Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

9 Tips for Singing Better High Notes

Using my own technique to sing the long high end of 'One Way Ticket'

Hitting high notes seems to be the rage these days. Also known as the 'money notes', they can be over-rated, because if the rest of the song is not delivered, good execution of high notes will just be a momentary audience or talent contest judge 'wow', not a career-making vocal performance. That said, if the high notes are missed, flat, or splatted, it will definitely detract from an otherwise solid performance. So...

Here are 9 tips for singing high notes:

1. Make sure you are well hydrated.

Your vocal folds need to have a thin -not thick and not too thin- layer of mucous in order to perform well. High notes and dry throat tissues do not dance well together.

2. Warm up your voice

duh. Stiff vocal folds can't work nearly as well as warmed up, flexible and hydrated ones. But do remember... form is everything when doing vocal exercises. You don't want your warm up to become a tighten up!

3. Aim at high notes accurately

Don't just make a blind stab and hope for the best. Actually know what note you want to hit and intend to hit it.

4. Set them up

For short I call this concept 'Lift before you Sound'. Lift the notes before the highest notes so you'll already be 'at' the high note before you sing it. Do not lift the PITCH making those notes sharp, just lift the PLACEMENT of where you resonate these pen-ultimate notes.

5. Back off breath pressure

The biggest mistake I hear people make when going for a high note is pushing them as hard as they can to try and make them go up. This upsets the balance of breath support/breath control. Back off the pressure, add passion (by the way you articulate the lyric) and you will be amazed at how they can just 'fall up'.

6. Use your hands

Learn to 'talk with' and use your hands to widen and stabilize your ribcage so it doesn't collapse, pushing too much uncontrolled air.

7. Form vowels more vertically

Open your mouth more and allow your jaw to loosely fall and your soft palate to lift.

8. Pull them through

This concept is core in my Power, Path and Performance vocal training. Much like threading a needle, use articulation to pull instead of push your high notes.   It's imagery that works miracles - and conquers vocal strain.

9. Follow through

Now that you have that high note sounded, don't think you're done. Like a baseball player throwing a ball, you need to follow through at the end of the note, instead of just dropping your support and minimizing the importance of the rest of the phrase, or the end of the high note.

Let me know if you try any of this. If you'd like to take an in-office or Skype vocal lesson on it, contact me. I'll be happy to make this personal for you and your voice. Or get your copy of PPP vocal training.

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  • At March 22, 2013 at 5:51 AM , Anonymous Diane Hurst said...

    Judy, can you explain what you mean by "use your hands to widen and stabilize your ribcage"? Do you actually place your hands on your ribcage and try to pull it wider? I can see this might be related to spinal alignment and posture, too-- do you have some posture exercises you recommend?

  • At March 24, 2013 at 10:10 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Diane... there are actually many ways to use hands to widen and stabilize the ribcage. And yes indeed it is related to spinal alignment and posture - good insight there. As for exercises, I recommend doing wall work. Sing with your head and heel against the wall.

    I'll do my next blogpost and answer your question about using hands, ok? Look for it soon...

  • At March 28, 2013 at 10:02 AM , Blogger Diane Hurst said...

    OK-- Thanks you, Judy! Will be looking forward to your post about hands. That posture exercise sounds simple to do. I like that I can be singing and doing a posture exercise at the same time.

  • At May 7, 2013 at 8:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Dear Judy when I was in my late 20's I could sing in a low range and high range kind of like Josh Turner do's but one night something felt like snape in my Vocal cord, and ever scence then I can't hit thoughs high note's, can you tell me what happen and can it be fix, I'M 68 NOW AND STILL SING, THANKS

  • At May 5, 2015 at 9:02 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    My daughter is in voice lessons, and loves it. We were talking the other day, and she was telling me how hard it is to hit the high notes. It's funny that I ran across this article, it's perfect for her! I will be sure to show her this, they seem like some awesome tips.


  • At June 18, 2015 at 10:29 AM , Blogger Richard said...

    is it normal to sound breathy while hitting on higher notes?

  • At June 18, 2015 at 10:35 AM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    No, Richard it's not a good vocal health sign if high notes are too breathy. You should be able to make the notes sound like pure focused ringing sound... not diluted with too much air. Could be a breath control issue, irritated vocal cords or bad habit.

  • At August 24, 2016 at 3:31 AM , Anonymous Classically Trained Singer said...

    Thank you for your post!This Post is fabulous! Lots of great info including,but Singing high notes with power and precision is an important part of singing regardless of genre – Jazz, Theatre, Rock or Pop and the fundamental vocal technique is the same.It takes time,practice and correct technique to learn how to reach high notes.Knowing your vocal range is an important part of being a singer.


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