Support is King. But
how can we really feel what abdominal support / “diaphragmatic”
support really feels like?
Try an experiment: Lie on the floor in
a “sit-up” position. Feel the breath come
from your stomach. You will notice when you inhale, your belly
will expand and when you exhale, the stomach will contract.
Now let’s go one step further. Take in a breath from
the stomach and do a simple major scale while doing a sit-up.
At the top of the sit up, will be the top note of the scale.
Continue the scale as you come back down from the sit-up.
This feeling will approximate what a strong abdominal breath
feels like. There is an important factor to this. When doing
this, especially if you are not used to it, the abdominal
muscles can “lock-up” keeping the stomach in a
tense position. But what we want is a relaxed response. So
take your time. You are building new muscle structures.
Do not think of the “high note” as being high.
The key to singing high notes (once diaphragmatic support
is established) this to concentrate first time support then
on vowel placement. Each vowel has a specific resting place
in the throat. A “pocket” so to speak. It is important
to find these pockets with the least amount of pressure or
strain. You will find that once you experience what I like
to refer to as the amphitheaters in the back of your throat
that it’s not about a note value at all. It’s
about support and placement.
Do not look up when ascending scale or a passage. This
is a mistake many singers make. There is a tendency as we
go up for a note to look up because it seems natural however,
what you are doing is constricting air in the throat, pinching
and squeezing and making it more difficult for the relaxation
response necessary to hit those notes easily and consistently.
When practicing the song that has a “high
note” in it, practice it first in falsetto to
get the feeling of the ease in the throat. Then little by
little start at more and more weight (volume) to the sound,
but only do this as it is comfortable in the throat with strong
support. Believe it or not often times cracking is normal
as your building muscle memory stamina and strength. Don’t
be discouraged by this. When this happens shake it off come
back to the first two principles that I mentioned and try
it again gently and safely. You will find that you were actually
building strength to sustain a high note.
Do not push off with your toes or raise
your shoulders when ascending a passage or scale or when singing
a “high note.” Again much like looking
up people have a tendency to do this because they think that
standing on their toes are raising their shoulders Will give
them that little edge to hit the note. This is the exact opposite
response we want. We want to concentrate on strengthen the
abdomen, relaxing the chest and neck and the throat and preparing
the throat for the proper vowel modification to sustain the
When first learning a song that has a
high note in it, don’t think you’re going
to be able to walk up and sustain a long whole tone if you’ve
never been able to do it before. The best way to achieve this
is to work up scales to hit that “high” note (and
beyond) with quicker stabs to just touch the note or I like
to use the term “kiss” the note and come back
down. This will start to build muscle memory and strength
in the throat to be able to sustain and eventually hold it
longer and longer as desired.
Record yourself and listen back to the
tonal quality and the freedom in the sound when practicing.
This will help you to be able to reduplicate the magic moments
when everything lines up and you’re able to hit the
high notes. You will be able to listen back to the way it
sounds in your throat and help you build consistency in your
When practicing a high note, don’t
beat yourself up if you can’t get it right away. This
will freak you out psychologically and increase tension and
anxiety for that note. Instead pitch a song down far enough
where you can sing that note over and over again to give you
confidence in your ability and in hitting the note itself.
Little by little you can increase the pitch a quarter tone
at a time until you can build up strength for the high note
in its original key.
Once you’re pretty far along and you feel like you get
the note a few times practice without any consonants in the
whole passage you’re singing. This will help eliminate
stricture in the throat and give you nice round open throat
vowels to launch into the high note.
Now that you’re getting the hang of it and can relax
into the note instead of stressing into the note it’s
time to practice in front of people. Don’t go straight
to your big important performance without trying it on others
a few times first. Even the biggest bands in the world practice
their sets on smaller audiences before taking it on the road.
So it is with our performances. We can have a more relaxed
response when we are met with anxiety and tension from our
“big day” if we take this advice.