Are you having trouble singing high notes without straining your voice? Does your throat feel sore and tired whenever you reach up to a higher register?
One of the biggest struggles that many singers face is singing high notes correctly without straining or damaging the voice. You hear singers like Bruno Mars and Ariana Grande hitting those crazy high notes and wonder, “can I do that too?”
And to be honest, it does take a lot of work and patience to expand your vocal range.
So how do you sing high notes without straining your voice?
- Know your vocal range
- Support high notes with your breath
- relax your facial muscles
- Hydrate more frequently
- Warming up your voice properly
- Build Vocal Stamina
- Extend your vocal training durations
- Train your mix voice
- Do lip trill exercises
- Round your vowels
- Open your mouth when you sing
- Keep the chin pointed down
- Eliminate Tongue Tension
- Reduce your stress
- Visualize your notes
- Don’t overtrain your voice
In this article, I’ll be going in-depth with these 17 tips that will help you sing higher notes without straining your voice. Let’s get started!
1. Know your vocal range
To sing high notes properly, you must first figure out what your vocal range is. Every singer has a range that they can safely sing within. If you constantly sing outside your vocal range, especially without knowing the proper techniques, you can quickly create long term damage to your vocal cords.
Here’s a quick summary of the vocal ranges for singers:
Most people have a natural singing range that’s between one and a half to two octaves. You might want to hit those high notes but physically your voice might not be built for that.
However, over time you can slowly push your vocal limits by learning the proper singing techniques. Once you’ve mastered the appropriate methods of singing high notes, you’ll be able to apply the same concepts with other notes, which can be a lot of fun!
2. Support high notes with your breathing techniques
Breath support is king whenever you’re singing high notes. You don’t necessarily need more air going into your body, but you need enough air that can help you create a powerful and clean sound.
Many people face the issues of poor daily breathing habits with filling air through the chest. By doing so, you’re breathing more shallowly from the upper chest area, which creates tension around your neck and vocal cords.
Instead, you want to feel like you’re breathing from the waist and the abdomen using your diaphragm.
So how do you know and feel that you’re breathing properly from your diaphragm?
- You can try lying down on the floor on your back.
- Put your hands on your stomach, and feel the breath coming to and from your stomach area.
- Inhale through your mouth for four seconds.
- When you’re inhaling through your diaphragm, your stomach will expand.
- Slowly release the air through your mouth.
- When you exhale, your stomach area will contract.
You can repeat this exercise 3 times to train your body to breathe in a different way than what you’re typically used to. When doing this, your abdominal muscles can “lock-up,” which keeps the stomach in a tense state. But over time, your body will build new muscle memory, and this exercise will become second nature to you.
3. Relax your face and neck muscles
When you’re trying to sing high notes, your face shouldn’t look like it’s constantly pushing for more air and your neck veins about to explode!
Your face and neck muscles should be relaxed, no matter how difficult the note is. If you notice that your facial muscles are straining while you’re singing, it means you’re tensing up too much because of the note.
Generally, singers will psych themselves up right before singing a high note, and when it comes time to sing that part, they clench their face and tense up their entire body to “brace themselves”.
What singers can do instead is learn how to relax the facial and neck muscles so that those areas are loose and not stressing out.
- Stick out your tongue – This helps stretch out your tongue and exposes any tightness, especially at the base.
- Yawn – Simply, make yourself yawn! Yawning is a good stretch for the tissues that create resonance, which includes the soft palate and pharynx. Yawning can also stretch out your eardrums.
- Jaw stretch – Open your jaw as wide as you comfortably can. Take your index and middle fingers of both hands to the outer sides of your face, where your molars are, and gently stretch your jaw down a little lower. Hold the stretch for about 15 seconds. Repeat three times.
- Neck rotations – Rotate your neck clockwise in a circular motion three times while closing your eyes. Do the same going counterclockwise.
- Massage your cheeks and chin – Softly massage your cheekbones and your chin area to loosen up those muscles.
4. Hydrate with water more frequently
Keeping your voice hydrated will help you sing those high notes without straining your voice. Your vocal cords are muscles that need constant hydration to help you project powerful sounds.
But not all kinds of liquids do the same job. Surprisingly, some of your favorite drinks can dry your throat up and hurt your singing voice. Beverages like coffee and alcohol are among the worst drinks for singers because they’re diuretics.
Diuretics make you urinate much more, which means you’re continually flushing out liquids in your system. These types of drinks can cause your body to dehydrate, which won’t allow your vocal cords to be at their best when it’s fully lubricated.
Instead, the best liquid to drink is room temperature water. Cold water won’t be good for your vocal cords as it shocks and constricts them.
