Breathe. Count. Sing. Look at the conductor. Smile. Now, here come the high notes!
Even the best multi-taskers among us often feel the challenge of remembering several different things when singing — and it’s even more stressful when reaching and sustaining high notes.
The good news is, singing high, sustained notes needn’t be intimidating and can become much simpler with a few shifts in your mindset and technique. Here are 7 tips that might help reduce hoarseness and squeakiness on high notes.
1. Although it feels natural to reach up to high notes and down to low notes, doing just the opposite can make singing easier. Visualise a high note below you and place yourself above it to reach it from the top. Psychologically, it also helps to sing down to a high note — point and laugh at it if that makes you feel better!
2. The higher you want to go, the deeper you need to dig your foundation. Make sure the air entering your lungs is heavy and sinks all the way to the bottom of your abdomen. Keep lots of spare air there as support to weigh yourself down as you sing higher. Check our Masako’s rubber band visualisation under Idea #2 for support: for every step higher, there should be a step downwards in terms of support.
3. Prop up your jaw — this forces you to create more space at the back of your mouth and raise your soft palette. If you feel like yawning, you’re doing it right!
4. Know how to use consonants to your advantage. Some consonants help you reach a note easier — rolling an ‘r’, for example, can give you a boost. Then, there are some instances where you’ll benefit from going straight into the vowel and spending just a split second on the consonant. Play with it and see what feels easier.
5. Keep your throat open and relaxed. It’s tempting to move the muscles in our throats when there’s a lot of text to get through, but if you keep your throat open, the placement of your voice will remain more consistent.
6. Lie down on the job. Singing while lying down forces you to relax the muscles in your throat, shoulders and chest. Lie on your back to sing, then get up slowly, trying to maintain that relaxed posture. Once you get used to that feeling, it’ll be easier to replicate it when you’re standing.
7. Smile! Smiling allows your voice to resonate beautifully in the spaces between the facial bones. And you’ll look radiant and gorgeous to the audience — it’s a winning situation for everyone!