Exploring Lower Range

For this step in the Intermediate Warm-up Series, we’ll be working our way down in your range, warming up the middle of your voice, down to the depths. As always, you should work with gentle ease in this exploration, not pushing or forcing your voice as your work your way down.

At the heart of this step is a gentle, sliding sigh.

[If you don’t have much experience with voice work, you’ll need to take an extra step here, and visit the Sighing Down page for instructions on how to breathe and sigh from your core, rather than from your chest. This is an essential bit of information, and if you don’t have it, off you go now, and come back when you’ve done it. Off you go now!]

If you’ve just come back, or if you already knew how to sigh from your core, let’s get back to that sigh. The idea in this step of the warm-up is to sigh downward, starting from somewhere around the middle of your range. If you’d like to follow along with some pitches, so that you’re sure to work through your full range, follow along with this audio file. The idea is to slide/glissando your sigh between the two pitches, which are an octave apart. Start on the high pitch, and slide down through your range to the lower note.

Let’s start out with a hum, sliding down on /mmmmm/. Then we’ll open up the sound on “huh,” (IPA [hʌ]) and finally we’ll try it out on “hey,” (IPA [heɪ].)

As always, our goal isn’t lovely singing. The goal is to feel our way through the sounds, vibrating the sound as best we can. You want to feel the sound in your face, throat, and as we go lower, in your chest. As you slide downward, you should feel the sensation of the vibration moving downward, too. It’s great if you can think of this as an additive process, trying to maintain the sensation you have in your face as you add the vibrations in the lower part of your body.

If you’re new to this, you may need to go slower than the recording. You can follow the recording if you hit the pause button and give yourself time to slide down through the octave. The point is to make it smooth, not jumpy or uneven. For some people, sliding through the pitches is very hard, because they want to jump from the higher pitch to the lower pitch. Perhaps it might be helpful to think of this as a siren, rather than like singing notes. Remember to sigh, rather than sing. If you don’t hit the “note” at the bottom of the octave, it doesn’t matter. This isn’t a test!

One last thing: on a sustained sigh like this, it can be easy to become obsessed with the sound of your voice, rather than the feeling of it, or an idea of what you might be saying with the sigh. Give yourself an image, think a thought, release how you’re feeling through the sigh, so that you put part of yourself into the sound. In other words, say something.

  • This post is also available in a simpler,condensed form audio file, so you can practice the exercise without any explanation.


Next Step: Jaw Swinging

Eric Armstrong is the voiceguy. Eric is a dialect, voice, speech and text coach based in Toronto, Canada, where he normally teaches full-time at York University’s Dept. of Theatre. Eric has been teaching voice for the actor full-time since 1994, and has taught in Canada and the US, at the University of Windsor, Brandeis University, Roosevelt University, Canada's National Voice Intensive and York University. He has worked for nationally and internationally recognized companies such as Crow’s Theatre, Volcano, SoulPepper, & Canadian Stage in Toronto, and The Court Theatre and Steppenwolf in Chicago. Eric holds a BFA from Concordia University (Montreal) in Theatre Performance, and an MFA from York University (Toronto) in Acting. His mentors were David Smukler (York, Canada’s National Voice Intensive) and Andrew Wade (Royal Shakespeare Company). He has also studied at the Drama Studio, London, and Il Stage Internazzionale di Commedia dell’Arte in Reggio Emilia, Italy. He’s a long time member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association, where he has served on the board, as a conference planner, photo editor for the Voice and Speech Review, Founding Director of Technology and Internet Services, and has written numerous peer-reviewed articles, essays and reviews for the VASTA Newsletter, the VASTA Voice, and The Voice and Speech Review.

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