I recommend having a glass or bottle of water on hand during every singing session, whether you’re working on vocal exercises or performing during a gig, and drinking it periodically throughout that time. Doing this will keep your voice and cords happy and efficient.
If you want to know more about what you should avoid to keep your voice at tip-top shape, check out my article: 19 Things to Avoid That Can Harm Your Singing Voice. It’s jam packed with lot’s of helpful information.
5. Warm-up your voice properly
Singing without warming up your voice can be a huge mistake if you want to be able to sing high notes. Spend 7 to 10 minutes before you sing getting your voice activated and ready for action.
Your vocal cords are muscles. And as with any exercise, the more you work a muscle and stretch it before using it, the more limber and flexible it will be. Excessively using your unstretched and “cold” vocal chords can easily add strain.
Here are three good warm-ups that you can try before you start hitting those high notes:
- Two-octave humming scales – Start at a lower pitch and make a “hum” sound as you go up the scale. Go up the scale until you feel yourself needing to push to sing the higher notes. You should not be struggling with this exercise because you just want to “wake your voice up” and activate it.
- “Mum” on an octave and a half-scale – This exercise is similar to the first one but with singing only an octave and a half. Singing “mum” will help lower the larynx, which affects your vocal stamina, resonance, and pitch accuracy.
- “Pant like a dog” – This warm-up may seem a bit strange at first, but it’s effective. As mentioned earlier, singing high notes require air support coming from the diaphragm. When you’re panting like a dog, you’re activating the muscles around your abdominal area where proper breathing happens. You’ll notice yourself relaxing your shoulders and chest.
6. Build your vocal stamina
If you’re trying to sing higher, increasing your vocal stamina will help you reach those higher notes, especially as your singing session gets longer.
Like with any physical activity, the longer you work your muscles, the more tired it becomes. Same goes for your vocal cords: the longer you work your throat muscles, the more difficult it gets.
In my article on How to Sing Better Quickly, I mentioned that If your song is mostly in the upper register and there are many high notes involved, you can tire out your voice very quickly.
The next two tips are great ways to build your vocal stamina so that you can sing for more extended periods while still being able to hit those high notes.
Exercising is not only great for your overall health but your singing voice as well. By being active and working out, you’re training your breath by increasing your lung capacity, which will help support your voice when you’re singing high notes.
One of the best exercises for singers is swimming. Doing laps in the pool trains different muscles in your body, as well as your breathing in a low oxygen environment.
After a few swimming sessions, I noticed my singing breath to be a lot deeper and more reliable, which helps me sing for a much longer time. I feel more confident singing for more extended periods without feeling fatigued.
If you want to find out more about which workouts are good for your singing voice, you can check out my article: Does Working Out Help You Sing Better? Do’s and Dont’s. There are lot’s of good workout ideas that you can use to improve your vocal stamina and breathing technique!
8. Extend your vocal training duration
In addition to physical exercises, upping your singing times and the amount of practice you have is also a great way to build your vocal stamina to sing higher.
You can train your vocal cords to get stronger and better over time by slowly increasing your singing times.
If you’re training your voice 10 to 15 minutes a day, try adding 5 minutes to your practice session each time. Five minutes is typically the same as two to three vocal exercises.
Continue to add an extra 5 minutes to your vocal exercises every week until you reach 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes of vocal exercises, you can start adding song practice as well, which can be an additional 5 minutes depending on what song you decide.
You’ll definitely see your vocal dexterity and singing strength build up slowly as you increase your training sessions.
This is how your favorite singers and bands can perform for 3 hours straight, day after day while still sounding strong. They built their voices up to a point where singing becomes just like talking, and you can do that too!
9. Train your mix voice
Mix voice is one of the most important vocal registers that can help you sing higher. Many contemporary vocal teachers use mix voice as their primary way to sing high notes skillfully and powerfully.
Mix voice is a blend of register between the chest voice and the head voice. This vocal register is important to master because once you’ve learned to sing mix voice, you will always go back to the techniques and foundations whenever you’re performing songs that are quite high to sing.
Many singers like Michael Jackson, Sara Bareilles, and Adam Lambert have mastered the art of mix voice. They sing in their higher registers without pushing or straining their vocal cords.
Some people may say they’re born with that voice, but it’s actually through constant training of the mix voice that allows them to sing high notes so effortlessly.
Here’s a video of Michael Jackson training his mix voice technique taught by vocal instructor Seth Riggs through his method “Speech Level Singing” (SLS).
There are many instructors out there that teach mix voice singing. If you’re interested in learning how to sing high notes without straining, I recommend the 30 Day Singer online program, the instructors in the course goes in-depth with vocal exercises that will help singers reach high notes that they may have previously thought was impossible.
