it is no secret that one of the most difficult aspects of singing is hitting the high notes. Good or bad, these notes will usually bring the singer the most attention. Here are my few tips for getting those high notes good and solid.
- Stop Yelling
Singing higher is rarely accomplished by brute force, but this is often the singer’s first instinct. The problem is the inborn human ability to yell. Yelling is a survival mechanism, and we are quite good at it. However, the nervous system has a propensity to switch into yelling coordination, and that locks up the singing voice and shuts down the higher range.
- Lighten Up
To avoid yelling, the singer should access the upper register with a very light vocal mechanism. If the voice is slightly breathy or a type of falsetto, that’s fine. Once these light notes are established, the singer can increase vocal cord closure and singing intensity. Gradually building strength is a good idea, to avoid the tensions so often present in poor singing.
- Don’t Force the Breath
If the coordination of the upper register is weak, excess air will usually cause more problems. Some singers believe they need to keep pushing more and more air to reach the high notes, but this will cause them to either jam up or fall apart. Yes, support and air are critical, but air is a force that must be resisted by the muscles of the cords. Think of someone attempting to lift too much weight at the gym. It is nearly impossible to maintain proper form. Lighten the weight, get the correct form, and then gradually increase the weight—or, in our case, air.
- Narrow Down
The root problem of high notes is often found slightly lower, in the area many singers refer to as “the break.” This is where the voice tends to crack or flip, and singers often add excess tension to avoid the problem. Unfortunately, this robs the singer of the upper range. The secret to avoiding breaks and smoothly blending from chest voice into the higher register (often referred to as head voice) is to use vowel modification. Vowel modification uses the acoustic principle that a more closed or rounded vowel allows the singer to slowly let go of the chest voice and bring in the head voice. Even nonsingers instinctively know they can go higher if they shout “whoo-hoo” rather than “ah-ha.”
Use closed vowel sounds such as “oo” or “ee” when singing higher scales. Once you can get into the desired register, slowly open the vowels to “oh” and “uh” while maintaining the resonance of the more closed vowels. This should begin to make the upper notes easier. Another example: When ascending on an “ah” vowel, let it modify to “uh” as you go through the break area. This should eliminate the strain and cracking of a pulled chest voice.