Do you want to access spine-tingling upper notes? To sing in the top of your range, you need to stretch and thin out your vocal cords.
How can you train your voice to sing higher notes? This can be achieved with 14 techniques and exercises that relax and ease your vocals, so you can reach new heights. It’s also a matter of setting a goal and maintaining frequent and committed practice.
If you’re not naturally blessed with Ariana Grande’s soaring soprano vocals, or you feel you have more potential to explore, read our tips on how to improve.
How can I train my voice to sing higher notes?
Training is the route to safe and sustainable high notes. While there are some tricks to instantly add greater ease to your top range, any meaningful change will take time and work. And you’ll need to maintain these notes once you’ve accessed them. Use them or lose them.
Singing is much like a sport in that you have to get – and stay – in shape. That means ensuring the muscles involved are in tip-top condition at all times, and that you take sufficient rest if you’re injured. No athlete would attempt an Olympic feat without training. So if you need to be top of your game – and top of your range – as a vocalist, it’s time to get to work.
Some of the more advanced techniques commonly used by your favourite artists require careful training. This can be carried out either with a vocal coach or by following the guidance in this article and videos. Achieving a higher register is perfectly possible, but it must be done with due caution.
How can I train my voice to sing higher?
Why should you bother learning to sing high notes and will it really benefit you as a singer? A greater upper range is a definite plus point and here are some of the reasons why:
- It’ll make you more versatile as a singer, you’ll be able to sing more songs.
- The pop and rock music industry often leans toward singers with the ability to sing high (be it natural or trained). It may make you more popular with A&R and bookers.
- The techniques involved will also help to keep your voice protected at all levels and add power and dynamism to your vocals.
- It feels amazing! There’s a physical buzz that comes from the resonance of very high pitches through your body.
- You’ll get a sense of satisfaction from achieving your goals.
Let’s begin with the first of our 14 tips on increasing your upper range.
#1 Identify and note your current range. This is the first step and will serve as a marker for progress. If you haven’t checked it for a while, do so again. It may have changed since the last time. You can find out how to test and identify your range in this article.
#2 Set your goals. Now you know your range, how far above it do you wish to go – and how far is reasonable? Half an octave is hefty but achievable for mid and higher ranged ambitious singers. This should be worked over a period of time, and gradually. While those with a bass or alto voice may want to look at 3 to 5 more notes. But you don’t have to set the bar this high if you don’t want to. One note at a time is a good and safer way to proceed.
#3 Always warm up. It should go without saying but never skip your warm-ups. If you’re not sure what to include in these, check out this article on how to warm-up.
How to train your voice to sing higher
An amazing tenor or soprano sound can be electrifying. But straining for notes you can’t quite reach can be a strain on the eardrums too. It’s important to develop an objective ear for your own singing.
Many singers think they can sing high notes, but it’s not just about reaching them, it’s about producing a pleasing sound when you get there. If you can’t do this, don’t count these notes within your range. Instead, train towards them.
#4 Rest when required. If you have gone too far and strained your voice, a key part of being able to get back on the wagon with training is to stop. Forcing the voice when it’s strained and struggling will mean it takes longer to heal and get back on track. And if you do permanent damage, in the very worst case if it’s continued, you may rule out ever being able to sing those high notes you had in mind.
#5 Sing scales, sirens and arpeggios. We know this isn’t exactly the most dynamic activity, but it’s a necessary foundation. These move and scratch your vocals in a gentler way than songs, easing and oiling the voice up the octaves. Songs, on the other hand, contain intervals (jumps) that are much more erratic and shocking for the vocals. This is fine if you’re already warmed up, but risky if you’re not.
Your scales and arpeggios should go as far as your natural register will take you, initially. Once you’re getting a great sound, add in one higher note. At first, this note might not sound great but repeat it a few times.
Then once that note starts to shape up, you can add in another and so on. Using sirens and arpeggios up to the same pitch, enable the voice to approach the note in different ways – albeit equally gently.
How to sing high notes for guys without straining
There’s a key technique used mainly by guys, although occasionally by women, to access top notes that can’t be reached using what’s known as your modal register. There are three alternative voice techniques that can be used to access an extra register. These are:
- Vocal fry (used for lower notes)
#6 Use falsetto register. This could give you access to a whole other octave. You’ll need to think of placing your voice at the font of your face when you sing and you must lose any tension. Take several big overdramatic yawns, give your face and throat a little massage and blow through your lips like a horse. This will get everything limbered up ready to go. The falsetto sound is breathy and flute-like.
#7 Don’t try increasing range while your voice is breaking. This is a caveat that applies to guys. If you’re going through puberty you may experience voice breaking or cracking and it will drop considerably. This isn’t the time for intense vocal training or trying to increase your range.
Let nature take its course – keep singing and doing all your other exercises, but don’t strive for falsetto just yet. The same applies to when you’re unwell -and not just with a respiratory illness. If you have very low blood pressure or have a fever, attempting these techniques may cause you to feel dizzy or light-headed.
How to sing high notes – female vocalists
How do female artists like Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande sing such astonishingly high notes? As with falsetto, another octave may be lying in your reach, if you can perfect the next technique.
#8 Use whistle register. This is the highest register of the female voice and has a shrill timbre, with a whistle or flute sound. Women of all voice types can use the whistle register, but as with falsetto, it must be done properly.
The technique is unlike most others we use in singing, as it involves constricting the throat rather than opening it. You’re looking to let the tiniest bit of air out – like a squeak – and you don’t have to aim for a ‘big’ sound.
