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The Secret to Singing Like Mariah Carey: The Whistle Register

October 30, 2023

The Secret to Singing Like Mariah Carey: The Whistle Register

Wondering how singers like Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande hit all those high notes in the whistle register?

Both of these singers are known for their extensive vocal range, but did you know that anyone can learn to sing these famous and seemingly-elusive high notes? That’s right- anyone!

The whistle register is often misunderstood even by professionals, and many vocal coaches actually know very little about it. But don’t fret, in this article you will learn how to hit those Mariah Carey whistle notes.

First, let’s discuss what exactly the whistle register is, and the precautions you must take before attempting it.


Whistle Register 101

Sometimes confused with the “Super Head Voice,” notes sung in the whistle register occur when your vocal cords tighten up. Make a fist and point the side of the thumb toward you, then make a small hole by slightly releasing your grasp. The hole the vocal cords make is about this size.

The air that passes through the hole creates the whistle note. Because of this, it is very easy to damage your vocal cords if you do it incorrectly. When done right however, singing in this register does not hurt.

Belting in the whistle register requires little air, so you don’t have to take a deep breath before sustaining a note. This is why artists like Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande can hold a whistle note for up to 15 seconds!

how to sing whistle notes like Ariana Grande

Once you can control your whistle register, your other voices tend to strengthen. It takes a lot of control to produce whistle notes,  and mastering this control will improve your sound overall.

Note: The Whistle Register MUST be Done Right.

Unlike every other voice and register we have, the whistle register only has one correct technique. The whistle register is no joking matter and must be taken seriously. There’s always a chance that you could damage your vocal cords for an extended amount of time, or even permanently.

To be sure you’re practicing it correctly, follow the steps below and seek the help of a vocal coach who has experience in the whistle register.

How To Sing Whistle Notes

Now you’re ready to learn the proper techniques for how to reach the whistle register! Don’t be afraid to reach out to a qualified voice teacher if you need some extra help completing one of these steps.

    1. First, take a deep breath and stop mid-breath. In other words, “close” your throat in middle of the inhale.
    2. Keeping your throat “closed,” slowly try to push a bit of air through. You’re on the right track if you produce a whimpering or squeaking sound.
    3. Repeat the above exercise until you can produce a whistle note.
    4. Remember not to force air to go through, nor force yourself to try to produce the squeaky sound. If you feel any strain or soreness, stop practicing immediately and try again in a few hours or the next day.
    5. Once you’re able to produce a whistle note and hold it for about three seconds, you have officially discovered your whistle register!

As you practice hitting whistle notes, be sure to not confuse this register with your Super Head Voice. Take a look at the video below to see what we mean:

Mastering Whistle Notes

Now that you have discovered whistle notes, your next question might be: “How long until I can sing just like Mariah Carey?” The answer is that it can take up to years of dedicated practice.

Mastering the whistle register takes a long time because unlike every other voice, the whistle is more random. Some days you won’t be able to control the notes and some days you’ll be just like Mariah.

The reason why Mariah sometimes lip syncs her high notes is because the golden rule of whistle register is that it orders you; you do not order it.  Now go sing along to Mariah Carey and start hitting those high notes!

Emmanuel Noriega

Post Author: Emmanuel M. is our resident Whistle Register expert. He graduated from Cal State Fullerton and is an online singing and songwriting teacher.





Suzy S.