Even if you are naturally blessed with a golden soprano voice, hitting that zenith isn’t always easy. Especially as those transcendental notes are generally reserved for a pivotal ‘show-off’ moment in a song and require a build-up.
We are actually more prone to vocal breaks when we attempt a higher note. But there are plenty of things you can do to improve your approach and reinforce the parts of your body/instrument that you need for the job.
Being able to sing high notes takes vocal strength no matter how gifted you are, to begin with. So daily practice, dedication, and determination are critical.
The title of this article, ‘how to sing high notes,’ is pretty simple for such a broad subject. For starters, high notes may not be incredibly high in pitch we aren’t necessarily referring to the out-of-this-world whistle notes that Mariah Carey is famous for surprising her listeners with.
High is relative, you may be a low-voiced singer singing a relatively low song that has some demanding lifts in certain places, and reaching them comfortably may still require a lot from you. So we are going to do our best to be thorough.
How to Hit High Notes?
The high notes in a song are guaranteed to get a round of applause but being able to sing high notes is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to singing.
If you can’t sing high notes then carefully pick songs for your repertoire that are comfortably in your range or transpose songs to make sure you aren’t over-straining your voice in the first place. That way the problem is avoided altogether.
Most of the time, you need to shorten your vocal cords as you sing higher to reach high notes without straining. Your breath is an important part of learning to sing high notes without straining your voice.
How to sing high notes without straining your voice requires a good bit of theory and understanding and plenty of practice.
It is important to understand the limits of your vocal range. Vocal range is loosely defined by the gap between the lowest and highest notes that you can produce.
However just because you can squeak it out, doesn’t mean that you should! Instead, you need to know where you can comfortably sing. Those which are comfortable are your vocal tessitura and sticking to your tessitura will guarantee you hit the high notes well.
There are loads of useful mobile apps you can use to help determine your range. Or you can sit at a piano and work it out if you are familiar with the notes on one.
Although a lucky few have an astounding vocal range, most of us fall comfortably somewhere within one of 6 classifications, 3 female and 3 male. With some of perhaps being able to cover most of even 2 of them.
Can you train your voice to sing higher notes?
Absolutely! The notes that you can produce but not comfortably can eventually become a part of your comfortable range if you work hard and practice daily, but it will take a long period to train your voice to sing higher notes or lower notes.
Useful vocal exercises for extending your range are sirens to the sound of ooh, and bratty vocal sounds. You can check out some vocal exercises here!
Male vocal classifications from lowest to highest:
● Bass: E2 (two Es below middle C) to E4 (the E above middle C)
● Baritone: G2 to F4 (F above middle C)
● Tenor: B2 to A4 (A above Middle C), sometimes higher
Female vocal classifications from lowest to highest:
● Contralto: F3 (F below middle C) to E5
● Mezzo-soprano: A3 to A5
● Soprano: C4 (middle C) to C6 and beyond
Some males can match female ranges by singing in falsetto, they are sometimes referred to as countertenors, likewise, some contraltos possess the ability to cover the male tenor range.
For choral singing, they are simplified into 4 groups; soprano and alto, for women, and tenor and bass for men.
On top of vocal range considerations, you have to think about your natural voice tone, or imitation tonality, how heavy or light your voice is also plays a part, and most importantly of all is where your passaggi is between your different vocal registers.
Passaggi is the plural for passaggio and is the correct word to describe where your voice transitions from chest to middle and from the middle to head register. Sometimes passaggio is referred to as ‘Lift’.
Everybody’s passaggio point is different and we all have some crossover notes we can choose to sing in an either-or fashion. This can be utilized for adding dynamics and character to a song.
You can think of your passaggi as a manual gearbox for a car, when you are struggling in a lower gear you have to take it up into the next gear and the same is true for your voice. A skilled singer can make the bridge between the gaps sound effortless and undetectable.
Your voice registers are named after the parts of your body that they resonate in.
Chest Voice or Chest Register
The chest register is your primo passaggio and it is where almost everyone has their power. It requires less effort because your diaphragm naturally works hard to support the register.
Middle Voice or Middle Register
Is an area between the two, some of these notes can be chested with practice and work.
Head Voice or Head Registers
Resonates within your skull itself and when singing in your head register is usually where the high notes take place. You have to be careful not to sing too nasally, projecting with your mouth and keeping your facial muscles relaxed.
Your tongue should be low at the back to help create a large chamber for the sound. We have the tendency to lift the tongue when we sing higher and close our throats as the larynx tightens but again this is the opposite of what we should ut into practice.
Falsetto & Whistle notes
Whistle notes (flageolet) are the female equivalent of male falsetto. Falsetto is understood to be a breath-taking version of high notes. Both are created by using just the back of the vocal folds.
You should never try to push yourself working in this phonotonal register if it is painful in any way do not continue to attempt it.
Tips on Singing High Notes
A lot of how to sing higher is down to the approach of the note. Believe it or not, it can sometimes be a mental hurdle that we put upon ourselves. There are one or two things you can do to address the mental aspects of approaching a high note.
Approach the note with a mental downwards stance
Because we are visual creatures we tend to visualize the lead up to the note as out of reach, if you can convince yourself you are scaling down to the note it can be easier to achieve.
This can be reinforced with hand motions and posture, often we subconsciously lift our heads higher and even tilt our necks back to sing a high note which is unnecessary. Singing a high note comes by a tighter vocal cord position and faster opening and closing of the muscles.
Craning your neck is actually the opposite of what you want to be doing whilst the muscles are working away so hard.
If you start singing the approach with your hand raised and bring it down in a forceful squashing motion when you go for the high note it can have a subliminal effect on you. Sounds silly but it works.
Some vowel sounds naturally push you to use your head register more than others. Words with eehs and oohs are easier to sing higher than and aah with an open mouth.
Sure your palette is lifted into a correct singing position but you can change the vowel sound ever so slightly (without changing the word) to help with the high note.
Take the Key Up
This may sound counter-intuitive, I mean if you are struggling with a note it seems crazy to lift it higher, right?
However, if you learn the song a semitone or whole tone higher and work on those high notes before bringing it down to its original key they will be far less of a stretch for you. Obviously don’t take it so high that it is out of your vocal range completely.
Chromatic warm-ups over the note in question
If you have to hit a G5 let’s say, then you can do a chromatic warm-up that takes you from comfortably below to just above the note in question.
Try this with the words one a pe-nny two a pe-nny
You can also take it up a semitone to make the note easier but don’t push yourself too much
Having hit a whole note higher will make your goal note seem lower comparatively.
How to Sing High Notes with Power?
To sing the note with power is down to your diaphragmatic support, it takes a lot of breathing exercises and muscle development. You can read our how to sing better article for some detailed advice.
Final Thoughts On Singing High Notes
Hopefully, some of our tips will give you the tools you need or at least a better idea of how to sing high notes. It is a good idea to seek an instructor to help you train your voice to sing and hit high notes and ensure it is done safely.
If you can’t afford a face-to-face lesson you might want to read our Online Singing Lesson reviews.
If you can’t hit high notes yet but want to sing higher, then it is a slow path but it can be achieved.