There’s an ongoing complaint that musical theatre rep keeps getting higher and higher. And that’s because musical theatre rep has gotten higher and higher.

If you survey what folks were singing generally in the 1950s and ’60s and compare that to what was shaking down just 20 years ago, you’ll see — things have changed, Raoul.

It’s like when a runner breaks a world record, humans want to see how much faster they can run. Same with singing — it’s a muscular event, and our mirror neurons want to witness the risk and excitement of high notes sung with skill and beauty.

And yeah, you’re right, there’s not been a race to the low frequencies in this regard, so a lot of folks with deliciously low voices are feeling very left out of the current commercial musical theatre market. I have thoughts on this that I’ll share with you later.

The shape of musical theater singing changed in the 1960s, really with the advent of HAIR and when rock music entered the scene and then all kinds of styles found their way to the stage. Microphones and electronically amplified music as a standard meant that singers could do a lot of different things with their voices, and that changed the game.

Understanding the framework of your own instrument

This is where understanding your own vocal sweet zone is so important. If you focus on Western classical singing, your voice type will be categorized — lyric soprano, dramatic mezzo, leggiero tenor, basso profundo, etc.

This is mostly because you’re singing acoustically with no amplification when this is your field.

When you’re a theatre singer, it’s important to know where your voice feels most efficient, easy, and powerful, AND you also have a lot more leeway than our classical classification system has handed down to us. You’re a human with a voice, and there are tons of possibilities. Especially with a microphone.

Questioning Your Limits

If a song or role calls your name that you’re not capable of executing range-wise right now, I invite you to question whether you might be able to accomplish it one day with the right tools.

I’m not advocating delusion here. I’ll never sing “Glitter and Be Gay,” and no one’s ever going to say, “Dan really gives me Barry White vibes.” But I have tons of other possibilities available.

I want you to understand that your voice is full of potential and possibility, and just like regular yoga practice will get you bending in ways you never thought possible, regular systems of vocal practice will change your identity as a singing storyteller. You’ll sing into new ways of making sound that your ego doesn’t even have a name for right now.

And of course, this skill will open up all kinds of possibility for you as a theatre singer.

What to understand and how you can leverage it

Real quick, some basic understanding of anatomy and physiology will help you out here —

Lower pitches mean thicker shorter vocal folds.

Higher pitches mean stretchier folds.

Think of a guitar string. If you loosen the string, lower frequency. If you tighten the string, higher frequency.

Your vocal folds are vibrating bodies like the guitar string.

Looser or shorter = lower pitch.

Tighter or longer = higher pitch.

There’re also different ways of singing different frequencies,

different modes and registers where the same pitch happens with different coordinations.

There are also different vocal tract configurations in which pitches can happen.

Vocal tract just means the space from your folds to the opening of your mouth, and there are thousands of possibilities for shaping that and the sounds you can make.

Pitch happens inside your larynx

Your larynx can figure it out. If your physiology is capable, the things inhibiting you from singing certain pitches often happen before or after the vibration event in the larynx. I’ll lay those out for you later.

All these ideas will loosen up your idea of what it is to make different frequencies with your mechanism.

Before I tell you how you can sing higher notes with confidence,

you need to pay some attention to the lower frequencies first.

This will give your mechanism balance. If you ignore the low frequencies, your folds will get used to singing the stretchy rubber band sounds and won’t have any quality time letting the loose and juicy folds vibrate at the other end of that spectrum.

And the stretchier frequencies give important info to the low meaty vibes, and the thicker fold events have things to teach the higher sounds. You want to make sounds in all frequency capabilities of your voice.

I’ll link a simple series of exercises to coordinate and bolster your low sounds at the end of this.

Now, when you look to extend your capability and confidence singing higher frequencies,

it’s important to sing these pitches in thick and thin fold coordinations and the continuum in between.

You’ll want to sing pitches in Mode 2/head voice and Mode1/chest voice.

After you’re finding some ease with both of these coordinations, you’re going to want to discover that they’re connected. I’ll link a messa di voce exercise at the end of this as well that show you how to do that.

In all of these ways of making sounds, the important truth to incorporate into your body is that the voice works like a stretchy rubbery situation. It’s not a series of compartments.

This cubby hole idea is a big reason why singer brains want to physically reach for high frequencies or shoehorn pitches into imagined compartments.

Singing pitches is much more akin to intonation with a stringed instrument where there are millimeters of variation as opposed to a piano keystroke.

