While many singers have succeeded in expanding their range so that they are now capable of reaching the high notes, some will discover that they have difficulty in sustaining them. Others experience voice fatigue when they sing songs that have lots of high notes (instead of hitting just one note and going back down to a lower note).
How To Sing Higher: Know Your Tessitura
In these cases, vocal range is not the problem, but tessitura. Tessitura refers to the comfortable range that a person can sing. With tessitura, there are certain notes which you can sing on-pitch consistently without experiencing vocal strange. Tessitura is also defined as the average range of pitch in a song or chorus.
For example, you probably have seen some mezzo-sopranos who are able to hit an extreme high C that is well-beyond their range. However, their tessitura falls ½ to one full octave below this note, usually from the A just above the middle C to the second A above the middle C. Naturally, vocal fatigue and strain will develop if they try to sing a song that is in the tessitura range of between high G and high C.
You need to determine your tessitura so you can sing the songs that are within your comfortable range. You may want to sing higher than your tessitura, but you may end up being vulnerable to vocal strain.
It is possible to raise your tessitura, but you need to develop certain skills. First and foremost among these skills is breath support in combination with good upper resonance. Vocal strain usually develops if you sing higher notes without the proper breath support for your throat. Persistent strain on your voice may lead to serious damage.
Remember you need greater breath power to reach those high notes compared to lower notes. To do this, you need to fully expand your midsection with every inhalation by utilizing all of your respiratory muscles, specifically your diaphragm, abdominals, spinals and intercostals. When you exhale, keep your midsection in an expanded state (except for your abs) so that you can control your breath flow rate.
Once you have developed proper breath support, the next step is to develop your “head voice” or upper resonance. Imagine the flow of tone as being vertical instead of horizontal; the tone should originate from the top of your head and your forehead. Picture it as similar to riding an elevator, but with your breathing acting as the gears that allows the elevator to move up and down.
The vibrations should be felt in the sinuses and the soft palate (the roof of your mouth). Maintain your mouth in a narrow horizontal position, but with the inside tall and vertical. One way to do this mouth position correctly is by imagining that you are trying to swallow something that tastes bad. You open your throat wide enough, but whatever it is you are swallowing does not touch the sides of your mouth.
Always sing light tones and avoid forceful notes. You can either do a yawn-slide or a vocal siren. In a yawn-slide, open your mouth (as if you are yawning) and inhale. Then, using the syllable “hoo” or “hee”, exhale while singing a note at the top of your range, and sliding quickly down. For each yawn-slide, start at a note that is higher than in the previous exercise.
The vocal siren is similar to yawn-slide except that, this time, you start at the bottom of your range and slide up to the higher note. Do this exercise while humming. Perform the vocal siren up and down several times on a single breath when your breath support becomes stronger.
Rapid ascending and descending five-tone scales are also great exercises for singing higher. Starting in your mid-range, use the buzz (also known as the bubble lips or lip roll) or a vowel sound like “ah” or “oo”. First, sing do-re-mi-fa-so-fa-mi-re-do. On the next pattern, sing notes a half-step higher from the previous one. Do this while successively increasing the notes you sing by half-steps. Always remember to observe good breath support.
Through persistence, practice and patience, you will be able to expand your tessitura so that you can sing higher with great ease.