Ep.26: How to Sing Higher-Problems, Solutions and Consequences
During the last 6 episodes I’ve covered problems singers face learning how to sing higher.
Inside this video I’ll summarize the major causes for these problems and the simple solutions for fixing these, so you can immediately begin to improve your singing.
Every singer I know wants to know how to sing higher and better than ever before. Here are the most common reasons for struggling when trying to sing higher.
How to Sing Higher – Problem #1
We go into swallowing mode. Two things happen immediately.
- The larynx begins to rise and
- The external neck muscles surrounding the vocal cords tighten.
The consequence is the vocal cords can’t function ideally because they’re being squeezed by the external muscles.
This sounds like the voice is reaching, straining and tight. The singer looks like they are struggling, often the chin and neck are stretching upward.
This is characteristic of the singer who is a Pulled Chest/High Larynx vocal type.
Keep the vowel pure. This means that as you sing high, don’t let the vowel change and open wider. To prevent this from happening you can slightly narrow the vowel so that it keeps it’s shape as you sing higher.
For example if you are singing the word “love”, the vowel often wants to spread wider to “lav”. If you think of the word “look” as you sing “love” (and add a hint of “oo” in the word “love”) it helps keep the vowel pure and “love” sounds like “love”. [Demo]
Why does this work? The wider vowel raises the larynx…putting you into swallowing mode. The narrow vowel keeps the larynx resting at the level where you speak.
Try this: Put your hand on your Adam’s Apple and say “ae” (as in “cat”) did you feel the larynx move upwards?
Now say “uh” (as in “mud”). Did you feel the larynx move? Probably not much. Maybe it moved slightly downward.
Open (wide) vowels tend to raise the larynx, closed (narrow) vowels tend to lower the larynx.
If you don’t go into swallowing mode you eliminate the squeezing effect of the external neck muscles. This allows the vocal cords to work with ease and comfort.
How to Sing Higher – Problem #2
We often sing louder as we approach the high notes.
The consequence is we blast more air and the vocal cords tighten and thicken as they resist the added air pressure coming from the lungs. This is the opposite of what the vocal cords need to do as we sing higher.
This causes squeezing from the external muscles often resulting in the pitch being flat or sharp.
Don’t push so much air. You need less air as you sing higher, not more. By decreasing the volume you can reduce the amount of air you are pushing against the vocal cords.
Why does this work? The vocal cords thin, tense and stretch as the pitch ascends. There’s less mass in the cords and it takes less air to make them work optimally. The cord’s will get enough air to vibrate easily and the external muscles don’t interfere. This frees up the vocal cords to adjust as the pitch goes up and helps the transition into head voice.
How to Sing Higher – Problem #3
Resonance shifting upward causes us to tense up. We feel the vibration moving upward from the lower regions of our chest toward our heads and we panic. We tense up. We fight it.
The consequence is we do both of the above problems already mentioned. We go into swallowing mode, and sing louder, spread our vowels and push harder to reach the note.
It sounds strident, strained, pitchy and labored.
Allow the resonance to shift from chest to head without trying to help it. Resist the urge to assist the pitch.
How do you do this? A fast way is to practice allowing the resonance to shift into your head using vocal exercises that make it easier.
The Lip Trill or Tongue Trill are 2 great exercises to do this. Also you can use the word “goo” as long as you keep the vowel pure. Let me show you on a 5-Tone scale. [Demo]
Just the Lip Trill begins to allow you to relax so you can feel and sense that resonance shifting from chest up into head. The similar exercise would be the tongue trill and the “goo”. [Demo]
Notice I didn’t let the vowel change to “gou”. [Demo] You can hear it lose the “oo” sound.
When you can do this without cracking, then substitute these in place of the words in the song. When you can do that with a lip trill or the tongue trill, or the “goo” without tensing and panicking, then put the words back into the song. Do this until you eliminate any tension that used to be there.
Put very simply, the ultimate consequence of singing with a pulled chest voice and a high larynx is damage to the vocal cords. Hoarseness, vocal nodules, vocal cord hemorrhaging, surgery all resulting a shortened singing career.
At best, when you begin to get just a little older, you’ll lose your ability to sing to your satisfaction.
On the other hand, do it right and you’ll have a long career with a healthy voice even into your senior years.
I’ve faced all these problems. I haven’t had surgery, but I certainly have fought the pulled chest-high Larynx because that’s what I tend to do when I sing. There was a time when I could not sing into my head voice.
Following these solutions have made all the difference for me and it will for you too. If I can do it, so can you!
Do you know your vocal type? I’m not referring to whether you are a bass, tenor, alto or soprano. Your vocal type is what you tend to do when you sing.
Visit my website, PowerToSing.com and take the vocal test, which I call the PowerTest. Take the quiz and immediately learn your vocal type. Then go to the Knowledge Center, watch the videos and download the free exercises for your vocal type. These exercises are designed to help you begin to improve immediately.
In coming episodes I’ll discuss more challenges singers face including flipping or breaking into falsetto, breathiness, lack of power in the voice and many others as well as the solutions to all of these.
You can sing higher with beauty, confidence and power.
I’ll see you inside the next video.