Those high notes, how do you capture them? You keep trying, but on playback you can hear that you are falling flat on them. When you hear that, that’s enough to make you cringe. Not one singer I have been blessed to teach and work with reacts without a wince upon hearing those higher notes off pitch when they were so certain that they were spot on.
One of the best tips for singing high notes is having a wide open mouth the higher up you go. As you ascend, the mouth should open up even more. This gives way to a much more open and resonant sound. You will learn a lot about exactly how to reach high notes once you start implementing this technique. And it is a technique that many of your best singers use. Yet pitch and quality of sound are not the only benefits. Opening up the mouth like this will somehow, and almost magically, help with feeling the lyrics more and take you into the story of your songs with that much more passion.
Many of my beginners and even those singers who are quite active and making a living singing in public, come to me starting off in their lower range with a virtually closed mouth and understandably so. The reason is because usually those notes are much easier to sing. But if you maintain that same opening as you ascend to the higher notes, you will find yourself having to strain to get there. Your body will jump in to try and help you, which may inevitably lead to problems with flow of air and proper diaphragmatic support.
When I was taking lessons, I ran into a lot of problems with diaphragmatic techniques because every teacher I went to had a different way of teaching it. I found it confusing. Without ever getting a good explanation as to exactly how to engage the diaphragm properly, I found myself completely dependent on that teacher to tell me when it was right and when it was wrong. I was never able to gain control of this region enough to work on my own to improve on how to sing high notes with power and without trying to drag my chest voice up to the higher ranges for that power.
That is not to say that there aren’t a lot of teachers that do know how to teach and engage the diaphragm correctly. There are many, and they can explain exactly how to engage it properly in such a way that the singer understands what they have to do. It is just to say that it wasn’t my experience and in some of the explanations alone, I found there was way too much room for misperception.
That set me on a journey. It became my mission to find out exactly how the vocal cord mechanism works, how the body should be working in conjunction with it, how to sing high notes, maybe special tips for singing high notes, how to control them, and essentially what controls pitch. That meant I had to research it — which led me to studying some science for answers.
In my quest, I found out that it is the vocal cords that control pitch. Though you can’t see it with the naked eye alone, for every pitch your sing, the vocal cords have to make a new size stretch. They are like two elastic bands, side by side running from the front of the throat to the back (and not horizontally) that are responsible for pitch. Without the muscles and cartilages that are attached to them and actively working to stretch the cords, those cords would rest inside that vocal box much like a rubber band without the aid of your fingers manipulating and stretching that rubber band to get it to wrap around any said item. Additionally, those cords are only about an inch in length and a quarter of an inch, if that, in width. If you don’t believe in miracles, think about this: do you know of any instrument that small that has that much range and that much loudness?
I also found that when the cords are stretched properly upon taking in a breath to start singing, that they will wrap themselves around the top of the column of air you created with that inhaled breath and then compress it. Compressed, the air will then come out at its own natural rate of speed without you having to control and manipulate your body in all kinds of unnatural ways to sustain the sound and/or to take you all the way through a phrase without feeling like you don’t have enough air to do it. I found out that proper diaphragmatic support is actually an end result of the vocal cords doing their job. If the cords and muscles and cartilages that control a new stretch for each and every pitch are working properly, then the diaphragm will automatically kick in.
So I teach at the vocal cord level rather than focusing so much on the diaphragm unless I absolutely have to address this as an issue because of the amount of air you are inhaling in efforts to sing high notes. You can feel the power of the breath but not so with the cords. So your instinct tells you that how to sing high notes and hitting them well will happen if you just give those high notes enough air. But if you give those cords too much air and they can’t control the amount, they are going to open up too wide, thereby creating a different size stretch. That different size stretch, the wider one, will land flat on the note and you will be completely off pitch. It is a fact that the higher up you go when singing a song, the less air you need and not the opposite — which is completely counterintuitive and takes repetitive practice before being able to wrap your brain around that concept.
In my research, I read a book that listed 100 different ways to take in air and breathe. But when it came to singing, there is only one – only one way to take in the air. You must take it in through the mouth and not the nose and you can’t take it in so deeply that it makes you have to squeeze it to try to control the amount of air and sound coming out, or otherwise wind up blowing it all out because the amount is that uncontrollable. Either way, it’s just too much air and it is not how to sing high notes. In this case, less is more. Learning exactly how can be tricky. But I can tell you this: learn how to master the art of the inhale and that is the greatest tip you will ever get for singing high notes – and — always remember this: less is more. Yes tricky, very tricky. However, when you do learn how, every single thing when it comes to singing your songs will be so much easier that it will make you wonder if this can really be singing.
And the very best tip I have to offer any singer seeking to increase their range by learning how to sing high notes and sing them correctly (while also learning how to sing the low) is to find a skilled teacher that is a right fit for you. It may take some time trying out different teachers before you do, but I can guarantee that your search for that teacher will be well worth it.
Read more of my blogs:
How to Find your Singing Voice
Tips Regarding Proper Breathing Technique