Sing high notes without straining
Have you been trying to learn how to sing high notes without straining to no avail? I’ll tell you a secret – it’s actually really easy to hit those high notes if you’re using the right approach, it’s just that noone is showing you the right approach!
- Release (your registers)
- Place (your frequencies)
- Tune (your vowels)
- (sing in) Middle (voice)
- Support (your breathing)
It sounds so simple, right? If you’re struggling with your high range, then I’m going to guess at least one, if not all of these steps are missing from your current practice regime – this is why you’ve been unable to sing high notes without straining!
How to release your registers – Releasing your vocal registers is a simple, but very important step in building your voice. You don’t want to build an uneven voice that leans too heavy on either side of chest voice, or head voice, right? That’s why it’s so important to start our voice foundation out with an approach to releasing before we try to build any serious range. My favourite exercise for releasing vocal registers is the lip trill, followed closely by a light ‘hum’, and even a gentle “N” or “NG” sound will work fine. All you need to do is start in your low register, and use the lip trill (or hum!) to travel all the way up through your range without hitting any breaks along the way. I know, i know, it’s easier said than done, but the trick is to sing light, gentle, and navigate your breaks by lightening your sound in the tricky areas and not pushing.
How to place your frequencies – Similar to the register release, now we need to make a fuller sound that resonates with the right frequencies, in a way that isn’t so ‘light’ and delicate. The best way to do this is with the “N” sound I mentioned earlier, with the tip of your tongue just behind your top teeth, repeat the same exercise up through your range in a fuller, but still relaxed tone. The trick with placement is to sit your frequencies “above” your top row of teeth, rather than in your throat or in your chest – this isn’t to be confused with nasality, or head voice, just a full, natural voice that sits higher up in your resonance chambers.
Tune your voice – Other coaches out there have built whole singing courses and guru empires out of this very simple technique, otherwise known as vowel modification. It’s a really subtle widening, or narrowing of your vocal tract as you ascend up in range to allow for an even connection and full resonance no matter where you sing in your range. You can try it yourself by singing in a relaxed way towards your first vocal break, then very gently ‘widening’ your vowel sound into the break, and narrowing afterwards. It might seem a little tricky at first, but tuning your vowels in this way really is the key to building a consistent and powerful range.
How to sing in middle voice – Singing in middle voice is synonymous with learning how to sing high notes without straining. Middle voice is an alternate vocal chord coordination to chest voice and head voice as we commonly know them – rather than full length chords (chest voice) or fully shortened chords (head voice), your middle voice coordination takes some training to release and build, but when you do discover your ‘mix’, you will be able to sing in almost any range in your full voice without strain.
You can try it yourself by ‘projecting’ your voice back towards yourself when you start to approach your first vocal break (bear with me!). By imagining the sound projecting ‘back’ at you rather than flowing out of your mouth, you are allowing your vocal chords to release from chest, but keeping them connected as they ‘zip’ up towards your higher register. It’s a very distinct and powerful sound very dissimilar to the weak ‘heady’ tone you’re probably use to hearing when you try to sing too high with your currently techniques. Another excellent way to discover your middle voice is to imagine speaking to a classroom full of children, trying to get the attention of the back row of kids without YELLING at the front row – like “Okay everyone… look over here!” in an assertive, but pleasant, high tone. Middle voice is another concept that full vocal courses have been built around, but honestly – more has been made of it than needs to be, it’s a simple concept and a natural way to use your vocal chords, it just needs to be illustrated to you in the right way for you to hit your middle at the right part of your range.
How to support your breathing – Supporting your voice by controlling your diaphragm in the right way is the secret to a powerful sound. Learning how to hold back your air in place of pressure and vibration really is the difference between a POWERFUL voice, and a breathy voice. Breathing actually starts with your posture – head up, shoulders back, chin parallel with the floor. Then you need to widen your rib space by raising your sternum (don’t breathe in though!) so that your ribs extend to the side a little.
Now that you’ve set up your posture correctly, you need to control your breathing by engaging the diaphragm, rather than ‘sucking in’ air using your ribs and lungs. It’s a super simple process, but it’s very important for your singing voice – with the right posture in place, imagine that you a breathing through a very small straw, slow and deep. Can you feel how your breathing is being controlled by your diaphragm now rather than the top of your chest or your ribs? I’ll show you THE best exercise for building diaphragmatic control and strength the our complimentary short course “Breathing 101” which you can sign up to for free.
With these steps – Release, Place, Tune, Middle, Support, you will be hitting your higher range with much more confidence with some practice. I suggest starting with the complimentary foundations course here at Bohemian Vocal Studio to get your feet wet with the basics of this approach to singing, then you can move onto the tutorials and lessons on the BVS YouTube channel. When you’re really ready to POWER UP your voice and learn how to tune your vowels properly while singing in middle voice? You can book a session with me now and I’ll SHOW you how it’s done.
Feel free to leave any questions or feedback 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.