Sing Higher Notes Without Straining
If you’re struggling to sing high notes, this tutorial will show you how to sing higher notes without straining using proper vocal technique. With these 10 tips on how to train your voice sing higher, you will hit nigher notes with ease while developing a powerful and extensive vocal range. Often beginner singers attempt to sing in a muscular way before building the requisite coordination to sing higher notes without strain – remember, singing is a process of coordination and balance, not a muscular sport.
A great singing voice starts with your foundation, so be sure to set up your posture and breathing first to ensure the healthiest base for your vocal technique to build up. Lets get started with Top 10 Tips on how to sing higher notes!
Top 10 tips on how to sing higher notes
These top 10 tips on how to sing higher notes will show you the easiest way to hit higher notes while developing a healthy singing voice. Your favourite singers aren’t straining and pushing to hit higher notes, so why should you? Leraning how to sing higher pitch notes is incredibly easy with these simple steps.
1 – Middle Voice
You’ve no doubt heard of chest voice and head voice, but your vocal mechanism also has the incredible ability to balance between these two registers to create what is often called middle voice or mix voice singing. The middle register is a centra coordination between the muscles responsible for chest voice (the Thyroarytenoid) and those that allow head voice (Cricothyroid), in essence allowing you to retain the richness and depth of your chest register while accessing the extensive range afforded by your head voice.
Middle Voice is that pleasant and powerful sound that you hear in a professional singer. If you are marvelling at how your favourite singer is able to connect chest voice and head voice, then the Middle register is the answer.
2 – Release your registers
The first step in learning how to sing high notes is releasing your registers. By swivelling between your two main registers in a connected way, you inadvertently build coordination and connection between your chest and head voice – even with a light and gentle sound. The most common way that beginner singers are shown to release their registers is by practicing a lip trill, but often overlook this powerful exercise as their singing progresses because the intention and purpose behind the trill was never explained properly.
The purpose of a lip trill is airflow moderation and register release. If you’re trying to turn your lip trill into a ‘useable’ sound that is loud and powerful, unfortunately you’re missing the point of this important exercise and you’re undoing your register coordination each time you manipulate this light sound. Start light and remember, a lip trill is designed to release and connect your registers while moderating your airflow – nothing more.
3 – Support with Appoggio
Appoggio is one of those ‘figure of speech’ vocal terms that is over mistaken as a literal instruction. Appoggio means to lean or support, but is figurative and simply means that you should control your breathing via extension of the diaphragm rather than contraction and expansion of your ribs like we often do in speech.
Appoggio singing technique is easy to develop and really should start in the beginning stages of your posture and breathing setup for proper application in singing. I like to add an honorary extra step to my students’ posture setup that widens the ribs and removes any possibility of chest contraction on exhale. The easiest way to achieve this is to raise your sternum without breathing in – you’ll likely feel your ribs widen and your stomach contract, forcing you to engage the diaphragm for breath control. Remember, support is a figure of speech and you’re not “lifting and supporting” your voice, in essence you’re creating a vacuum of negative space resulting in low air flow but high air pressure when you sing.
4 – Singing high notes should be easy
I know, that’s the purpose of this tutorial, right? Bear with me – when I say singing high notes should be easy, this really translates to singing with less force and pressure that you’re currently attempting to. Extra pressure and too forceful support will widen your vocal chord coordination and result in a disconnected chest and head range – if you back off the pressure and sing with very little effort, you’ll soon realise that singing high notes should be easy.
I often see singers straining and forcing their high notes and going red in the face due to the permanent belt with which they are singing. This is due to improper register release and likely an overly wide vocal tract setup due to the way they are singing their vowels. As a general rule, if it’s not easy, it’s not right.
5 – Resonance placement is key
This is especially important for the baritone voice range – vocal placement is the intention of limiting any excess frequencies from your voice that aren’t resonating in an efficient manner. This is often mistaken as masque technique by higher voiced vocal teachers who simply don’t understand how the voice works properly. While a Tenor or Soprano naturally creates the right frequencies for singing (at least partially), a Baritone often resonates with improper frequencies which really aren’t efficient or healthy and needs to extensively train their placement. This also effects higher voiced singers as they age, and without proper vocal placement a Tenors will often lose most of their high range over time.
Vocal placement is easy to train and is more to do with intention than any particular exercise. If you limit any improper frequencies from your voice you will in turn be able to put all of your effort and attention to those which DO resonate in a proper and powerful way.
6 – Vowels ain’t vowels
We pronounce vowels in speech using our articulators (ie: your lips, teeth and tip of the tongue), but in singing you actually need to shape each vowel sound using the back of your tongue and match it to the corresponding vocal tract width for each sound. As an example, an EE vowel requires a narrow vocal tract and the back of your tongue to be raised, while an AH vowel is relatively wide in the vocal tract and requires you to concave and lower your tongue. Learning these vowel shapes and natural tract widths will allow you to resonate without strain on any vowel and any word.
