I often have singers come to me complaining that they don’t have a large vocal range and that most songs are too high for them. I know this may seem surprising, but most songs are probably within your range, once you learn how to use your range effectively. Of course, if you have the time and budget, it’s always the safest bet to hire a qualified voice teacher, but if that isn’t an option for you (or even if you just want to get a jump start on vocal technique before you start singing lessons), these techniques should help teach you how to sing high notes.
1. Find Your Head Voice:
While I’m a big advocate of healthy belting, to reach the top of your range and really hit the high notes, you’ll need to learn how to sing in your head voice. To find your head voice, try squealing “Wheeeeeee!” like a little kid being pushed higher and higher on a swing. You could also call out, “Woooo-hoo!” with a high voice or imitate the siren you hear on a fire truck. If you want to try a whole sentence in your head voice, try imitating how Minnie Mouse might say it. Feel how the vibrations seem like they’re coming from somewhere in your head rather than down in your chest?
2. Explore the Top of Your Squealing Range:
Don’t even worry about singing yet. Go back to imitating a siren, your “wheeee,” or whatever worked best for you. Try to squeal as high as you can possibly go. It’s okay if it sounds shrill, but it shouldn’t feel as if you’re pushing from your throat. Play around with this, preferably when no one is watching or listening, so that you can unselfconsciously squeal as loudly and as high as you can.
3. Learn How To Sing Those High Notes!
Here’s the great news. If you can squeal up to those notes, you can learn to sing those notes too. It may not happen over night, and it may take a while before you can tweak them to sound the way you want them to, but those notes are there! Start with a descending arpeggio. If the “wheeeee” exercise was easy for you, you could start by singing “wheeeee” in the arpeggio: C5-G4-E4-C4; C#5-G#4-E#4-C#4, etc. Just because you’re singing now doesn’t mean that you should start doing anything different anatomically. Don’t start reaching for the notes—just descend in a relaxed way the same way you did when you weren’t singing. Sing the exercise higher and higher, and if you feel your throat muscles kicking in too much, go back to just squealing “wheeee” without thinking about pitch.
4. Learn To Connect Your Registers:
Once you know you’re able to sing high notes, the next step is bridging your registers so that your voice sounds connected from bottom to top. This is beyond the scope of what we’ll cover in this entry, but you can learn about middle voice here.
When you sing, different parts of your voice require different muscle use. The larynx houses many muscles responsible for vocal processes, including the thyroarytenoid (TA) (see figure 1.1) and the cricothyroid (CT) (see figure 1.2). Chest voice and mixed belting require a lot of TA use, while head voice is largely CT. When your vocal registers don’t blend together well, it’s because the TA muscle is being used more and more as you go higher and higher, until it can’t take the strain anymore and breaks off suddenly. When your registers are blended, on the other hand, it’s because the TA muscle is gradually releasing until it’s hardly used for head voice. Using too much TA will prevent you from hitting the highest notes in your range.