(The back door approach for high notes)
once has an award been handed out for singing glass-shattering
high notes. Likewise, no song has ever become popular
simply because it contained some birdcalls. Yet, we singers
tend to fixate on range as if its the reason were
not winning awards and selling piles of CDs. True, there
is an emotional lift when a melody soars upward, but the pitches
should always be proportionate to the instrument. Sing at the
height of your voices potential and your audience will
assume your abilities are limitless. Sing beyond your boundaries
and you merely call attention to your limitations. This does
not mean you are stuck with the measly dozen or so pitches you
sing well these days; rarely does a singer access his or her
full genetic range without some training. It does mean, though,
that before you worry about expanding, it helps to embrace what
Vocal range is a lot like the range of motion of your limbs.
Can you drop down into a split without warming up? Even after
warming up? For most, the elasticity necessary for a move like
that requires a long program of stretching. The same is true
for your voice. The vocal folds are membranes (a little smaller
then your eyelids) that close over the windpipe. When air streams
through the tiny opening they create, their edges vibrate. The
vibration is nothing more than a microscopic wiggle. Look closely
at a guitar string after its played and youll see
them same thing. The speed of the wiggle, or vibration, is called
the frequency. We refer to frequencies, or pitches, by their
beats per second. The pitch, for instance, that an orchestra
uses when tuning is A 440, meaning the frequency wiggles
440 times in one second (the larger the number, the higher the
pitch). To sing high, your vocal folds have got to vibrate fast.
required to sing different notes is very much like tuning a
guitar. Muscles surrounding the larynx pull or release the folds
to create high and low pitches. The amount of movement required
for your entire range is microscopic. I suggest you reread that
previous line about a thousand times until it is embedded in
your subconscious. The root of all vocal problems is that we
perceive the activities involved with singing as big events.
They are not. We ball our fists and load up enough air pressure
to create an aneurysm just to get through the chorus of a song.
The automatic reaction to such force is resistance; the body
braces for the assault. Rigid muscles surrounding the larynx
deny flexibility and lock up the vocal folds. No flexibility,
no range its that simple.
to singing high notes is volume. Reducing the volume of your
voice removes the burden of excess air pressure so your folds
can become more elastic. Just as it takes a little stretching
every day to get your legs into a split, vocalizing daily at
a low volume will allow you to visit higher notes without stress.
Its best to sing scales rather than songs at first; the
memory of a songs performance will lead you to pushing.
Allow you higher notes to venture into falsetto or head voice.
Its okay if the transition cracks or skips out; this is
just a symptom of your imbalanced ways. Dont worry that
the light voice you vocalize with is not up to performance standards.
Only after you are completely comfortable with producing a note
at a low volume should you attempt to raise the output. Increasing
the volume in very small increments will allow you to monitor
muscle independence. If facial or neck muscles join in to support
a note, youve added too much air pressure. Your controllable
range for the day lies waiting at the balance point between
force and flexibility. And as always, tomorrow is another day.
Baxter is a vocal therapist
who offers private and video lessons. To contact him, call:
(800)659-6002. Visit his website at: www.voicelesson.com
with the kind permission of Mark