Developing vowel mechanics in this manner is an important part of great singing technique, and is often overlooked in most self-service singing courses and also by coaches who naturally shape their vowels in this manner. If your coach is telling you to lower your tongue for every vowel sound, you are likely straining in your high range and losing the more narrow vowel sounds like EE and OO the higher you sing – this is improper singing technique and you really would benefit from developing your vowels in a better manner with proper vocal technique.
7 – Open Throat requires closure
If you’ve been learning how to sing for some time and watched a few YouTube singing tutorials here and there, no doubt you’ve come across singing coaches who throw around the term “Open Throat” like it is going out of fashion. Open Throat is a figure of speech that has unfortunately been misinterpreted in it’s direct translation, and really means to sing without your throat or no throat singing. I often meet singers who are trying to widen and ‘open’ their throat as wide as possible due to such instruction from a voice coach who simply doesn’t understand the mechanism of the voice properly and is using a term like Open Throat (La Gola Aperta in it’s original form) in a literal sense.
In actual fact, a great singing voice is often closed in many way, from vocal chord closure to closing of the soft palate. If you’re singing “open” then you’re likely singing incorrectly, and no doubt you are struggling to sing high notes. Singing high notes takes a fine tuned narrowing of the vocal tract as you ascend, along with proper chord closure and soft palate control.
Singing without your throat is great instruction, while singing with a literally ‘open throat’ is poor vocal technique. Be careful of coaches who translate figurative instructions like La Gola Aperta in a literal sense – this is why you are straining your voice and struggling while singing high notes. Great singing requires closure.
8 – Tune your resonance
If you’ve been learning for some time or you’ve taken classical singing lessons before, you’ve likely heard of vowel modification – altering the character of each of your vowel sounds as you ascend to make the best use of your resonance. Vowel modificaiton is a great way to learn how to tune your resonance, but in fact is often not the most fine tuned way to achieve proper resonance in your high range. The question really is, do you know how and why vowel modification works? As an example, most singers are taught to alter their AH vowel (tongue low and concave) into an OH/AWE vowel as they ascend towards their first break – this change in vowel character has little to do with the sound of your vowel and more to do with the position of your tongue root and also the space created by your soft palate. To illustrate, lets try a pure AH vowel and on the same pitch, change it to OH using only the back of your throat, so not with your lips, teeth or tongue – can you feel how the root of your tongue actually moves forward with this character change? Congratulations, you just learned how to widen your vowel.
Developing proper control over the tongue root, soft palate and the shape of your tongue will allow you to train your voice sing higher with ease and hit higher notes without straining. Singers that shout and roar as they ascend in range often sing too wide and force a belt via this wide coordination – learn to control the width of your tract and the shape of your vowels to sing higher notes without straining.
9 – Group your consonants
Struggling with your consonants and words when you sing higher notes? I like to group consonants into their respective types and form an approach to each group considering a student’s voice type, native tongue and experience – this often evolves over time as their technique improves and they build better control. Consonant grouping is another important aspect of great singing that is often overlooked by voice coaches who ‘naturally’ sing their consonants with proper placement either due to their accent or possessing a higher voice type. Every vocal type will benefit from a consistent and controll approach to consonant sounds – singing high notes depends on your consonants too, not just vowels and pitch.
10 – Your approach should be unique
I often hear of coaches and singing courses that say they hold the ‘secret’ to singing, or that they are ‘better’ than anyone else. This one-size-fits-all marketing approach is great for business, but ultimately bad for your voice. Your singing voice is a unique instrument with all manner of idiosyncracies, not to mention the unique issues we all experience while learning how to sing – your approach to singing needs to be tailored to your unique voice type and designed to improve the elements of your singing voice that are unbalanced and in need of tuning.
I personally like to tailor an approach to singing for each of my students individually and form a ‘steps-based’ approach to singing that really leaves little to the imagination in terms of what technique or aspect of singing might be in need of tweaking. Remember the old addage that if it’s too good to be true, if probably is? This is especially true for vocal coaching and learning how to sing. Learning how to sing higher notes is a simple process of coordination, there is no secret, and no single approach is going to work for absolutely every singer.
The Key to Hitting High Notes
The key to hitting high notes is an all encompassing vocal technique that has been developed to build coordination and balance throughout your range. If you are struggling with hitting high notes, then it’s likely one of the more basic aspects of your singing technique is also lacking and running on into your high range – for example, lack of breath support is a foundational technique but will carry through into your high range and leave you unable to sing high notes without straining. This is the same for your vowel shaping and resonance tuning, placement and many other aspects of a great singing voice – the key to hitting high notes is to develop a controlled and consistent singing voice that is as balanced as it is powerful by training the following techniques:
- Resonance placement
- Vowel shaping
- The middle register/Mix voice
- Consonant grouping
- Register release
- Resonance tuning and vowel modification
- Balanced onsets
- Frequency control
- Twang and cut
- Soft palate control
- Appoggio and breath support
If you’re ready to take your voice to the next level and sing higher notes without straining, you can book a Skype Session and we’ll get started today.
Since opening in 2010, Bohemian Vocal Studio has steadily grown towards becoming the premier voice studio for professional singing lessons and rock singing lessons online. Coaching beginners and touring professionals alike how to improve their singing voices with practice
If you have any questions about singing high notes, pelase 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.