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Sing high notes without straining

Sing high notes without straining

Singing high notes without straining can often seem like a mammoth task – or even an unnatainable goal, but I’m here to tell you that singing high notes without strain is EASY if you have the right approach.

Obviously our setup involves a healthy posture and diaphragmatic breathing, so I do encourage you to take a look at our complimentary foundations course here first, but in short, you should set up your posture like so:

  1. Head up
  2. Shoulders Back/Down
  3. Chin Parallel with the floor
  4. Sternum up (ribs wide)

Without a healthy posture, your breath support will be lacking and those high notes really will be a thing of your dreams. Keep your posture strong and healthy and you’re already half way to hitting high notes without straining! 

Secondly, we need to look at your breathing – which is also covered in our free course Breathing 101, but if you’re still struggling with setting up your breath support, it goes a little something like this:

  1. Healthy Posture (as above)
  2. Breathe low and sharp (like you’re breathing through a straw
  3. Hold your air in
  4. Create resonance and vibration rather than airflow

But how do you sing with resonance? Oh, I hear you – it seems like a total mystery, right? Well, it’s actually super easy! Can you sing an “NG” sound like the word “Sing” or an relaxed “N” sound like the word “Bunnnn“? Congratulations – that’s resonance! Now, you just need to learn how to do the same thing with your vowel sounds.

Controlling the soft palate is a MUST

Learning how to control your soft palate so that it “lifts” on vowel sounds, and “opens” on resonant consonants like M and N is an absolute must if you’re going to learn how to sing high notes without straining. You can try it yourself by humming – can you feel how there is air escaping through your nose? That is an OPEN soft palate. Now, before we try it again on a vowel sound, try speaking as though you have a cold, like “I hab a cowd” (I have a cold), can you feel how there is no longer air escaping from your nose? That’s because your soft palate is now RAISED so that no air escapes through your nose – this will also force you to support your voice properly, and also brings me to my next point:

 Placement is KEY

Learning how to PLACE your frequencies so that they resonate freely with power without the added need of “Force” or “pushing” is absolutely KEY to hitting high notes without strain. Placement is often overlooked by coaches and singers with higher voice types, but herein lies the truth – without a focussed placement your voice will be inconsistent, difficult to warm up and will often break and crack when you least expect it. This is because you are creating the wrong frequencies with your vocal chords, and they “skip” and “jump” as you ascend in range rather than sliding up in the relaxed and connected way we hear professional singers vocalising.

Here’s a super quick tutorial on placing the voice:

Keeping it simple, you can place your voice by focussing your resonance ‘above’ your teeth rather than trying to sing out of your mouth (weird concept, I know – but it works!), try it again with the “NG” sound. Can you feel how the resonance sits ‘above’ your mouth rather than in your mouth like you would a pronounced word? Now, if you continually practice this sound, you’ll soon be able to sing your vowel sounds like AH and EE with your resonance ‘placed’ in this same area – this is known of vocal placement.

Sing the right vowel sounds

Did you know that there are specific vowel sounds you need to sing with – and there is a particular way you need to create them? I call this part “vowel mechanics” and it involves using the shape of your tongue to ‘shape’ your vowel sounds rather than pronouncing them like in speech. Here’s a super quick guide for shaping your vowel sounds using your tongue shape:

  • AH – Tongue low and concave
  • AA – Similar, but with the middle of your tongue raised
  • EE – Tongue high at the back, low at the front
  • AY/EH – Similar, but with the middle of your tongue forward and your mouth open
  • OO – Tongue ‘back’ and your lips forward

Now, there IS variations on these tongue positions care of your vowel width, but for now just practice each of your vowel sounds gently and with resonance – you’ll soon realise how EASY it is to sing your vowels in this manner rather than trying to force them out with pronunciation. This then brings me to the next step:

Tune your vowels

Tuning your vowels is often called Vowel Modification, but I prefer a more precise approach than the layman “OH to OO” approach you find in most contemporary singing approaches – it’s important to understand the REASON we use these sounds as you ascend through your range and approach your vocal breaks.

