Since I was about 12, I’ve been singing in church and school choirs, and had done a few solo performances. I was a solid bass/baritone and thought I had a good feel for my range. I left the tenor stuff to others.
About 5 years ago, I decided to take vocal lessons to try something besides 4-part choir. After talking a bit and doing some scales, my Seattle coach said she was surprised at my low range. Her experience was that the speaking voice usually mirrored the vocal range and she would have guessed me to be centered a bit more “tenorly”. I found that amusing and for four months didn’t have any cause to see things differently. Tenor parts and vibrato were things I knew I couldn’t do.
Work forced me off lessons eventually, but at our last session I locked into a previously troublesome note in a part of my throat that felt strangely easier. I mentioned it and she encouraged me to try and remember how it felt and duplicate it. 4 years went by and no real change came of it, though, while singing on my own.
Then after moving back to California, I got the bug again and went looking for a new coach. More importantly, I made a deliberate effort to ignore what I thought I knew about my personal mechanics for hitting notes. I was back in acting classes at the time and re-learning how to let go of the need to control, which put me in exactly the right mind set.
What happened was an explosion of range into the tenor realm, and the appearance of vibrato which I had never been able to pull off before. We keep picking songs to challenge the top end and, after some struggle each time, I keep finding another comfortable half step. It’s like being given a brand new instrument with a bunch of new keys, levers, and holes. You’re excited about the new capability, but set back because you’ve no experience playing the new parts. I’m also finding that the stuff in my comfort zone is becoming more nuanced, sophisticated, and soulful.
Bottom line is it was a great object lesson in how belief in our limitations can be flat out falsehoods. If you want to do something you don’t think you can do, you might be fundamentally and objectively wrong about your ability. Try stuff. Mess it up. Play. You will be surprised.