Opening Up The High Notes (Singing Teachers)
MemberFebruary 16, 2016 at 3:04 pm
I have a student (12 years old) who really struggles to get the high notes. She is very into her musical theatre style songs and we are currently working on Almost There from The Princess and the Frog (Grade 2 standard)
I will post a link of her singing so you can get an idea of what I mean: http://picosong.com/hqhB/
To be fair, when we recorded this she had the start of a cold coming on so it was a lot worse than from when I heard her last week but this is generally what I am battling with! She doesn’t say it hurts when she sings higher so I don’t think there is an underlying problem with her voice, but it’s like her voice just gives up on her when she tries to sing high.
I have been getting her to do slides/sirens which has expanded her voice into the head voice register, and getting her to sing louder than usual when doing scales with the piano just to try and open up the higher notes…but this is a consistent problem and nothing I suggest seems to work. She has been with me for about a year and I can hear an improvement – she passed her Grade 1 just before Christmas but we got by by not singing high songs!
What do you suggest I do?
ModeratorFebruary 16, 2016 at 5:33 pm
Once she is in the high register after doing slides, can she sing up there? Have you suggested that she tries to sing in a mock opera voice with any song?
She sounds husky in the recording, probably due to the cold! She is just literally not flipping over into the head voice at all which HAS to be isolated like it’s a separate person! This is what I do anyway. So only sing that high ending part on its own, getting her to open her throat like a yawn. “Ooo” vowel sounds are great for this. Hope it helps!
MemberFebruary 20, 2016 at 10:03 pm
She can sing in the high register after doing the slides, but doesn’t stay up there for long (a note or two) as she will lose the strength and no sound will come out.
I’ll try getting her to sing in a mock opera voice, should that all be in the head voice though?
ModeratorFebruary 22, 2016 at 10:33 am
Yes. I find it helps the singer stay in a pure, relaxed, open throat position! Or even loud “whooping”! But sustaining it. Record her and we can hear how she goes perhaps?
ModeratorFebruary 22, 2016 at 10:34 am
Unless you’re talking mixed voice? I would still get a confident head voice first, before blending. If she can hold a good strong head voice, she should be ok with the “gear change” rather than straining.
MemberFebruary 22, 2016 at 1:20 pm
I haven’t started developing mixed voice with her yet, as you say she needs to build up her strength in the head voice first. I’ll see how it goes and I will try to record her again! 🙂
MemberFebruary 25, 2016 at 3:13 am
So her voice is consistently getting stuck at F4. Which is bizarre, because even if she was chest voice dominant, she should still have at least a good major 3rd above that still in chest. She really seems to give up on G4. To be honest to some degree it sounds like she doesn’t even try for those notes! Or like she can’t hear them properly.
One problem is that this song is really wordy and fast. Which probably makes her think she can get away with singing lower notes rather than being in tune, as it moves so quickly from note to note anyway. I mean G4 isn’t even high for an old lady mezzo let alone a young kid. This song almost entirely stays within a chest voice range other than the occasional C in the middle of the song, and the 3 sustains on C at the end, so as much as she definitely needs work opening up head voice, I don’t think it’s the only problem here. This sounds partially like a tuning problem to me. Also I would encourage her to be as soft as she likes and to really listen to the accompaniment.
PS. Wow I just heard 1:51. And she gets it! After the instrumental! Maybe this is partly a nerves thing? I would slow everything right down. I would also give her an exercise where you make up a melody sticking mostly to notes between G4 and C5 (the notes in the song she struggles with), and get her to try learning it as quickly as possible by imitating you. She needs to get used to feeling how awesome and easy it can be to be in tune on those notes so that she knows how to navigate the song a little easier.
ModeratorFebruary 26, 2016 at 4:40 pm
On point Kat
MemberMarch 16, 2016 at 9:01 pm
Totally agree with Kat! To me it sounds like she’s struggling with the pitch and not even trying to reach the high notes. It might be that she is relying on the singer from the backing track, which is why I encourage my students to use backing tracks without original vocals or sing with just piano accompaniment, or a cappella, which enables them to hear better as well as motivates to aim for the right pitch.
Occasionally when a student struggles hitting a particular note, I ask them to do an exercise whereby I play a note and they need to slide onto that note from below or above. This trains their ear and also improves ‘muscle memory’ for a particular note / tone that we’re working on.
ModeratorMarch 23, 2016 at 12:25 pm
Yes, good ideas there.
I can’t believe I have to tell my students (who are mainly adults!) to practice WITHOUT the original vocal?! And also practice in chunks and only move on when you’re confident.. I had a girl come to me saying “yep, completely fine with Warwick Avenue – if anything, it’s probably too easy for me.” So I said, “great, let’s hear it!” and stuck on a backing track. She couldn’t follow the melody AT ALL.
MemberApril 5, 2016 at 4:01 pm
Almost There is sounding A LOT better! Thank you all for your input 🙂
I’m still trying to strengthen the head voice – I’ve tried the opera voice but not with much success unfortunately. She just struggles to get up there and when she does, can only hold the note in head voice for 1 or 2 seconds and then it’s like her cords aren’t closing?
She is now wanting to try ‘Your Song’ by Ellie Goulding but I’m a bit apprehensive…
ModeratorApril 5, 2016 at 5:13 pm
Might be worth her going to the doctors in that case. Otherwise, trying steaming?
Your Song is a great option, I use Ellie Goulding’s version for beginner singers who are a little quieter/shyer and there’s only really one high bit… give it a go, definitely rather than eliminating the high range completely. It may just take practice, but in small doses, which that song is perfect for! Good luck 🙂
MemberApril 5, 2016 at 10:08 pm
Some ideas for getting more strength/flexibility into those high notes:
1. Can she do a tongue-trill or a lip bubble? These sounds are GREAT for working up higher.
2. Can she go “woooo!” like you would at a gig or sports match? This sound might trick her into finding some ease and release up the top.
At the end of the day, don’t be afraid of spending a lot of time up high on nice relaxing sounds – the more time she spends there the more comfy it’ll be :).
MemberMay 14, 2016 at 11:18 am
Ok – I’ve essentially worked out that she is just not singing in head voice. The notes are fine, it’s just getting her to sing in head voice!
I’ve tried the ‘woos’ and she really struggles to move into her head voice, she can’t hold it for more than 1 or 2 seconds before the sound stops.
She hasn’t been doing too bad with ‘Your Song’, I wouldn’t say she is ready to do Grade 2 yet though.
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