the ground. Vocal cords are like that. You need enough velocity of air going across your vocal cords for stability.

Have fun with this! I bet you will marvel at your improvement with a good vocal coach! :) Regarding potential damage to your voice, a good vocal coach will make sure that won't happen. You should be aware of this problem but don't worry about it. :)

- Glenn

rule18 08-06-2021 06:03 PM

Years ago I had a vocal coach that was an opera singer. Her husband was a contemporary singer so I had the best of both worlds. As others have said, if you go down that path, try to make sure they have some cred and not that they themselves happen to have a decent singing voice.

I went in with a fairly solid 1.5 octave range, I came out with a solid 2.5 octaves not including sliding into falsetto. Those lessons were worth every penny.


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