OH is a wide sound – Try it yourself, can you feel how WIDE your vowel sounds when you impart a classical “OH” character to your sound?

OO is a narrow sound – Try this as you ascend higher past your first break (or even in a light head voice), can you feel how NARROW your vowel is now?

This is the essence of tuning your vowels. Now, every voice is different and requires specific vowel tuning for that voice, and that person’s individual resonance, but the general idea is that you WIDEN through your first break, and then you NARROW through your second break up through the bridge to head voice. This really does depend on your voice type, accent, level of technique and a few other factors that dictate where you need to widen and narrow your vowel.

The important thing to understand is that “EE” based sounds are naturally narrow in the vocal tract, and “AH” based sounds are naturaly wide in the tract – so your tuning for each will likely be a little different for each vowel. Again keeping it simple, your AH vowel will require less widening that your EE sounds, so remember to keep it subtle, gentle and don’t push your voice at any point.

Support your voice

Supporting the voice is another often misunderstood technique – it’s not a ‘push’ as you ascend in range, it’s a gentle engagement of your diaphragm and lower abdominal muscles, combined with the wide rib position we set up in my complimentary breathing 101 course. You can try it yourself by imagining that you are holding two very heavy weights up by your shoulders with your elbows bend – then as you ascend, you lower these weights in a controlled fashion to engage the diaphragm further, avoiding the bellows effect of air being forced out of your chest – instead, your diaphragm stays low and regulates your air pressure to allow a faster vibration of your vocal chords rather than any pushing or shouting.

Build your middle voice

Building the connection between chest and head voice by using your mix or middle voice is one thing, but did you know you can actually extend and STRENGTHEN your middle voice so that your head voice is more powerful, and your chest voice is stronger and more comfortable too? Bingo – this is the final key to singing higher without strain. Middle voice is actually a separate vocal chord coordination to chest voice (full length chords) and head voice (fully shortened chords), and instead lies between the two and can be used in any number of ways to build your power, improve your tone and of course help you hit your high notes in a full voice – without any strain.

Here’s another super simple tutorial on how to sing in middle voice:

Now that you know the steps to building a powerful voice while learning how to sing high notes without straining, it’s important that you keep following these steps EVERY TIME you practice. Here’s a really powerful way to do this:

  1. Posture setup
  2. Breathing Setup
  3. Placement/Resonance
  4. Tune your vowels
  5. Support your voice
  6. Build strength

And here we get to another often overlooked aspect of singing, the practical application of all the above! Did you know that there is a specific way to sing your consonant sounds too? Rather than just slurring over them or singing weak works, there is in fact a super powerful way to sing your consonant sounds that I’ve developed, involved a specific approach to each type of consonant sound;

  • Resonant consonant sounds = Open soft palate and vowel replacement
  • Glottal consonants = A “Click” with your articulators rather than a glottal push
  • Sibilance = Hold your breath… like a snake “SSSSSS” or a highhat “T, T, T, T, T” instead of “ESSS” and “TUH”

Here’s another simple tutorial that will help with pronouncing your consonant sounds in an open, powerful and strain free way:

Are you ready to power up your singing voice and hit those high notes with more POWER and ease than ever before? You can book a session with me personally at any time and I’ll SHOW you how it’s done!

Feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!


3 thoughts on “Sing high notes without straining

  1. Hello!

    With SSSS and highhat “T, T, T, T, T” = its super clear!
    But I with “H” – when I try to make with holding breath – sometimes H disappear 🙂

    1. I’ll show you the trick with “H” next session – it’s pretty simple really, there’s actually two different ways to create a H using your onset instead of a consonant 🙂

      K

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Sing high notes without straining

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!

  1. Release (your registers)
  2. Place (your frequencies)
  3. Tune (your vowels)
  4. (sing in) Middle (voice)
  5. 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!

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