Why can’t i sing high notes anymore?

 

Why Can’t I Sing High Notes Anymore?

I personally struggled to learn how to sing for a very, very long time – high notes in particular were definitely one of my biggest issues, but when I learned the three simple steps I’m about to share with you, my voice opened up like never before and I could finally sing high notes the way I’d always dreamed.

I quite often have seasoned rock singers and even voice coaches themselves get in touch with me asking why they can’t sing high notes anymore – they’re singing from the diaphragm, placing their voice, opening the vowel; but something has just changed in their voice and they can’t hit those highs like in their youth.

Want to know why you can’t sing high notes anymore? Let’s find out.

I regularly have new students come to me who’ve been singing since the 70’s or 80’s when they were 20 years old and hitting the highs of Robert Plant or Chris Cornell with ease – then slowly over time they mysteriously lose that high range, “why can’t I sing high notes anymore?” is a common question I get from untrained singers who’ve been singing “DIY” for some time and have picked up some bad habits along the way. Well, I’m here to tell you that you really CAN regain your high notes, and better still, I’ll SHOW you how it’s done!

Losing your high notes and struggling with a diminished range can be stressful and disheartening, so lets get your voice back up to scratch and singing higher than ever before!

What Happened To My High Notes?

There’s quite a few reasons you might find your high range has diminished, and providing you haven’t done any physical damage to your voice along the way – it’s likely that your voice has simply changed over time, but your approach has not adjusted to these changes in any way. It’s probable that over a period of time, your vocal chords have thickened somewhat, so they resonate differently and you now require some adjustment of your placement – but if you keep just going for those notes like you did when you were 20 years old,  you’ll never hit them because that is no longer the way your voice resonates. A great way to adjust to minute changes in your voice over time is to treat each day with a clean slate – sure, you might have been able to sing high notes easily a few days ago, but without warming up properly on a different day you might not yet have the same blood flow to your chords, or the same coordination, or you’re simply having an ‘off’ day – yet if you push to hit those highs the same way that they’ve worked in the past without, not only will you miss the mark, you run the risk of damaging your voice.

Three Tips For Singing High Notes Again

If I had to sum up the approach you need to sing high notes again in only three concepts, I’d first say forward placement, then height in the vocal tract and finally consistent airflow. These three steps really will help you find your high range again if you take your time, practice like crazy and really dedicate yourself to a healthier approach.

  • Forward Placement
  • Height in the vocal tract
  • Consistent airflow

Height In The Vocal Tract is key to building an impressive vocal range. If you were able to sing high notes before, you were probably getting this right in the early stages – but as you’ve sung more and more and begun to push, you tract has started to widen and you’ve lost the height and space for the higher range. Raising the soft palate is key to allowing your high range to resonate fully and connect to the rest of your voice. A great way to create height in the vocal tract is with the ‘Internal Smile’ – and it’s called the “internal” smile for a reason; if you’re widening at the lips like the joker, you’re only further widening your tract and forcing yourself to push and yell on those highs. Instead, if you imagine making eye contact with someone at a bar, you’re going to have bright eyes, slightly raised cheeks and an approachable look without too much of a smirk – if you inhale from this facial posture, you’ll feel a ton of cold air at the back of your head/roof of your mouth. Congratulations, you just created height in the vocal tract by raising the soft palate – practice this movement every time before you practice and sing and you’ll start finding your high range again.

Forward Placement is a little intimidating to beginner singers and also untrained naturals alike – I mean, who wants to sing nasal and brassy, right? The truth is, forward placement actually accentuates the rich depth of your natural voice when you’re using it in the right way rather than the nasal twang it’s often taught and known as. Forward placement allows you to sing with incredible power and minimal effort, and when it comes to rock singing, power and efficiency really are king. To sing with forward placement, you first have to imagine your voice sits about two inches in front of your face and about an inch or so above your mouth – the same place you’ll figuratively “feel” the bright resonance from a NYAH or NYAA vocal exercises, or even a slight WAAAH childlike or duck-like sound. Now, this sound in itself is pretty nasty, but mix it in with a raised soft palate like we just discussed and you’ll be shocked at how full, powerful and free your voice is when you sing with this forward placement. If you want to sing rock, forward placement is king.

Consistent Airflow seems a little obvious, but it’s the most common issue I diagnose with new students and even seasoned professionals alike. It’s easy to start over compressing as your voice gets stronger, and this in turn chokes off your air at the vocal folds and makes you push – this might be okay when you’re 22 years old, but if you’re over or approaching 40 like me, this old ‘clamp and push’ approach just won’t work for you anymore and is a key reason you’ve lost your high range. The key here is to allow a slight “hHh” through each tricky phrase or as you anticipate an unintentional belt or push. Say I’m singing a simple major scale Lah-ah-ah-ah-AAA and then I start to yell at the top; this is actually due to excess compression and inconsistent airflow. Instead, if I allow a slight “H” through the top two notes, my mixed register will naturally coordinate and I’ll be free of strain while singing in full voice, a little like “Lah-ah-ah-hah-hhahh”. Now, on the flip side, if you’re finding that you’re a naturally aspirate singer and finding it hard to achieve closure and resonance, the opposite is true and you actually need to hold back your air a touch from the diaphragm – like resisting the natural recoil of the diaphragm a touch to create a light amount of compression and a more consistent flow.

