How to Sing High Notes More Easily

February 9, 2020

If you’ve ever tried to improve your range and sing high notes more easily, you know there’s a lot of approaches and advice out there. Some of the info is helpful, some not so much. There are two keys to making high notes more manageable that you may not know about.

Like most voice coaching I ever got, the advice is usually a command without instructions. “Picture coming down to the high note from above” is one of my favorites. Well, if I could sing above the high note I’m aiming for, I wouldn’t have a problem with high notes…!

Another approach is “sing into the mask,” or “place the sound at the front of your head, “ or “make your larynx (where your Adam’s apple is) rise up to help reach the high notes.” While this may help some singers it’s actually the opposite of what can really help you with high notes.

The first key to singing high notes more easily is to know that everyone can sing high notes–not just sopranos and tenors.

That’s right–people with low voices and smaller ranges have high notes, too. High notes are relative to your range, not anyone else’s. You may not be able to sing notes as high as someone else, and that’s okay. To be able to sing the highest notes more easily in your range is what we’re talking about here. 

The second key to singing high notes more easily is controlling the tone of your voice before you sing the note.

Imagine you have a pair of knobs on either side of your neck. The right one is the treble knob (turn it up and get tone like Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, Gwen Sefanie – and in the extreme like Fran Drescher, Pee Wee Herman, Lucile Ball and Jerry Lewis). This bright vowel color is often thought of as “nasally” but is an important part of sounding authentic in country, folk, bluegrass and pop songs. To make your tone brighter close your throat more, moving the sound forward.

The left one is your bass knob. Turn this up and get tone like Eddie Vedder, Johnny Cash, Cher, Pink, Lana Del Rey and James Earl Jones (“Luke–I’m your father!”) As your voice gets higher and louder, the treble knob automatically turns up. This tend s to strain your voice and make it more difficult to hold the notes together.

By opening the back of your throat, like during the beginning of a yawn turn up the bass knob, and make a darker vowel color. This is easier on your throat and can immediately add notes to the top of your range.

To practice this, sing a scale from low to high (or you can use a line from a song that goes up pretty high and back down) and record yourself on your Smartphone. Focus on opening the throat more as you go higher in pitch so that the vowel color (tone) doesn’t change. It will probably sound weird to you at first, because you may have never sung a dark vowel color (unless you’ve sung opera, classical or some choral song.) 

In the short term, don’t worry about sounding “good.” Keep your focus on not letting the notes get brighter as they get higher or louder. Very quickly you’ll find yourself able to adjust the vowel color so that high notes stay the same color as notes in the middle of your range. Don’t be afraid to exaggerate the dark vowel color so your body learns how to adjust.

Then you can start turning down the dark vowel color knob, turning up the bright vowel color knob (experiment with how much) until the tone sounds good to you and your high notes are easier to sing. Always record to check your progress.

To recap, here’s how to sing high notes more easily:

  • Become aware you have high notes
  • Use your (imaginary) treble and bass vowel color knobs to practice making brighter and darker vowel color
  • Make your vowel color darker as notes go higher or louder–this makes make less work for your throat
  • Exaggerate the dark vowel color at first–then adjust later to more of a performance sound

Mark Bosnian

Mark is an award-winning songwriter and professional voice coach with 30+ years of experience teaching people how to take center stage. He has toured nationally with the 80's hit band Nu Shooz and coached Grammy award nominees, American Idol semifinalists, and singers on The Tonight Show.