Ask any singer what their number 1 concern is and it’ll probably be ‘high notes’. Simple, direct, understandable.
Achieving dependable and comfortable high notes is a worthy goal in any singer’s quest for vocal mastery. Why are high notes such a nemesis? The answer may surprise you: what is natural and intuitive is the exact opposite of what really works!
When we think high notes, they think up. Makes sense right? The problem is that thinking up results in a high voice-box, clenched jaw, lifted chin and tweaked head. Not exactly the ideal set-up for a free and easy sound. Free and easy is the goal just because it’s so unusual to achieve. Think of a ballet dancer doing a pirouette. No self-respecting prima ballerina wants to tremble and perspire visibly during their job. Their goal (and ours) is to make the difficult look easy, to make the unnatural look totally natural. Guitarists, pianists, drummers, any accomplished instrumentalist, know first-hand how repetition with good technique allows speed and ease in execution. Fingers, hands and legs acquire their own memory and seem to work effortlessly all by themselves.
The problem for singers is that, unlike instrumentalists, we already sing.
Everyone can do it without knowing how. For some reason, when trying to produce confident and thrilling high notes, intuition leads us astray. It tells us to reach, lift, strain, squeeze, panic. So what’s the answer? Like many problems in life, it’s all about having the right problem-solving strategies. Here are some of my best:
1) Think down for high notes.
2) Actively pull your voice-box down (the feeling at the beginning of a yawn) as you sing higher.
3) Gently push your chin down, opening your mouth in a downward direction.
4) Look into the distance…thinking of high notes as further away can be helpful.
5) Your lower belly (navel and below) is your ‘high note helper’. Pull it in extra as you sing higher.
6) “The higher you go, the more you gotta blow”. Higher notes require more pressurized air than lower notes.
7) You must stretch and thin your vocal folds as you sing higher. Imagine that you’re pulling a rubber band behind your neck- stretching your vocal folds from the rear helps them thin, making high notes more comfortable and in tune.
Any one or all of these techniques can make a huge difference in your ability to sing high notes with newfound ease and consistency.
One last thought: high singing shouldn’t necessarily mean loud singing. Try adding support (upper belly out, lower belly in) while reducing volume as you ascend into your own personal stratosphere. This will allow you to sing higher without pushing, tweaking and worrying.
Celebrity LA voice coach Lisa Popeil, MFA in Voice, is one of America’s top voice experts. Her Voiceworks® Method has been developed over a 40-year period and is used enthusiastically and successfully by thousands of singers world-wide. Based in Los Angeles, CA (California), Lisa offers vocal lessons, workshops, and the Total Singer DVD.
Originally posted 2011-09-13 03:43:05.