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Learning to Sing Better: Understanding Subharmonic Bass

A subharmonic bass is a method of singing much lower than your normal vocal range. As a person might figure, this is a method most often used by male bass and baritone singers. However, the technique also works for females who have a higher vocal range.

Basically, it allows a person to sing an octave below their ‘native’ or modal range. The thing is that this definitely requires a lot of practice and most people aren’t successful at doing it at first. Personally, I find it a little painful to practice, though, in time, it is getting easier. I have a huge amount of practice to go before I get proficient at it.

I’ve shared several videos of someone who has mastered the technique, though; Tim Foust. It is subharmonic singing that allows him to hit the really, really low notes.

To do it, the singer sings a moderately low note in their modal range. Then the muscles of the throat and vocal cords are consciously relaxed. As this is done, a remarkable thing happens; the pitch automatically drops, usually an octave if the muscles are fully relaxed. I don’t know why it normally drops by exactly an octave, but it does. If you try this technique, do not be bothered if you don’t get it at first. Tim is one of my favorite bass singers, but even he has said that it took him a lot of time before he could sing subharmonics.

I’m sharing a video of Tim Foust using subharmonics to reach Eb2, which is really low. Singing along with the song and using subharmonics, I was able to match Tim’s low note, which honestly astounded me. I believe that I’ve shared this vid before, though not quite in this context. As I said, subharmonics aren’t the exclusive realm of men and women can use it too. It will give your voice a far larger range.

The clip is from Home Free’s 3rd performance on the Sing Off. The subharmonic note in question is the last note of the song, which was sung by Tim Foust. Even if you never use this technique, I hope that it increases your appreciation of performances like this.

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Written by Rex Trulove

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