How To Sing High Notes Without Straining
High notes can be tricky for many singers, especially where strain and tension are concerned. Fortunately, there’s an easier way to how to sing high notes without straining; using resonant space effectively. Resonant space is an extension of your vowel when you sing, so let’s first look at vowel formation before developing resonant space.
Vowel in singing often means something very different to vowel in speech. Speech vowels involve pronunciation and articulation, while sung vowels require you to shape the tongue and alter/manage resonant space using the soft palate, tongue root and the vocal tract itself. Along with diaphragmatic breathing, shaping your vowels and allowing resonant space is the key to singing high notes without straining.
Vowel Shapes Singing 101
There are three main vowel shapes in singing. EE requires you to raise the back of your tongue, AH low and concave and OO tongue back and lips forward. By training each of these shapes, you will achieve efficient resonance on each sound and enable access to resonant space in your high range.
- EE – Tongue up at the back
- OO – Tongue back, lips forward
- AH – Tongue low and concave
You’ll notice that there is a ‘break’ through the centre of your voice which makes you push and strain, or ‘flip’ up into falsetto without connection in your resonance. The key to singing past your vocal break is to first widen your vowel through the first break period, then narrowing the vocal tract up into the high range. Widening and narrowing the vocal tract are both an extension of the soft palate spreading or raising.
As you sing towards your first break, the soft palate needs to slightly spread to allow resonance to occur and travel up into the pharynx so you can then narrow the vowel into the high range.
How To Sing With The Soft Palate
When you sing a vowel sound, the soft palate raises up to allow resonant space while also blocking airflow into the nasal passage. Resonant sounds like N, M and NG require airflow through the nose, while vowel sounds like EE, OO and AH require the soft palate to raise and block off airflow through the nose.
Learning to sing with the soft palate raised is the key to managing resonant space and is the first step to increasing your vocal range and improving your tone. Controlling the soft palate properly is one of the most important aspect of your vocal foundation and needs to be developed early on in your progress as a singer.
A great place to start learning how to sing high notes without straining is to develop control over your soft palate using the Foundation 101 singing course here at Bohemian Vocal Studio. A great singing voice requires a truly great vocal foundation, starting with diaphragmatic breathing, vowel shapes, resonant space and singing high notes without straining.
If you have any questions about singing high notes without straining, 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.