It could be argued that there are far more important issues for a singer to conquer: rhythmic integrity, emotional communication, and a delicious understanding of when and how to use consonants, to name a few. But we singers love to fret about the high notes, so I am going to offer a few solutions about range, vocal quality and power that I hope will help.
High notes come in all shapes and sizes and any one of them can strike terror into the heart of a hapless singer. Our usual reaction to that terror? We do everything we possibly can to make the situation worse. We panic. We sing too loud. We grimace. We stiffen up like mummies.
Support and relax your jaw. When you stiffen and jam your jaw downward you are applying tremendous pressure to that area, which, in turn, constricts your throat and strangles your sound. Instead, use your lower body for support. Tuck your hips under your body and keep your knees loose, almost as if you were sitting on your tailbone. Then support your voice with lower-body strength. Use the same lower-body crouch you would use to lift a heavy chair. If that were the task, you would surely protect yourself by using the strong muscles of your legs and lower body.
Sound loves movement. Freely move some part of your body to help keep it loose. Don’t clench your fists and stiffen up. Wave your arms, move your head, do a Mariah Carey hand wave. She seems to sing whatever she draws in the air with her right hand. But, no, tapping your toe doesn’t count.
Keep a level head. Resist reaching up for the high notes. The note is not up there like a fly buzzing around. All you have to do is try this little experiment to see how reaching up with your chin strangles off the sound: Sing or hum a long note as you slowly dip your chin to your chest and then raise it upwards and let your head fall back. Go back and forth a few times. Do you see how tipping back chokes off the sound? Now, we’ve all seen great singers who seem to throw their heads back and let forth. But if you look carefully, most of them are arching back with their whole body. It’s not that the head is arching back independently; the head is part of the support curve.
Lighten up before you leap. Most high notes are written as high notes because they
are important words and the writer expects them to stand out. But as you go higher in your range, vocal tension increases. Lighten up the volume of the two or three lower notes before the high note. You’ll have less weight to carry and the high note will be easier to sing. Never ruin a potentially great high note by over-singing the 1-3 notes before it. Nobody is out there thinking, “Wow, I wonder if she’ll hit that middle note.” No, they’re all waiting to hear how well you sing the high note.
Nashville vocal coach Renee Grant-Williams reveals the trade secrets that have already helped hundreds of aspiring singers become celebrities: Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Dixie Chicks, Miley Cyrus, Huey Lewis, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Jason Aldean, Christina Aguilera...
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