Honesty alert: When I was young I HATED my head voice… (what does ‘head voice’ even mean? Stay tuned, we’ll tackle that in an upcoming Songbird Tips). Back to the story 😛 – I just hated my upper range. I felt comfortable in my lower notes – they were warm, rich and colorful, I had strength and control. It was ME. That upper register was just foreign.
And I know I’m not alone. So many of my singers struggle with accessing and feeling confident and expressive in those top notes! Why are they so tough to reach? The higher you sing, the faster your vocal folds need to vibrate AND the longer they stretch. So in order to easily reach that stretch and speed, here’s what you need!
My 3 no-fail steps to LOVING your high notes:
Step 1: SIREN.
Be a three year old for a minute. Make a fire truck siren sound and see how your voice soars! Don’t judge the sound – as our Songbird vocal coach Christina says, this is all about becoming a SOUND MAKER! Play around with sirens and woo’s, keep them high in your range and avoid that chesty yelly feeling. This helps to engage the CT (crico-thyroid) muscle, which tilts the larynx, stretches the vocal folds and helps them move faster which they need to do to reach those upper notes. Keep playing around and sound making – the more you move around up here, the stronger these muscles will get!
Step 2: STRAW.
You don’t know about the straw yet? GURL (BOY!) – stay tuned and we’ll tell you all about it. In the meantime though, here’s a super simple explanation: singing through a straw creates back-pressure and sends energy to the vocal folds, encouraging a more optimal vocal fold closure pattern and release of extrinsic tension. So you can use an old plastic straw or a specially designed reusable Singing Straw. Either way, here’s what you do – start with a larger diameter (or 2-3 coffee stirring straws) and swing from the bottom to the top of your vocal range. Work from 3 straws, down to one – and try to stay relaxed. You will feel resistance (that is the magic / inertive reactance) – don’t fight it. Take a few sirens on the straw (or straws) and then move to an open vowel (we suggest an ooh or an ee) and see how it goes!
Step 3: BEND – and snap!
Ok maybe no snap, but try a bend. As you sing a scale that ascends, bend forward (at the waist, keeping your neck neutral) and get to a flat back parallel with the floor on your highest note. So as you are singing a line that goes up, your upper body moves down. That counter direction helps encourage a release of the muscles that are used more in speech and your lower range and help to allow more strength and engagement in the muscles that help you access the speed in vibration you need for high notes!
Practice is everything – so get to steppin’ (but you don’t have to spend your whole life, check out our post on frequency > length)! Let us know how these high notes steps work for you!
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