Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without – Confucius
If you are one of the lucky ones, you might’ve already discovered how expressing yourself through song can make you feel more alive. Music moves us. It touches us emotionally and has been a part of our existence since the beginning of time.
As we continue to tell stories and pass on folk tales form our ancestors through song, we make people feel connected and most of all, give ourselves the permission to release and express the emotional part that makes us human.
Whether you sing for fun or plan to make a professional career out of music, developing your singing voice takes a bit of effort and with the right vocal techniques, consistent exercise and training, you can work towards mastering those songs you’ve always wanted to perform.
Mere talent is not always enough, and many aspirational singers will get formal training at an arts college or singing school where they learn to read sheet music, apply their vocal instrument to different music genres and discover how to give a professional performance to blow people away.
These techniques are however, not only reserved for them and with the help of a good vocal coach, your commitment and the right resources you can work yourself towards becoming a good singer at a fraction of the cost.
One of the most challenging things for a singer is to reach those tricky high notes in a song. They might push their voice too hard and by straining it they can damage their vocal cords and place their entire singing career on hold or even end it.
If you want to find out how best to train your voice to sing high, you’ve come to the right place. In this article we’ll help you discover how you can use your voice differently, how to reach high notes and ultimately become the singer you’ve always wanted to.
Discovering Different Ways to Use your Voice
We all have different voices, and like our rainbow nation, our voices create unique qualities to colour the world of music. If you know a bit about music, you’ll know that we have different types of voices, called Tessituras, which refers to the comfortable natural range of your voice. Voices are clustered into 6 core different voice types by measuring their highest to lowest notes when singing comfortably:
There’s also a variety of baritones in the world and if you form part of this voice type you can read more about mastering your baritone voice in our other article here.
In this article we’d like to focus more on the application of those voices and how you apply it differently to reach those upper notes. If you are a baritone, and you try to improve your singing in the higher range, or attempt baritenor and countertenor songs, you’ll have to use slightly different techniques to make it possible.
As a baritone your head voice or falsetto is the answer to reaching high pitch notes in a safe, clear and audible way and it’s slightly different to using the normal, full chest voice.
Head, chest voice, falsetto… what are all of these? Let's do a quick overview on how your vocal cords as these techniques all use your vocal machine in a different way.
Meet Your Vocal Cords
We all know where our vocal cords are located, we feel them vibrate in our throat when we sing and generally know that the sounds we create when speaking is caused by the air being pushed against our vocal cords.
Your vocal folds are made of tiny muscle tissue in your voice box and as air passes through them they flap open and close to create sound. If they shorten, they become thicker and create low notes, while lengthening gives them a thinner shape to create the voice’s respective high tones. The change in those tiny little muscles thus determines whether you sing a low note or high note and generally the frequency at which air vibrates against them increases when you sing high.
To Sing in Your Chest Voice
This is the foundation of your normal speech and singing, therefore if you want to become proficient in singing your ability to exercise vocal control from this base is fundamental. Place your hand on your chest and feel the vibrations when you speak normally, then start singing to create the same vibrations and voila, you’ve discovered your chest voice.
Using your voice in this way will create warmer, more grounded tones and if you work on your vocal range it’s advised to stay in your chest voice for as long as possible before moving into your head voice. The chest voice is the place where you will also learn how to work on the lower range of your voice.
Using the Head Voice to Sing High
The head voice is generally understood as the higher range of singing in your normal tessitura. For male singers this can be the same range as that of female contralto and mezzo-soprano singers and it is a type of singing that became popular in the 70s and 80s with groups like the Bee Gees.
To hit high notes, you’ll have to move the ‘placement’ of sound more towards the head. You’ll feel the sound resonating more from the skull when singing this way.
Using your falsetto voice is another way of singing high. The falsetto has a breathy quality and singers use more air to lightly glide over the vocal folds. Your vocal chords only uses it's outer edges in this instance to create these softer, high pitched sounds.
Neither of these are right or wrong, it’s just a different way of singing and they both produce a different sound quality. Sam Smith in ‘Stay with me’ sings in his head voice, and should he move to his falsetto voice it’ll give the song a soft quality that most people would feel to be unsuited to the song.
There’s also the mixed voice technique where the objective is to create a smooth transitions between the head and chest voice. Taking singing lessons will help you improve all the various ways of applying your voice and gradually you'll work your way towards creating smooth sound transitions.
Practice Hitting High Notes with These Tips
To develop a well-rounded singing voice will require exercising your vocal cords through utilising various vocal techniques and exercises. Here are some of the foundational singer techniques you can explore while you work on your high register.
Always Warm-up Your Instrument
Like a sportsperson, you’ll need to warm-up your vocal muscles before you perform or practice. This will limit the strain on them, and a music tutor will be able to provide you with enough warm-up exercises to prepare. Be sure you don’t warm up too much as this will create vocal fatigue and you still want to practice your singing afterwards.
We use our entire body to create flawless sound, therefore ensure you consider how you will warm-up areas like your jaw and the diaphragm.
Develop A Solid Singing Posture
To produce unobstructed sound, you must create an open-air passage and solid body posture. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and relax your shoulders. Your head should remain parallel with the floor and in a position that will open your throat and allow air to easily flow through the larynx. Note how lifting or dropping the chin cause obstructions when you try this out.
Soften the jaw and relax it, especially once you work with your high notes.
Relax as You Go and Aim for the Sky
Notice the changes in your body as reach for higher and higher notes. We tend to tense up and it’s imperative that you continuously remind yourself to relax the other parts of your body. Sometimes it helps to place the muscle activation somewhere else and by bending your legs you can free up the larynx and vocal cords when you sing.
Another useful tip that they tend to use in musical theatre is imagining you send the sound, like a lazer beam, travels over your cords through the nose. Be careful that you don't produce a nasal sound and it should still be clear as it resonates in the skull.
It All Starts with Breath Control
Ensure you breathe deep into the bottom of your lungs when you sing. They sometimes refer to this as belly breathing as you feel your diaphragm expand with an in-breath and the rib cage expands at the back. Developing an agile diaphragm will help you to sing with clarity and endurance and an experienced singing teacher, like the ones we have on Superprof, will teach you a range of breathing exercises to develop your diaphragm. Shallow breathing will only make you more tired and drained.
Be Patient and Committed
Crafting your voice will take time, practice and commitment. Start with a range that is comfortable and gradually make your way towards higher notes. Frequent practice and lessons will also ensure you successfully implement specific vocal techniques. With the help of a professional singing tutor you will learn how to play with your vibrato, create a mixed voice and even what belting is.
Finding Private Voice Lessons to Improve Your Singing
Finding an experienced singing teacher will show you how to sing high notes as they equip you with vocal tools and techniques to improve your singing. They will provide guidance and advice on how to keep your voice healthy while providing supporting exercises like lip trills, scales, vowel forming and diaphragmatic breathing.
On Superprof you can find a vocal tutor that can give you private lessons online or in-person singing lessons.
It’s time to hit a high note in your singing, so find a vocal coach in your area today.