5 Amazing Strategies For Singing High Notes
Singing high notes without strain is the holy grain of singing technique for many, and while singing itself is such a simple task – why do many singers struggle to sing high notes? The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all method for developing your high range, and we all have unique issues that we need to address with a new approach so that we can sing high notes with ease. These 5 amazing strategies for singing high notes will have you soaring past your break and up into the heavens like your favourite singers – try each one and let me know in the comments below which one worked for you!
#1 – Reach down
Instead of pushing up or reaching to the skies for your high notes, it’s important that you support your voice properly and maintain an appropriate balance of air pressure and airflow. Many times the upward motion or reaching for the high note sends the signal to your diaphragm to ‘push’ your air out as you ascend instead of maintaining resonance and balanced airflow. Imagine that you are holding two heavy weights in each of your hands up near your shoulders, and as you approach your higher range or that pesky high note, slowly lower them down in front of you (remember, they’re REALLY heavy!) – no doubt you’ll feel the sensation of support at your sides and those high notes will resonate with ease. Reaching up? Reach down, down, down to the ground for your high notes.
#2 – Middle voice
The idea that we have two separate voices, chest and head voice, is the source of so much confusion in the world of singing, so lets clear this up once and for all. Chest voice occurs when you contract and thicken the vocal folds, and head voice occurs when you stretch and thin the vocal folds – these two motions happen separately, sure, but they happen on either side of your middle voice. The middle voice is an area in your registers where neither contraction (chest) or stretch (head) is occurring, which allows you to balance between the two, and serves as the ‘ledge’ where you either lower yourself into the chest register, or raise yourself up into the head register. Don’t get me started on falsetto, many singers (and even voice coaches) confuse the head register with falsetto – so don’t mistake a light head range for disconnected falsetto. Keep at it, keep positive and keep it in the middle.
#3 – Vowel modification
To aid the efficiency with which your voice resonates, sometimes it can be helpful (or necessary) to modify the character of your vowel sounds to allow for changes in the shape of the vocal tract as you ascend in range. An example of this might be a slight AY character in your pure EE vowel as you ascend up through your vocal break, or a slight UH character to an AH vowel through the middle section of your voice. Every voice is different, so it’s important you don’t treat vowel modification as a ‘solution’ to any other issues you might be experiencing while you are still developing your technique – if you can’t connect on a lip trill or NG sound, then vowel modification isn’t the answer you’ve been looking for. Now, if you ARE able to connect through your break, but it’s still a light connection, you may find that modifying your vowel to a more open or even narrow sound will aid the resonance with which your voice resonates.
Remember, vowel modification will only work if you are initially shaping your vowels properly with the back of the tongue while creating appropriate resonant space in the pharynx. If you’re pronouncing with speech vowels, you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere and you probably need to get back the elements of vocal foundation.
#4 – Lean in from the top
Instead of starting from the bottom and constantly trying to ‘build’ your range, approach it from the top down with a light head voice tone and gradually make a reverse connection. Over time you will find that this will actually aide a fuller and more connected tone, especially through the middle of your voice. If you’ve only ever warmed up from the bottom up, or you’re trying to create a “chesty mix” from your chest voice up, then it’s likely your voice could do with a better balance of strength from the top down. Start light and build your tone over time with proper vocal fold adduction and support and you will soon be able to lean in from the top instead of dragging your low range and all that weight up into your high range.
#5 – Psychology is key
You’re supporting your voice, shaping your vowels, maintaining resonance, achieving chord closure – so why isn’t your voice working properly? This is because the ‘physical’ part of singing is only part of the equation, and your voice is largely psychological in the manner in which it functions. Remember, the vocal folds and diaphragm are both ‘involuntary’ musculature, meaning that you can’t control them directly – only through their adjoining musculature and the right thought process. If you’re psyching yourself out before a high note, your brain (the pesky little bugger) is actually sending a signal to these muscles to avoid the high note. That’s right, the fear that you’re going to miss a high note is actually what is causing you to miss it. With the right mental attitude and psychological process in place, singing high notes is very easy to do – if you can hit a certain pitch in your warmup, but you can’t hit the same pitch in an actual song, it’s likely you’ve let the psychological part of your voice slide a little – remember, attitude really IS the key to a great singing voice.
By combining these 5 powerful approaches to singing high notes together, you have a foolproof way to achieve the heights and heavens of vocal power that you desire. A great place to start is the free foundations short courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will set you up with the strongest foundation and provide you with a sturdy base on which to build your range. When you’re ready to take it to the next level with professional voice training you can book a Skype Session and we’ll get started extending your high range and building control and consistency in your voice every time you sing.
If you have any questions about how to hit high notes, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.