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:
- Head up
- Shoulders Back/Down
- Chin Parallel with the floor
- 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:
- Healthy Posture (as above)
- Breathe low and sharp (like you’re breathing through a straw
- Hold your air in
- 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:
- Posture setup
- Breathing Setup
- Tune your vowels
- Support your voice
- 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!