Singing High Notes without Straining – Part 1

In Health, Practise, Technique by bhsl

Straining on high notes is the number one issue I get with new singers that come through my door. Everybody wants to be able to sing high notes, especially, with power. Before we go into the tips and hints I would like to discuss the wording that we use and the 2 words I would like you to eliminate for your vocal vocabulary…

‘High’ and ‘Power’

These words have a negative effect on singers and psychologically can destroy development of the voice.

High – When you sing ‘high’ the vocal cords don’t get higher and they certainly don’t have to reach up to anything. Let’s replace thought of singing high with the thought of expanding the range and developing the vocal environment.

Power – Again, psychologically the word ‘power’ instantly triggers the thought of something that is effortful and loud. This just is not the case when looking for depth in the upper part of the vocal range. If you start bulking up the muscles within the vocal mechanism you are going to have to work insanely hard and will tire easily.

Try this…

Sing into a pillow nice and loud and try to be heard. Now, sing through a cardboard tube (toilet roll middle?) doing the same thing. Which one was louder and which one was less effort? Hopefully, you have said the toilet roll tube. This same effect is similar to what happens in the throat when more muscles are recruited than what needs to be; singing is more effortful when more is involved.

Simply put, to be able to sing within the upper register you first need to learn how to sing with fewer muscles. Think of it this way, if you had a bicycle that broke it would be fairly easy to discover the problem and fix. Why? There aren’t many parts to a bike! On the contrary, if you had a Ferrari and it broke down it would be impossible to hazard a guess of what has broken. Why? There are so many parts involved! Which one of these do you think would break down more over time? Probably, the Ferrari as there is more to go wrong.

How does this relate to the voice?

The more muscles you use the more there is to: go wrong, injure and it is not sustainable for long-term vocalising. The fewer muscles you use the more: effortless, free, open, louder and powerful your voice can be as well as keeping up the same standard of vocalising long term.


In part 2 we will be looking at common problems that cause the voice to strain.