How Do I Connect Chest And Head Voice?

Now, this right here is one of my FAVOURITE questions ever – how do I connect head and chest voice? The secret is actually to develop your middle voice, the often elusive and mysterious “mixed register”. In the direct centre between your two main registers, Chest voice and Head Voice, sits an alternate chord coordination where both registers are equally in use/equally in control and ‘mixing’ together, which in turn creates a blend of chest and head resonance together to connect your register and allow you to sing in full voice even into your highest range.

A great place to start is this exclusive Mixed Voice Singing Lesson which will show you how to connect chest and head voice while creating mixed resonance – the first step in singing high notes easily!

Want to see what all the fuss is about with my Foundation approach to singing? Here’s just a few examples of what I’m achieving now that I’m free of strain and tension using the Foundation 101 singing course – just imagine what you’re going to achieve when you can finally sing high notes again!

 

Do You Have What It Takes?

I’ll be honest, I personally went through a period where I really started to question whether I actually had what it takes to become a great singer – I mean, was it even possible for me to sing high notes?

I really wished that someone could just TELL me exactly how much potential I had to improve as a singer instead of blindly charging forward with exercises hoping for the best; looking back now I wish I could tell my younger self exactly what to focus on and how better to invest my time for more efficient practice and greater gains as a singer.

Would you like to know EXACTLY what I would tell my 20 year old self at the beginning of this crazy journey exactly how I should spend my time, which methods to avoid and which approach was the one that would truly crack the sky for my voice?

Four words: The Four Vocal Fundamentals.

That’s right, it wasn’t a specific method or a secret technique – it was quite simply mastering these Four Vocal Fundamentals;

  • Height In The Vocal Tract
  • Forward Placement
  • “All In One Flow”
  • Mixed Tonality

Every single technique out there from vowel modification through to compression, cry, edge, twang and placement ALL relate directly to one of these four fundamentals.

If you want to learn how to sing high notes again, you MUST start with The Four Vocal Fundamentals, so let’s get that high range back once and for all!

5 Comments

  1. The chords do not zip in head voice. They get longer and tighter? How can they can zip or shorten when the lenghten and tense? Thanks.

    • Actually, they do. Once you travel through the mixed portion in the centre where you balance the TA and CT, the folds BOTH tighten and lengthen, but also partially close off so that only a portion of the length of the folds is used for vibration. Try a classical sounding “hoot” sound with an OO vowel, like a gentle “hoo” in your highest register – the folds aren’t long and tight, they’re actually short and tight at this point, or at least, the portion that vibrates is short.

      All the best,

      K

  2. I had severe laryngitis eight months ago. It was not caused by singing, but coming down with a bad cold and having to talk all day at work did me in. My voice was completely gone for a week, and I got sick two more times before I could recover – although I never did fully recover. My voice gets tired now much faster from talking, and if I try singing, I pay for it. My voice will be horse for days afterward if I trying singing one whole easy song, or if I try testing my voice to see if I can belt again. I was a professional singer, and I could sing things like Journey and Celine easily. Now I can sing in my high register in my head voice ok, and my mid range has come back, but when I try belting out any high notes, my voice just breaks. It just won’t do it. I want to see a vocal coach, but first I want to make sure that nodes aren’t my problem. I’ve had a problem with health insurance, and haven’t been able to get the testing done. Any advice for me? Been singing my whole life 🙁

    • Hey Danielle! I’m not an ENT, so I can’t advise regarding the nodes – I suspect it will be more of a technique thing, where your voice is trying to protect itself. The red flag to me is that you’re having trouble belting, which to me would suggest your approach wasn’t all that healthy to begin with, and after the laryngitis, this old technique of clamp-and-push just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Try to focus more on building a fluid and healthy connection between all of your registers instead of trying to belt. A belt really comes from a drag in the mid section, so it’s likely you’re actually pushing from chest instead of using a balance between weight and tension in the right way. You’re welcome to shoot through a short clip and I’ll let you know what’s going on.

  3. very interesting when I was twenty I could sing really high backing vocals to anything and even push dream on. not any more out of the game to long but I want it back it’s enough to make me consider your proposal. I used to sing in a band with a chick singer and do all the high back up. i’m 65 now and play bass , piano, and lead guitar. so hmm. how mutch and do you think it would work

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