How To Sing High Notes

How can I sing high notes?
This is one of the most common questions I get as a vocal coach.

First of all, let’s say that this is not the only thing that makes a good singer. We all have different genes and we have different ranges and colours that makes us unique, regardless of how high or low we go.

A good singer has a good control of their range, aiming for the wider range possible, using good technique – but having a wide range doesn’t always mean having a high range!
So it’s always good to check with a vocal coach to make sure that you aren’t aiming for something impossible first and set your goals taking into account your voice type.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s see how we can help reaching higher notes without straining, breaking, hurting or singing out of tune.

A certain level of skill is necessary to hit those high notes, which can only happen practicing with the right tools for your voice and with consistent and dedicated practice. This will allow you to improve your vocal control and achieve mastery of the high note.

The tips I’m writing down here can help you improve your vocal range to include those high notes, but remember that this can only happen if you practice regularly and seek help from a professional vocal coach if you start feeling pain or strain.

As I said before, many people don’t really know their vocal range. Many of my students don’t think they can reach high notes, but after 1 lesson or 2 they can add a few semitones to their range just by knowing how to sing higher in the proper way.

Also, many people try so hard to reach high notes but they practice the wrong way and they don’t see any improvements, so they settle for lower notes, missing out on some additional notes they could add to their songs.

First of all you must learn what your vocal range is. It’s always good to ask a vocal coach to help you out. A singing teacher can tell what your vocal range is from a few clues hidden in your voice (your lowest notes, your head voice, your general voice colour). Knowing your vocal range is definitely the foundation for a good singing practice.

Once you know that, you’re ready to start practicing.
So here’s a few little tips!

Vocal Warm Ups

Singing puts some serious demands on your body, and bad technique or overuse of your instrument may strain your muscles and vocal cords. Just like in sports, you need to prepare your muscles and legaments for the performance – even if singing doesn’t look that strenuous, it doesn’t mean it isn’t! Just imagine how a thing as small as the vocal folds can create such big sounds that can fill entire theatres! That’s why vocal warm-ups are important for a good performance and to avoid injuries over the long term.

Vocal warm ups are exercises that singers go through before performing or practicing . They usually focus on warming up the vocal cords and the muscles required to sing and should take from 5 minutes to 20 minutes, depending on the time of the day (did you just wake up? Did you speak a lot?) and the needs of the singer.

If your vocal folds and/or muscles are not ready to produce challenging sounds, you might not perform at your best, or worse, you could even injure your vocal cords over the long term.

Warming up before practicing or performing can really help your vocals. Read some tips about warm ups here:

Release Muscle Tension

Learning how to sing high notes will be helped by learning how to relax the muscles involved in singing (face, throat, shoulder, chest, belly).

Try these exercises a few times a week to help relax these muscles:

• Use your thumbs to gently massage the area under your chin to massage the bottom of your tongue.

• Open your mouth as wide as you can and close as much as you can or open and close as if you are chewing a huge chewing gum.

• Do a big silent yawn to stretch your larynx and relax your vocal folds.

• Practice yoga regularly to relax your whole body.

• Massage and stretch your neck and shoulders.

Don’t Push!

Most of my students (and people in general) think that to sing high notes you have to “push” them out. That may work sometimes, but is really not efficient and not sustainable. We engage muscles that have nothing to do with our voice and that contribute to tension in our larynx (the part of the neck where the voice is produced). “Pushing” creates tension and constriction, and it may cause fatigue, hoarseness and in some cases serious damage to your vocal folds. We often do it because we have unnecessary tension in our larynx, and our body reacts by trying whatever it can to support the sound, but it does it in a “flight of fly” mode.
There are plenty of exercises you can do to learn to sing without pushing! They may deal with incorrect breathing, tension in your larynx, too much resistance in your vocal folds, or help using muscles that you may not be aware you can use to produce high notes effectively (e.g. the crycothyroid muscle, AES, tongue).

We use air to produce sound. A steady and continuous supply of air is therefore very important for anyone trying to learn how to sing in the higher register.

Exhaling too much air when singing creates pressure and the vocal folds are forced to resist to it by using more muscle power. On the other hand, too little air will cause the sound to be weak or breathy. For this reason, you need to learn how to control your diaphragm to control airflow.

Use Your Diagphragm Correctly

One of the most widespread myths about singing is that you need to “sing from your diaphragm”.

First things first, what is the diaphragm? It is a muscle located below your lungs, attached to your lower ribs, which helps the process of breathing. If used correctly it can help regulate the way you breathe, and subsequently your overall mental and physical health.

But SINGING FROM YOUR DIAPHRAGM IS JUST NOT POSSIBLE! And these are the main reasons why:

1- The main sounds of your voice are created by the vocal folds, in the larynx (which is in your neck). Once the sound is created, it can be modified by many other articulators and modifiers located mainly in your larynx and mouth. This means that it is impossible to NOT sing from your throat!
2- The diaphragm is activated during inhalation (when you breathe in), but we sing when we exhale (breathe out). This means that we can’t directly activate the diaphragm to help singing and that it cannot directly “push out” the sound.

It is true, though, that using the diaphragm correctly can help avoid unnecessary tensions and constrictions, and it can definitely help support the voice, but just know that some vocal methods don’t even consider it as a variable in the equation of a good voice.
Breathing properly is fundamental for your general wellbeing and learning to breathe from the diaphragm can definitely help your singing, but it is not, like many people think, the main tool we need to use to sing correctly.

A very simple way to check if you are breathing with your diaphragm is this:

  • As you take a deep breath put a hand on your belly and check that the belly is getting bigger.
  • Keep your shoulders low and breathe in through your belly, not your chest.
  • When you exhale your belly should become smaller, but the abdominal muscles shouldn’t engage!

Build Vocal Strength

Vocal folds are a very delicate instruments and they need to be looked after carefully. They also must be trained and regular practice is fundamental to sustain tougher or longer singing sessions.

Having a weak voice will be a challenge when trying to sing high notes. Vocal stamina can be built up with practice though. Set up a regular weekly practice to for 3 to 5 times a week (for 30 minutes to 1 hour). This will help you build natural reflexes that will let your voice work without thinking too much about it.

Keep Your Jaw Relaxed

Most singers tend to tighten their jaws a bit when trying to reach the higher registers. However, you should be careful not to close it too much as it can affect volume, performance and tone, and most importantly, it will cause unnecessary tension in the surrounding muscles.

Don’t Raise Your Chin!

Many people tend to raise their chin to get to higher notes. This is because this way we force the larynx to stretch and this helps elongate the vocal folds. As it may be effective, it’s not really efficient, because it forces the vocal folds to get longer and it creates a lot of tension in many other muscle groups.

Maintaining your chin low during high notes will help you sing them more efficiently.

A healthy technique that can be employed to hit the high notes is by maintaining a balanced voice mechanism.


These are only a few tips to sing higher notes – if you want to know more, follow my instagram @themindfulvocalcoach or book a lesson with me!

Happy singing!

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