10. Do lip trill exercises
One of the best singing exercises to help you sing higher is lip trills or “lip bubbles.”
Lip trill exercises are a great way to practice extending your vocal range safely. It’s also good to improve your breath control and balance your tone.
How to do a lip trill:
- Place two fingers in the middle of your cheeks. Push them towards each other so that your lips come together.
- Close your mouth and relax your lips.
- Start blowing your lips so that they vibrate. You want your lips to roll together and create a “buzzing” sound as you blow air through them.
- If you have steady airflow going through your lips while the lips are still flapping together, it means you’re doing it!
Here’s a good lip trill exercise that you can do:
- Once you’ve gotten a hang of the movement, you can add a “buh” sound to the lip trill
- Find a comfortable note that you can sing. You can use an instrument to help you. If you don’t have one on hand, you can use an online piano. For females, you can start on C4, while males can start on C2.
- While you’re making the “buh” sound with the lip trill, make a siren sound from a low note to a high note, and back down in one swift motion.
- Continue these steps as you move higher up the notes.
If you’re having difficulties doing a lip trill, don’t worry! It does take some coordination at the beginning but just keep going. You may be tempted to push air out to continue the sound. But it doesn’t take much breath to do a lip trill.
11. Round your vowels
If you’re transitioning from vocal exercises to singing songs, you’ll realize that including lyrics makes singing much more difficult. There are so many different vowels, consonants, and syllables that you have to consider while you’re singing.
If you have a note that you have difficulty reaching, a slight change of vowel phrasing to the lyrics can help you project that note with a ton of power and ease.
For this example, we’ll use Bruno Mar’s “Just The Way You Are.”
At the beginning of the chorus, The vowels in the phrase “When I see your face,” can be sung as “Win I See Yuhr Fahss.”
The “eh” sound in “when” gets narrowed to sound like an “in” : Win.
The “our” sound in “your” is replaced by the “uh” sound: Yuhr.
And the “a” sound in “face” is replaced by “ah” as well: Fahss
It might seem weird when you’re reading it out loud, but when you’re singing the phrase, especially at that volume and speed, the lyric comes out sounding very natural.
The trick is to round the vowels for the pitches at the extreme notes in your range. By narrowing your vowels, you’re adjusting the stress on your vocal cords, which will help you prevent straining as you’re reaching high notes.
12. Open your mouth when you sing
Many singers have a habit of keeping the mouth closed while they’re singing, which can restrict them from reaching higher notes properly. When you’re singing with your mouth open, you’re able to drop your larynx or “voice box” down to its natural position, which can reduce vocal tension and strain.
Singing with your mouth being more opened will also naturally lower the jaw, which helps with providing power, volume, and tone to your sound. Having the jaw loose and relaxed helps your face and throat area feel less tension, which gets in the way of good singing.
You will also notice that when you’re singing with an opened mouth, your enunciation will improve, and your sound gets less mumbled.
Power singers like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey open their mouths when they’re singing high notes. They’re creating a larger resonating space for the sound. The teeth and lips move out of the way, allowing less physical obstacles for the sound waves.
An excellent exercise to warm up the mouth and jaw are simply smiling more and stretching your jaws.
Smiling helps stretch out the small muscles on your face as well as stretches your lips. Stretch your jaws by opening up your mouth for a couple of seconds and closing them. Repeat this five times for the optimal jaw warm-up.
13. Keep the chin pointed down
Raising the chin and lifting the head is a common poor habit that many singers have when they’re singing high notes. This is due to a reflex action where singers feel like they need to raise their heads so they can sing higher and avoid singing out of tune.
So rather than raising your head upwards, keep the chin pointed down while the head is in its natural eye-level position. When the chin stays down, you’re not stretching or activating any unwanted muscles in your throat, which can lead to vocal strain.
For additional support, you can lower your chin slightly and open up the jaw, so there’s more room to stretch and produce the high notes with less tension on your voice and added power.
An excellent method to fix this habit is by practicing in front of a mirror or recording a video of yourself singing. When you’re doing your vocal exercises, keep an eye on your posture and how your chin and head is when you’re singing.
If you notice your chin pointing up as you’re progressing higher up the scale, make sure to drop it back down to eye level so that you don’t stretch out your larynx.
If you have this issue, always be aware of keeping your chin down, whether you’re singing a song or doing vocal drills. These kinds of habits are easy to fix, but it’s important to work on them early on so that they don’t become a habit as you progress into more complicated techniques.
14. Eliminate Tongue Tension
As you’re trying to reach more difficult notes, you may be experiencing tension not only in your face, jaw, and neck area but also on your tongue.
