Looking for tips on how to sing higher? If you struggle with singing high notes, you’re not alone. It’s something that most singers need to practice often, especially when they’re just starting out.
To learn how to sing high notes, you need to truly understand your vocal instrument. Not using proper vocal technique can lead to permanent damage!
Working with a professional vocal coach is the best way to ensure a safe environment to explore and expand your range, but the following nine tips will also help prepare you to sing high notes.
How to Sing Higher in 9 Steps
1. Try a new vocal exercise
We all know the importance of warming up your voice, but have you heard of “semi-occluded straw phonations”? These unique exercises involve singing into a straw.
This trick is well-known within the voice rehabilitation community, but any singer who is learning how to sing higher can benefit from it. Here’s how to do this vocal exercise:
2. Warm up with a song
Continue your warm-up routine with a song that’s realistic for your voice (not too high and not too low). If there are particular sections of the song that are difficult for you, isolate those sections and work on them by themselves. This will help strengthen your voice prior to attempting to sing high notes.
To get you started, here are some ideas of songs to sing along to.
- For tenors: “There Are Giants in the Sky” – Stephen Sondheim
- For baritones: “That’s Life” – Frank Sinatra
- For sopranos: “Blank Space” – Taylor Swift
- For mezzo sopranos and altos: “Stars and the Moon” – Jason Robert Brown
3. Record yourself to eliminate strain
As you work with a voice coach, he or she will observe you as you go through warm-ups and exercises. This is to help you recognize when and where you’re straining your voice.
If you’re practicing how to sing higher alone however, there are some ways to monitor yourself. One option is to record your voice. Listen back to your high notes and ask yourself, do they sound strained?
If you have a mirror, you can also watch yourself as you sing. Or better yet, use a video camera! Watch for signs of strain, such as grimacing faces and a tense neck.
If you look or sound like you’re straining, take a break. Learning how to sing higher takes years of diligent practice. Resist the urge to rush!
4. Sing in the right vocal register
A big mistake many beginners make when learning how to sing high notes is singing in the wrong register. Your larynx can actually produce four distinct voices, and understanding them is very important. Here are audio examples of what these voices or “registers” sound like.
- Vocal Fry Voice
- Modal/Speaking Voice (AKA “Chest Voice”)
- Falsetto/Reinforced Falsetto Voice (AKA “Head Voice”)
- Whistle Voice
You shouldn’t belt in your modal voice if a song requires you to sing in your falsetto voice. Likewise, don’t sing in falsetto if the song requires you to belt. For more help understanding the different vocal registers, work with a vocal teacher online.
5. Practice singing vowels
A lot of singing exercises focus on vowels specifically, and practicing them can have a big impact on your ability to project your voice.
As you practice how to sing higher, you’ll notice that different vowel shapes have different effects on your voice. Here are some examples:
- Uh/Eh – Heavy, range-limiting sounds with a dark and powerful quality.
- Ooh – Medium, high-range sounds with a restrained, speech-like quality.
- Aa – Medium, high-range sounds with a piercing, brassy quality.
Figure out which vowel sound works best with the individual phrase in the song you’re working on. For reference, pop songs tend to use more “Ooh” sounds while musical theater uses more “Uh” and “Aa” sounds.
Using vowel sounds properly will make it easier for you to learn how to sing high notes.
6. Consider your larynx position
This is a more advanced topic but we’ll provide a brief introduction to it here. In short, your larynx naturally rises with certain vowels and as you increase in pitch.
For example, opera is a genre that encourages a lower-placed larynx. Contemporary musical theater is a style that generally encourages a higher larynx.
Trying to hold onto a low larynx while attempting a bright, belty high note is going to cause issues! Depending on the song you’re singing, you’ll want to work with a vocal teacher to place your larynx correctly and practice the right technique.
Here are some examples to listen to:
- Relatively low larynx – Dark, rich sound. (Think Yogi Bear).
- Relatively high larynx – Bright, speech-like sound. (Think of how a nerd would speak to remember this one)!
7. Use twang
Twang refers to the amount of the “er” sound that is present in your voice. The higher the note you’re singing, the more twang is necessary.
Trying to sing high notes without enough twang may result in straining your voice. But be careful: trying to sing high notes with too much twang might sound nasal.
Think of a Country Western cowboy for an idea of excessive twang. Listen to this example:
8. Check your intensity
How much intensity (or volume) is required for the note you’re trying to sing? Is it a big, HIGH-intensity modal belt? What about a high-intensity, falsetto high note? Make sure your volume matches appropriately to make your high notes sound flawless.
Before increasing intensity, double check that your register, vowels, twang, and larynx positions are also appropriate for the note you’re attempting.
9. Adjust your head position
On high-intensity high notes with a high larynx, lift your head! A very common belting technique is the head lift. You can see it in the greatest belting divas of our time, including Beyonce and Whitney Houston!
The head lift assists in raising the larynx, which is necessary for powerful belting. For operatic tenors however, a more neutral/low head position is ideal as it promotes a lower larynx in line with the classical sound. In summary:
- High head position – More belty, shouty sound
- Low head position – Sweeter, more neutral type of a sound
Now you know how to sing high notes!
Once all the above variables are in place, you will have mastered high notes. If you’re trying to hit a high note and you come across an obstacle, re-evaluate each of the above steps. Often times, your vowel is the root of your problems! Good luck singing high notes and remember, if you need some extra guidance, reach out to a vocal teacher near you.