As a vocal coach, I see it day after day. New students come in frustrated because they’re not able to sing the songs that they love because they’re just a little too high. To compensate, some push too hard to reach those notes, while others lighten up, wishing that they had more power.
But the secret lies in maintaining balance. So whether you're looking for more powerful high notes, or you'd simply like to add a few notes to the top of your range, the following tips should help significantly.
First thing's first, in order to maintain vocal balance, you must maintain a steady flow of air.
As we ascend in pitch, we start to change our technique. The typical singer will either push much more air to force their way through (often leading to cracking in the voice), or they'll back off, creating more of a breathy sound. Neither of these are ideal. Maintain a steady flow of air, making sure to keep the line as connected as possible, and you'll have much better luck.
Second, rely on resonance space to create the sound... not pressing.
Take this equation to heart:
More Space = More Sound.
Resonance space can be found in the chest, throat, mouth, and head. So if you're mouth is hardly opened as you sing higher, then you're dramatically limiting the amount of sound that you could have.
And while we're on the topic of space, it's important to note that we need to narrow the vowels, creating more vertical space than horizontal space... especially when singing higher.
Why? Well, if a singer widens the vowel in the upper part of their range, it's almost certain that the back of their mouth will also widen. When this happens, the tongue will tense up and the larynx will rise, throwing the whole vocal mechanism off balance.
Narrowing the vowel fixes this. The easiest way to do this is to bring the corners of the lips together and feel more of a tall open space (especially in the back of the mouth).
And just for clarity, you can sing high notes with a smile on your face. It's just easier initially if you don't 🙂
Finally, in order to sing your high notes more easily, you want to maintain a level to lowered larynx.
Not only can a raised larynx create an uncomfortable choking sensation in the throat, but it's usually what causes a singer to crack. There are many scenarios that can cause the larynx to rise: too much air pressure underneath the vocal cords, spreading the vowel, too much tongue tension, bad habits, etc.
In order to counter this, we should rid ourselves of all unnecessary tension. But for some, this may not be enough because we have years of habit of raising the larynx as we ascend in pitch... at least I know I did. So another way to help encourage the larynx to lower is to sing with a bit of a hooty sound quality, especially in the upper part of your range. This will help counter a rising larynx, and therefore help you maintain a more balanced vocal mechanism.
I hope this helps! We can discuss different aspects of this article on the forum here.
Vocal Coach Ken Taylor
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About Ken Taylor
Though he has spent plenty of time both on stage and in the studio, Ken's real passion is helping other singers along their vocal journey. So when he's not teaching one-on-one lessons in his studio in Memphis, he uses the internet to share some of his best vocal advice with singers from all around the world.
Ken graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Vocal Performance, and continues to expand his knowledge by learning teaching methods one-on-one from some of the most effective voice teachers in the world.