A major concern of many beginning students is expanding their range. So many potential singers subscribe to the belief that they “just can’t sing high”. Many are shocked when in the first lesson with me, they are able to reach pitches as much as an octave or more (8 notes) above where they could sing before lessons. Sometimes the results are not as instantaneous, but the interventions to channeling your inner Mariah Carey are the same, and much more attainable than you might have previously thought.
Many of us get in our own way when singing. We strain and reach and “try” to reach high pitches. Consequently we find ourselves hoarse, yelling or fatigued. Understand that in order for you to reach higher pitches the muscles surrounding your vocal cords must be loose and released so that the cords can be free to move and stretch. Your vocal coach can assist you in finding exercises designed to loosen muscles in the tongue, jaw and neck.
Your breathe control must be on point in head voice! The cords vibrate at a faster rate and so spend more time open. As a result the air leaves your system more quickly. Faster vibrations require steady air flow, and the air flow must also not be released aggressively in order to maintain contact between the vocal cords so that we can still have a pitch. Lip trills are your friend here! If you are unsure how to do a lip trill, ask your vocal coach to help you with this fantastic exercise.
- Sing in a “breathier” way
The opposite of head voice is the chest voice. Chest voice is the voice we speak in. It is strong, solid sound that likes to live in the lower register. When we speak and sing in chest voice, our cords spend more time closed and are short and thick. This causes slower vibrations and stronger sound more suited to the lower register. In order to reach high pitches we must stretch our cords and take the pressure off them so they aren’t so “pressed” together. This is known as decompression. In order to do this we must allow the our voice to sing with more breathiness. This decompresses the sound and allows the cords to vibrate quickly enough to make high pitches.
- Direct the sound to the back of the head
It’s called head voice for a reason! During head voice singing, our larynx tilts sending the air flow backwards and inwards. Many students will try and fight this process, and end up pushing sound forcefully out. Instead you will want to sing into the back of the head to keep your voice relaxed and natural and to aid in the process of producing higher notes.
These four tips will get you started. Be sure to find a good vocal coach who can help you as well, particularly if you have severe tension in your voice. Head voice singing will allow you to reach higher pitches and sing with more agility, as well as improving your vocal health.