High notes can be so inspiring and frustrating at the same time. Our favorite singers make them look so easy, but when we try them ourselves, they can be everything but that.
However, the voice you’re born with isn’t the voice you’re stuck with!
Here are Six Essential Steps that I teach every day to singers to help expand their range and make singing effortless.
I’ve also included reference lessons and exercises from our online vocal training programs for those of you who want to dig into these concepts deeper! For unlimited access to all of our vocal programs, join our VIP Membership today!
1. Fix Your Chest Voice
The chest voice is the neglected, ugly duckling of the vocal registers. “We can ALREADY sing these notes, so why work on them?”
Well, this may surprise you, but most singers have high note problems because they have low note problems.
Reference: Mastering Mix: Chest Voice: The Foundation of the Mix
2. Shift Your Resonance
If your resonance doesn’t shift, your voice will hit a “range ceiling”. Compare the three main resonances with this exercise: do a shouty “hey!” (mouth resonance), a nasally “hey!” (pharyngeal resonance), and a yawn-like, hooty “hey” (low larynx resonance).
As you go from low notes to higher notes, resonance should shift from your mouth towards a more nasal AND hooty placement.
Getting this right will help the voice glide higher and higher!
Reference: Mastering Mix: The Bridge System: Exercise 3
3. Work on Agility
Rigidity stifles vocal range. Doing exercises with agility can relax vocal rigidity. If you feel like using a faster speed makes your voice more tense, then you’re probably starting in the wrong range.
Make sure to try vocal agility exercises in a comfortable range first, and then start climbing into more challenging areas incrementally.
Reference: Singing Success 360: Style 1 and Style 2
4. Thin Out the Vocal Cords with Vocal Fry
An overly thick and heavy voice is limited in its range. As you ascend higher in pitch, your vocal cords should be getting thinner. The vocal bridges (or passaggi) are key places where thinning must occur.
If it doesn’t occur, your voice won’t be able to go higher.
Reference: Range Builder
5. Tame Your Open Vowels
Here’s yet another way your voice might get stuck on lower notes… Open vowels, like “ah” from father, are prime places where resonance will try to get stuck in the mouth.
This point is a variation of #2, but it gets its own number because it is a monster all its own. If you don’t control your open vowels properly, the resonance won’t shift and the vocal cords will get too heavy to go any higher in pitch.
Reference: Mastering Mix: Vowels Only Exercises: Losing the Crutches, Exercises 6 and 7
6. Use Wide Range Scales
Often the voice can get to higher notes if it starts from lower notes (and I mean WAY lower). So ditch the old school “do, re, mi, fa, so” 5-tone scales, and start using 1½ octave, 2 octave, or even 3-octave scales.
Some of you might be thinking, “But… I don’t have three or even two octaves of range. So how can I sing these scales?” Very simply… just start with the basement vocal register: vocal fry.
Many times I’ll have singers start an octave below their lowest chest voice note and have them use a loose gravely vocal fry for the first half of a two-octave scale.
This helps singers get a running start to higher notes from a low and relaxed place. think of it like an ascending vocal momentum!
Reference: Range Builder
Want to dive deeper into these six essential steps and, increase your range, and totally transform your voice?
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