SINGING HIGH NOTES – It’s Easier Then You Think - Article


Singing high notes is the ultimate of ultimate for singers and the music lovers who love to hear then so much!  There really is no better feeling than to hit a sweet high tone cleanly and powerfully.

To really understand what takes place when singing high notes you first need to understand what pitch is.  Do not think of pitch as a note.  Pitch is a musical thought.  It is a mental image.  First, the singer gets a strong image of the note they wish to sing.  You then sing the desired pitch mentally being guided by how the voice feels.  You avoid the urge to listen to the music or to yourself.  Musical cues within a song are meant to guide you but singing is a feeling and needs to be felt or heard mentally before attempting to sing the note.

Okay, let’s try it out!  Think of the song Happy Birthday.  Now, sing it silently in your head.  Next, sing it out loud.  The pitches you heard when you sang it silently in your head were probably the same pitch you sang when you sang it out loud.  Hmmm interesting!

Singers believe a pitch is something to be reached or hit.  While “reach” and “hit” is terminology used to direct a singer to sing a specific note, it is not what we actually do to produce the higher tone.  The higher you sing within your range, the more difficult you perceive it to be.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

When we think of high notes as “up” we instinctively try to reach “up” to them.  We tell ourselves that they are above the notes in our lower register.  This will cause us to push or strain up to the note developing poor vocal habits that will cause the voice to cut off the air supply and tone, making it impossible to sing the note.  High is the term used to explain notes that go higher up on the musical staff.  When singing them, however, they in fact do not move up but rather are positioned and sung in the same resonating area as all the other notes within your range.  The vocal cords, or larynx as it is also referred to, stays relaxed and in the natural position, without any effort from us, when the proper muscles and vocal co-ordination are used.  The vocal cords stretch and thin as you sing higher notes but they in no way need any special co-ordination or breath to accommodate this.  In fact, if we do attempt to sing high notes differently than lower ones the voice will develop a crack causing you to flip between your low notes and your high notes.  It may quiver or pick up a harsh sound quality.  Your larynx, often referred to as the Adam’s apple in guys, may rise up in the throat so much a lot of throat and jaw stiffness may be felt.  You need to give up the urge to control the sound.  When we realize that the larynx is to stay in the same relaxed position throughout your entire range, top to bottom, we can eliminate the fear associated with singing in certain areas of our range.

Is this causing an issue for your voice?  Is your voice feeling too airy or weak?  If you have been reaching up to notes or pushing excessive air through the vocal cords, you likely have over-developed muscles in the throat that are not meant for singing.  The muscles on the side of your neck, as an example, are used for chewing and swallowing.  As they are dominant muscles, the lack of proper tone co-ordination and control over airflow will result in these muscles taking over keeping you from singing in the upper area of your high register, or range.  Any time muscles that are not meant for singing get involved in the process, the larynx will rise immediately cutting off the air supply, tone, and will keep you from reaching the correct pitch.

It seems like the higher the note is, the more head games a singer is likely to play on themselves.  Spending time understanding what actually does happen when singing high notes and how that relates to your voice is enough to get you to do what is necessary to begin opening your high range.  Nothing is more rewarding than hearing from students singing songs they never thought they could.  Hearing their growth and watching them ‘go for it’ is awesome!

So stop worrying about what notes you are singing.  Continue to nurture your gift and you will be amazed how much more you discover about your voice and singing.  Experiment, get creative with the music and above all have fun!

To start working on your high notes call me at 416-436-8063 to get started.  I think you will be glad you did!

Donna Flynn
Voice and Performance Coach – The Forefront of Voice Training, Author, Singer, Speaker

Call 416-436-8063 today!

Voice and Performance Coach

​Singing and Speaking Voice