How to sing high notes in chest voice and head voice
#9 Access your head voice. ‘Head voice’ was the term coined by classical singers to describe the vibrations that come when singing high notes. But how can you tell if you’re in your head voice? Sing a scale and place your hand on the back of your neck and head. Can you feel a buzz?
If not, try thinking into your head when you sing. Now repeat, but think down into your chest and sing at the bottom end of your register. You should fee a buzz in your chest. This is your chest voice.
How to hit high notes when singing without cracking
If you voice breaks and cracks when singing, it’s a bad sign. You may have an underlying cold or laryngitis. Or you’ve pushed too far in your range, with too little support. The first thing to do it to take a drink of room temperature or warm water.
Lubrication is your first priority. Next, once you’ve had a little rest, you can work on an exercise to get those high notes coming from the right place.
#10 Thin your vocal cords. This will begin to happen automatically when you reach for higher notes, but to give you an understanding of what this should feel like, try this very simple exercise.
- Whimper softly like a dog or small child. You’ll feel your soft palate and possibly even your eyes and cheeks raise. This sound will already be quite high.
- Keeping this tone, form an ‘Ng’ sound and develop it into a note.
- Now try a scale with this mouth mould and vocal placement.
Return to this exercise frequently when beginning your training and whenever you begin to feel a crack in the voice. It’s the antidote! If you’re a guitarist you’ll know that you use thinner strings for the higher notes and thicker ones for lower. Your voice follows the same rule.
How to sing high notes softly
Strangely it’s a lot easier to belt out a high note at full volume than to sing one softly. It’s all about having great control over the voice. Make sure the note you’re attempting to sing softly is well within your reach. If it’s not, train toward it with all the techniques we’ve listed.
#11 Practice controlling the release of sound. This is an addendum to your standard scales and arpeggios and is good to practice often. Instead of singing on an open vowel such as ‘ah’, use ‘shhh’. This encourages the kind of slow, sustained release that you’ll need when trying to sing high and soft Begin these exercises on mid-range notes, then gradually build upward.
This is also a very safe exercise, perfect for those beginners concerned who may be concerned about damaging the vocal cords. Some singers also use the trick of vowel substitution – ‘ee’ is a tough one, so is often changed to ‘ah’. See if you can train yourself to reach the note with the correct vowel first, but you can have substitution up your sleeve if it’s required.
How to sing high notes with power
#12 Get a core of steel. We often talk about the importance of the diaphragm and breathing for good singing. It provides quality of tone, protects the larynx, vocal folds and throat. But it’s also what powers your upper register, much more so than the lower register. The breath should come from deep down in the diaphragm.
Think of it as a bellows. And the muscles that power that bellows are found in the core. So as weird as it may sound, you’ll need to work on your core strength. How do you do this? With planks, breathing exercises and practising an activity like Pilates or CrossFit. Not only will this help you reach higher notes, but you’ll also look and feel better for it too.
How to sing high notes with strength
To sing with some strength you need to stand with strength. It’ll change your mental attitude affect your physical performance.
#13 Anchor the body. Plant your feet into the floor hip-width apart, keep your shoulders back and neck/spine tall.
Discover more ways to sing with power and strength in this article.
How to sing high notes without yelling
Some genres of music feature a more ‘shouty’ style of singing – rock, punk rock and metal in particular. But if these aren’t your areas musically, yelling isn’t good. And if you do use this technique as part of your vocal style, you must take care not to damage the voice. An alternative way to produce an emphatic, powerful sound that imitates a kind of yell (but is easy o the ear) is belting.
#14 Get a balance of chest and head voice. This is the belt technique and to achieve it you need to access the power of the chest voice that we spoke about earlier, but bring in the vibration of the head voice at the same time. Practise scales on an ‘Eh’ or ‘Nae’, and emulate the sound of a precocious child.
This technique is commonly used for power ballads and musical theatre, so if you sing in either of these categories, this is for you. But otherwise, not everyone needs to learn how to belt. Many pop and indie artists adopt a softer, gentler tone now, But if you do want to sing loud and proud, give it a go.
If you want to see results as quickly as possible, do breathing exercises and core work every day. This should be the activity you do the most. Next should be some warm-ups and scales/sirens/arpeggios every day or a few times a week (always before you sing any songs). Falsetto and whistle can be riskier so practice these slightly less often and not for too long – once or twice a week.
If you get a sore throat from this, leave it for a week and recheck the way you’re doing it. And of course, if you find it difficult to self motivate, you can always work with a vocal coach. This is often the very best way to train your voice to sing higher notes.
- How do you relax your throat to sing high notes?
Learning how it feels to be relaxed is useful for a singer. That way you can recognise the difference between a tense and relaxed muscle state. Yawning, swallowing, emphatic sighs and throat massage will help to ease the tension in this area.
- How can I sing high notes without damaging my voice?
If you feel any pain or strain when singing, this is a sign to stop. Similarly, don’t push for higher notes when you have a cold or are sick – this is when your voice is vulnerable to damage. Learn gentle techniques to gradually ease your voice upward. And drink plenty of water.
- Why can’t I sing high notes anymore?
There could be a number of reasons for this. It could be a lack of practice – you need to keep your vocals in shape. It could be because of respiratory illness. The ageing process can also alter your range, as can the hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy.
Have you trained your voice to sing higher notes? How high can you go? Let us know or share a clip of you showing what you can do in the comments below.