People are always asking, "How to sing high notes without strain." This article could actually be about developing anything, but let’s stick to range and high notes for now. What does it take to sing high notes? Do you have to be born with a high-pitched voice? How do you keep from straining? How do you make high notes sound great?
If you have not done the Sing With Freedom/The Singing Zone program, then it's time to watch our free video on developing your singing voice. In that video, that you get on this page, you will see me demonstrate the principles behind why and how we can dramatically develop our range.
Being able to sing high notes is one of the most desired skills for singers. Therefore, it’s not surprising that you have probably been exposed to numerous people and ideas on the Internet in regards to how to sing high notes.
Maybe you have been on Youtube and you’ve seen all these videos on “how to sing high notes”. You’ve seen the rock singer who can indeed sing high notes, and therefore thinks he can show you, but is not aware of his tongue curling up, the jaw tension, the neck shooting forward, the increased volume that must happen for him in order to do it. (After having watched the free video alone, you will understand why this habitual usage of compensatory muscles can work for someone else, but will likely never help you improve.)
We have others who share certain exercises they have heard of, even though they have never been able to sing high notes themselves. You have heard that you should engage "breath support", “open your mouth” and that you should do something to “lower your larynx?
And you hear all the time that you should sing scales and start in a comfortable range and then go higher little by little.
If you think about it, that would be equivalent to thinking that to be able to jump higher, the strategy would be to just try and jump higher every day. Athletes of course understand the foolishness in such a simple-minded approach.
So what about this thing about larynx position?
Many have been taught to sing scales on “guh guh guh” because, as they say, “guh lowers the larynx and that is what you need to do to sing high notes”.
Now, anyone who has even the most basic awareness of their body recognizes that just saying “guh”, does nothing to lower the larynx. The sound “g” engages the back of the tongue, and it is, in fact, quite hard to move the tongue that way without raising the larynx. And the Uuuuhhh is just a vowel that you can say in hundreds of different ways – with high larynx, low larynx, and with tension in all kinds of places.
Yes, you can of course say “guh” with a low larynx. But then it’s not the “guh” that lowers it. What lowers the larynx are the muscles that actually lower the larynx, but that you will likely never be able to isolate and become aware of however many guh, guh scales you sing. And the person who claims that “guh lowers the larynx” evidently isn’t aware of this either.
In truth, range actually has very little to do with larynx position. I can sing just as high with a low larynx as with a high larynx. However, the position of the larynx, as well as what I do with the pharynx, certainly has a lot to do with RESONANCE.
And here lies the big problem. You see, many who have trained for decades using traditional scales have never developed the awareness of the difference between, for example, range and resonance.
Many also don’t recognize the difference between range and dynamics, and think that adding volume (dynamics) is the way to sing high notes. Understandably it feels that way due to compensatory muscle action (which I demonstrate in the free video).
Those who have done the Sing With Freedom program have been engaged in developing a deep awareness of their body (and mind). They have developed an advanced ability to isolate muscles and can therefore develop very effectively in all kinds of ways.
And when it comes to terms such as "chest voice", "head voice", "mix voice", etc., you will recognize that these are terms of “registers” and not range. The reason this adds to the confusion is because the person who speaks of “registers” often doesn’t know if he/she is speaking of range, resonance or dynamics, and doesn’t know which muscle does what.
So the beauty is that when you really dive into how to sing high notes and become engaged in the process of developing greater awareness, you will be able to rapidly isolate muscles on a deeper level than ever before. And now you can truly develop in extraordinary ways. The additional beauty is that practicing now becomes exceptionally fun and effective.