Most often, tongue tension begins with the tongue muscles contracting and pushing down on the larynx, which places an enormous amount of pressure on the vocal cords as they’re vibrating. Any excess tension with your tongue can dramatically impact the ability to hit high notes. Continuous tongue pressure can be quite damaging to your vocal cords over time.
You can feel the tension in your tongue by putting both your thumbs and placing them in the soft area behind your chin. While pressing up against your thumb, you’ll feel the base of your tongue. If you’re singing with a lot of tongue pressure, you will feel your tongue hardening and pushing down where your thumb is.
A great way to release tension in your tongue is mobility and stretching. Similar to physical exercise, stretching, and warming up your body will help the muscles increase flexibility and release stress.
Here’s an exercise that you can try to help relieve tongue tension:
- Start with a lower note that you feel comfortable with C4 for females and C3 for males.
- Do a five-tone scale with DIGA-DIGA-DIGA-DIGA-D
- Make sure to do the exercise while focusing on the clarity and light movement of the tongue.
- If your tongue gets tired and you start losing pace, take a break and restart after 15 seconds.
As you do this exercise consistently, you will feel more flexibility and control with your tongue. You’ll also hear a better tone with reduced effort when you’re singing the higher notes.
15. Reduce your stress
Don’t stress out too much if you can’t reach those high notes right away. It takes a lot of time and consistency to sing high notes properly.
If you’re too eager and push yourself harder than you should, it’s going to hurt your progress. “Rome was not built in a day,” and neither will your vocal range.
A good way to see steady progress while reducing your stress is by setting goals for your training. If you don’t have an actual target that you want to achieve, you’re going to get frustrated and see minimal improvements.
Think about some of your favorite vocal exercises and which notes give you the most trouble. Write them down and set a goal to sing those notes properly, starting with the easiest.
You can also do the same with specific songs that you’re learning. Write down the most challenging note of the song and aim towards mastering that note.
As you start to see yourself able to sing higher bit by bit, you’ll gain confidence in your techniques that will help you to hit even higher notes.
16. Visualize the notes
Singing high notes doesn’t only involve your physical techniques to be on point, but also how you’re mentally preparing your mind while you’re singing.
One of the best pieces of advice I got from a mentor of mine is to visualize the difficult notes before singing them.
Visualizing helps change your mindset to tackle those notes more confidently and positively.
If you’re having trouble hitting a particular note, try visualizing the note as part of a step on a stairway.
Picture that note as only the next step on the stairway rather than many steps up. You’ll notice that when you’re approaching that high note, your mindset has shifted from “it’s so hard to sing this song” to “it’s just one step.”
This change of mindset will help you combat the uncertainty of singing high notes, especially during performances where there’s no room for error.
If you decide to take on a song that is “high risk, high reward,” you’ll need to adjust your mindset to hit those notes every time accurately.
17. Don’t overtrain your voice
Extending your range and singing higher can take a toll mentally and physically.
Depending on what genre you’re singing, some styles are more likely to tire out the voice than others.
If you start feeling a scratchy throat and pain in your neck area, listen to your body and stop your singing session. Your voice is telling you that it’s tired and it needs to rest.
Listen to your voice and what it’s telling you.
Ignoring the signs and pushing will create more strain on your vocal cords, which can turn lead to severe damage.
An excellent way to relieve yourself from vocal fatigue is completely resting your voice (not even talking) and also hydrate your throat.
I like to drink herbal tea to soothe out my voice whenever I have a long performance or practice session. A favorite for me is Throat Coat tea by Traditional Medicinals. This tea has a sweet, earthy taste to it with a hint of licorice. If that is not your cup of tea (pun intended), you can try their Echinacea Elder tea, which is also quite soothing and has a fresh berry flavor.
If you’re sick and your voice isn’t feeling well, decide whether or not singing that day is essential to you or not. You may have to push yourself if you have an audition, performance or a band rehearsal. But if you’re unsure, consult with a doctor to make sure your symptoms are not too serious.
If you would like to know how to sing while feeling under the weather, I’ve written a comprehensive article about it here.
Singing high notes is one of the most satisfying skills that you can learn as a singer. However, don’t neglect the lower registers as well. The goal is to be able to sing colorfully and naturally through each range as efficiently and safely as you can. If you would like to learn more singing tips, I have a detailed guide that you can check out on how to improve your singing voice.
I’m confident that if you apply these tips to your singing regimen, you’ll be surprised with singing notes that you previously thought you couldn’t.
Good luck with your singing journey!
Do you want to improve your singing and learn how to hit those high notes without straining your voice? CLICK HERE to get a FREE trial with 30 Day Singer!
This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, we will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). We only ever endorse products that we have personally used and benefited from. Thank you for your support!