As an educator, one of the most common statements I hear is, “I can’t sing.” When I ask them why not, most people say “I just can’t hit the high notes.” While everyone has a natural range (i.e. soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, countertenor, tenor, baritone, or bass), your voice is a muscle that can be trained, like muscles in a gym. With practice, it is totally possible to expand your range. Here are some tips to help you hit those high notes at the top of yours.
When you’re trying something new, it’s easy to get nervous. However, singing is much easier when you are relaxed.
- Take slow, even breaths.
- Relax your face by massaging your cheekbones and letting your jaw drop and hang.
- Doing some shoulder rolls and stretches to loosen up your upper body.
- If your vocal chords are tightening up, try drinking a glass of warm water with honey. Avoid cold water, caffeine and milk.
- Warm Up
Just like at the gym, you can’t just jump right into the heavy lifting. Before you sing, spend 5 to 10 minutes doing warmup exercises like these:
- Trills – Purse your lips and put your pointer fingers at the corners of your mouth. Then make a “brrrr” or “prrrr” sound by releasing your air in a steady stream so they vibrate. Do just one note at first. Then go up and down your scales.
- Slides – Pick a vowel sound like “eeee” or “oooo” and slowly slide to the top and then bottom of your range. This should sound like a slide whistle instrument.
- Focus on technique
When you’re warmed up and ready to work on the song, work primarily on technique. It’s not always going to sound perfect, but that’s why it’s called practice!
- Breathing – Breathe from your diaphragm. Think about the breath you take when you are shocked by something frightening. Put your hand on your belly. You’ll know you are doing it right if it pops out quickly when you breathe in.
- Mouth position – Sing the word “yawn” for the high notes you are shooting for. This will put your mouth in the perfect position and will help to train you on what that mouth position feels like.
- Sing out – Even if you’re not confident in the note you’re about to try, sing loud. Higher notes require more air, so trying to sing your high note quietly just isn’t going to work. Sing loud and proud!
- Do some range exercises
Here are some exercises you can use to help identify problems and expand your range. Don’t forget your technique!
- Pick a vowel sound like “oooo” or “eeee”. Start in the the middle of your range, and sing your scales up to the top of your register. Open up the sound by adding an “h” sound in the higher notes so it sounds like “oh” and “uh”
- You’ll notice that you will be able to sing higher with certain vowel sounds over others. For example, you might be able to sing “feet” higher than you can “fit”. If that’s the case, begin by singing “feet” first and gradually modify the sound to “fit” later in the drill.
- Add a consonant to your vowel exercises. Put a hard “m” or “g” at the beginning of your vowel sounds. This will help you keep your vocal cords vibrating steadily.
- Warm down
Remember, your voice is a muscle. Just like working out at the gym, it’s important to warm down. This will help protect your voice and sing longer and higher as you develop. Repeat the exercises mentioned above, but with a focus on tone and relaxing your vocal chords.