5 Tips for Hitting High Notes

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5 Tips for Hitting High Notes

Although it's completely false to say that a singer's talent is measured by the number of high notes she or he can belt out, high notes are an unavoidable fact of life, and every vocalist will struggle with them at one point or another. Whether you're a deep-voiced bass, a coloratura soprano, or a humble shower singer, you can improve your voice by mastering proper technique in your upper range. Practice makes perfect, and here are some tips to help you as you ascend the scales.

1) Safety first! Test new notes with lip trills or straw phonation first.

The trouble with high notes is that pushing your voice higher than it's ready to go can be damaging. It's easy to overblow or try to force too much air past your vocal folds (vocal cords) at once. The force of your breath can blow your vocal folds apart, which stresses them out and results in a failure to hit the note. You reach the higher notes with faster airspeed, not more air.

Avoid this common mistake by first exploring new notes with a lip trill or straw phonation exercise. Both of these methods support your vocal folds by opposing any excessive pressure from the breath. Also, they train your vocal folds and diaphragm to work together and balance each other's forces to create the desired sound.

2) Create space.

The higher the note, the more space you need to create for it in your pharyngeal area (your mouth and throat). Try building space at the back of your throat by imagining how the tissue would move if you were to swallow an egg whole. You will also want to create some more space by raising your soft palate, which is the portion of the roof of your mouth that is located at the very back and feels soft rather than hard. Notice how it moves upward when you yawn and try to replicate that feeling when you are singing.

3) Keep your larynx neutral.

Most people find that their larynx (voice box) tends to creep upward in their throat as they try to sing higher. You might not notice the feeling right away, but you should be suspicious of a raised larynx if you find that your sound gets cut off as you ascend in pitch. To fix this problem, try singing scales or arpeggios on the sound "mum." That will keep your larynx in a better position, although you may still need to create space at the back of your throat before you can get a full, clear tone.

4) Increase your breath support.

Breath support is one of the most important tools at your disposal, especially when high notes are involved. Adequate breath support prevents you from overblowing notes and stressing your vocal cords, and it is also necessary for the production of an excellent, supported, resonant sound. If you can't seem to get enough support, try practicing Farinelli breathing exercises, or something similar, on a regular basis. Also, make sure that you are using every support muscle available to you. Expanding your ribs, both laterally and anteroposteriorly, can make a huge difference on high notes, as can engaging your lumbar (or lower back) muscles for extra support.

5) Land on the note from above rather than reaching up from below.

Stretching your voice upward to hit high notes can cause a strangled or flat sound. A simple mental trick can eliminate this problem, however. Instead of reaching upward, imagine yourself coming down on the note from above. This psychological change of approach makes you subconsciously dial up your support, which results in the note being more accessible to hit and sounding more open and effortless.

High notes are the bane of just about every singer. However, with enough perseverance and patience, your range will expand upward, and so will your confidence. Keep practicing, put these tips to use, and take good care of your voice, as always.

Keywords: vocalssingerhigh noteslow notespracticevoice boxperforming

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