And here’s a list of things that could be making singing and pitch flexibility very hard for you:

Pushing too much air

We think more is more when it comes to singing, and we’re wrong. You need enough air, no more. Especially when it comes to higher frequencies, we think we have to pound the support.

This has the unhelpful outcome of pummeling the underside of our closed folds with a ton of air pressure, and all the laryngeal muscles have to adjust. This creates all kinds of mayhem and the opposite of the balanced energized flow we need for your brilliant folds to sing different frequencies.

Ask yourself: how much dynamic support do I need for this phrase or note? Listen to your body, give it a number value from 0 to 10, and experiment. I’ll link a video at the end of this article that talks more about this.

Thinking the voice comes from not through

We perceive the source of the voice at the throat level. Not helpful.

The energy that comes THROUGH the folds originates in your breath-moving muscles, the abs and ribs, depending on what style you’re singing. And those muscles live inside the entire body’s energetic framework.

This is why bodywork modalities are so important for singers to promote muscular and skeletal awareness, alignment, strength, and flexibility.

The cubby hole concept

Like I said before, singing is a stretchy and malleable event. The moment we start to perceive the voice in terms of piano keys or compartments, we get rigid, and we lose the sense of flexibility we need to let the voice show us what it can do.

Slamming way too much vocal fold together

We get really local in the folds sometimes when we’re trying to make a pitch happen.

We apply pushups or pick-something-heavy-up logic to singing, and it’s a very different muscular event.

It’s something that happens with delicacy and robustness together, and you’re learning to engage certain muscle groups while others relax, and that’s because singing is weird. And you guessed it. There’s a video for that.

Not allowing the larynx to do its thing

This goes together with the last one. But your larynx is a very brilliant structure. It literally hangs from the hyoid bone, the only structure in your body that does this. And it has an intelligence all its own.

The quick and dirty advice on this is to talk kindly to your larynx and tell it, “I trust you.” Then you give it absolute permission to go wherever it wants to go. You’ll make some sounds you don’t like, and you’ll discover a lot of things you wouldn’t have when you were trying to hold it in place because a teacher somewhere talked a lot about a stable larynx.

If you’re singing, you’re moving, and your larynx should be like a buoy on the water, able to respond expertly to the breath energy you’re providing.

As a general rule, I tell mine he can elevate if he wants to when I’m singing higher pitches. Experiment with this. See how high it can go! You can always let it chill down.

The actual length of the vocal tract (folds to mouth) affects how easily a note will come through, and it will vary song to song and style to style.

Tune in to your own body and get someone with good ears and incorporated skill themselves to walk the road with you.

And most importantly, listen to your own body.

Your singular voice is capable of so many things, and it has colors and expression that are singular to you.

You have to tune in and feel what feels good, be courageous and try new things so that your vocal identity can include lots of different sounds.

It’s also important to recognize and embrace the frame of your vocal limitations. Great creativity always flourishes inside constraints. Like a sonnet.

For example, I can sing low notes, but if I just hear a bass baritone talk, I know my voice is a different instrument than that. I’ll never have the power and resonance in lower frequencies that they have. Therefore, I lean into what my voice enjoys doing. We all have different sounds to contribute to the choir.

But now back to that question from the beginning of this —

since the current commercial musical theatre celebrates and features higher pitches in many instances, what do you do when your sweet spot is in the low zone and doesn’t coincide with what the market is currently doing?

First, if you want to work in the commercial musical theatre, ask yourself how much can you bring your skills into the middle of the Venn diagram. How much range can you stretch into while feeling like it’s comfortable and true to how you want to express as an artist?

(I often say if you’re a baritone with range extension, that’s vocal gold because you have the leverage in your lows and access to the top. Boom.)

Second, if you truly feel like your skill set doesn’t have a lot of overlap with market demand, where can you use it where you’ll feel artistically fulfilled? What styles do you love to sing? And what musical rep is actually out there that you can specialize in? Thing is, having a truly sparkly low voice is rare, and if you do it well, you will stand out in the market and be known for your ability.

And this is simple, and no one wants to hear it, but it’s the absolute truth: how can you choose yourself? You want to sing and share the sweet zone of your voice, get a musical director you trust, make a show, and invite folks.

Make ways to share your voice that you’re in control of, and you won’t be as tempted to be angry at market trends that skew to screlt.

Always reach out if you have questions at

And here are those video links to help you out:

Building access and strength in your low voice — coming real soon

Linking Mode 1 and Mode 2

How much breath do you need?

Why Singing is Weird