How to sing high notes without straining
Reaching high notes without straining your throat takes finesse, training and the right vocal technique. If you’re pulling up your chest voice, or belting just so can hit a high note – then you’re at risk of vocal damage. On the flipside, breaking up into a weak or breathy head tone just doesn’t seem right – so how can you learn to sing high notes without straining?
The secret middle register
We’ve all heard of Chest Voice and Head Voice – but did you know there is a ‘secret’ middle register that only appears when you learn how to coordinate the musculature responsible for head voice with the muscles used for chest voice? This Middle register is often called “Mix Voice” or simply “Mix”.
The middle register is especially tricky for male singers due to the strong musculature built by our low speaking voices, along with expectations about how our voices should sound in our middle register. The key to releasing your voice from middle register is building trust in the mechanism behind our singing voices rather than trying to ‘force’ and ‘control’ our voices to make them sound in a way that may not be possible, or at least, in the improper manner.
This is the biggest obstacle, especially for Male singers, to surpass if you want to hit your high range with power and ease – you need to build a ‘mix’ or ‘middle’ register so you can transition easily between your ‘chest’ and ‘head’ range. In reality, it’s all one connected voice, but if you’re just starting out I totally understand the feeling that there is a disconnected “head” up the top, and a heavy “chest” down the bottom that just won’t connect no matter WHAT you do. The first step?
Build your mix
Strengthening your mix register/middle voice takes time, but is paramount if you want to sing high notes without straining your throat. I’ve put together a video showing you how to avoid strain in your voice while building a middle “bridge” between your registers, check it out below:
If you want to sing high notes without straining your throat, then MIDDLE VOICE should be your first priority. For most singers this “mix” starts to occur around their first vocal break, so if you are trying to sing higher in chest voice and pull up your chest voice before truly understanding the mechanics of your singing voice and how your registers work, then you’ll be stuck pulling chest and flipping up into head. Make sure you build your registers first before trying to make any stylistic changes to your natural singing tone like belting or singing rock.
Next you need to build your support and foundation – your voice doesn’t work like a whistle or flute where the air is ‘blown’ across a reed, your voice actually works more like a guitar in that vibration of your chords (like guitar strings) causes a tonal resonance in the resonance chambers in your head (like a sound-hole in an acoustic guitar).
As you ascend in range, you actually need to hold BACK your air to create more pressure, but lower the actual ‘flow’ of air. It’s a simple technique, but super important for power in your high range and releasing strain as you ascend. Learning how to control your breath while singing is especially important for your vocal health, so make sure you’ve sign up to my free foundations short course and check out the free singing tutorial below to help you support your voice in the right way.
Tuning your resonance, or vowel tuning as I’ve come to call it, is an advanced skill that you need to learn to be able to sing high notes without straining. The most common form of vowel tuning is called vowel modification, and involves changing your vowel sounds in a subtle way as you ascend in range – while this isn’t the most efficient or fine tuned way to tune your vowel, it’s a great starting point. Keeping it simple, Vowel Modification is the concept that as you ascend in range, you need to change the ‘character’ of your vowel to make the best use of higher and higher resonance chambers as your voice starts to ‘ping’ at a different frequency/higher tone. In classical technique, you follow the voice character of “OH”, then “UH” and finally “OO” as you ascend higher – you can see how this causes confusion when you’re trying to sing words and actual songs with different vowel sounds like “A” and “OO” and “EE” – especially in Rock songs like I do! The way that I personally sing and teach my students how to ascend without strain and REALLY power up their resonance chambers is to associate positions along the vocal tract with the required resonators – it’s super simple to do and it works in a practical sense every time you sing, even in difficult and ‘wordy’ vocal lines. Here’s a simple tutorial I’ve put together to show you how to tune your vowels the right way:
In short, vowel modification is a great introduction to resonance tuning, and it’s certainly the easiest way to teach someone how to tune their vowels – but is much too general to fine tune your resonance in an efficient way as you progress as a singer. Make sure your voice coach can show you the delicate mechanics behind vowel modification such as control of the tongue root and soft palate for vowel width and altering of your resonant spaces – only the best voice coach will actually show you HOW to tune your vowels the right way.
How to sing high notes without straining
Using the above techniques like breath support, vowel tuning, mix voice and training your voice over time with proper guidance and coaching from a professional voice coach is the ONLY way to learn how to sing high notes without straining. If you’re ready to learn how to sing high notes without straining your throat? You can book a Skype session with me today and I’ll show you how to sing high notes without straining!
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.