Category Archives: Vocal registers

How to reach high notes – Part I

This is probably the most common issue I see in beginner or even experienced singers. When I’m teaching a lesson and practicing scales with my students, I can see how they start becoming anxious and stare at the notes that I play on my keyboard.

Well, that’s actually the first problem! You are probably used to the expression “It’s all in your mind”, and in this case it also applies. When you believe that the notes are too high for you, that’s what your mind is telling you. And guess what, your mind is what controls all of your movements and therefore it controls how your voice works as well. So if that’s what you are telling your mind, that’s what your mind is going to tell your body to do. It tells it “Hey stop, you can’t reach that note”. And then the body reacts to that and you can notice how your throat closes.

So that’s the first thing, when you are practicing your scales or when you are practicing your song, sing each note as it goes. Don’t spend the whole time thinking about the difficult notes, be present in each sound. That’s how you will enjoy your singing, otherwise it would feel more like torture!

Another thing that I have noticed in many of my students is that they start to lift the upper body when they start singing higher notes. That is first of all…useless. Not only doesn’t it help you reach the notes you want, it actually does the opposite and affects your whole singing. This is because once you imagine your high notes are actually “high”you start tensing your upper body. As a result of this, your shoulders and neck are tensed and guess what, there is where your primary voice sound is produced. It also prevents you from having a relaxed and deep breath. So, we don’t want this to happen!

Those are the main two problems which prevent you from singing your high notes freely. Then of course, you still have to train your upper register properly. But really, the first step is to allow the body to be aware of that. In the next post I will give you exercises to start training your upper register and expand your range.

Image by Kathleen Tyler Conklin

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The importance of vocal technique

The study and practice of the vocal technique is a very powerful tool in singing. Of course, vocal technique is not THE most important part of a singer’s training. Actually, as singers we want the technique to be a servant of the expression.

 However, vocal technique is very useful. First of all, it shows you how to “tune” your instrument: through the proper warm ups you will be ready to start singing with the best possible sound, and to do it in a safe and healthy way.

 Also, the goal of the vocalization is to work on particular details that you need to fix in your voice in order to let it keep growing, and to strengthen other things on the voice that you may want to train for more ambitious goals.

 Through working on vocalization, you can clearly see what is the exact moment of your vocal training process, and therefore you can understand what the next step for your voice is.

These are some of the things you can achieve by working on your vocal technique:

  • Extend your range
  • Flexibility of the voice
  • Get rid of bad habits
  • Find the appoggio
  • Find the vibrato
  • Work on the projection of the voice
  • Find different colours in the voice
  • Strengthen the voice

When you decide to start training your voice seriously, the best you can do is to find a singing teacher that can guide you through the process. That would be your starting point. Although there are many good videos and tutorials for singing, it is better that you do not rely only on yourself, but get a teacher that can listen if you are doing it properly or not.


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How to breathe properly for singing – PART II

As I told you in the previous post, breathing for singing takes a bit of practice. And as I always say, it is important to build awareness around it.

This week I want to share with you some breathing exercises that will help you awaken your breathing in the lower zone.

  1. The first one is not an exercise, but a bit of advice… quit smoking!!
  1. The second one is some more advise… do some cardio regularly. It will grow and improve the coordination of your breathing muscles, and it will also train your body to take in more air. This will help you when you are singing.
  1. Breathe through the mouth while opening your arms with your palms facing towards the ceiling. While doing this, your ribs will open naturally and the middle part of your lungs will be activated. Exhale and do it again, this time touch your ribs while you are doing it to check that they are opening.
  1. Standing up, place your feet evenly with your shoulders. Let your head drop down and let it move your whole torso to the floor while bending the knees a bit. Your arms, head and your torso are all relaxed.

Start coming back to the initial position, one vertebrae at a time. The head is the last thing that comes up. While doing this, breathe slowly. Now exhale with any sound you like and see if your breathing lasts longer.

  1. Breathe while lifting up one of your knees in a standing up position. Exhale and check if you can feel more air in your body.

What these exercises basically de is to activate breathing zones that are normally blocked, due to our standing up position, stress, bad posture, emotions derived from fear, etc.

Now is your turn… play around with these exercises and notice the difference!

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What is Chest Voice?


When we talk about chest voice, we are talking about the low / middle register of the spoken voice. It is called so because when we use this kind of voice we can feel the chest vibrating. However this is only a feeling: chest vibrates sympathetically, as happens when, for example, we are in a concert with high volume.

   Problems in speaking voice

Because we use the chest voice (or modal voice) every day, it is easy to think that it should not be a problem using it to sing. This is not always true, since during the day we find different situations that provoke our voice not being used in a healthy way. For example, when we yell, we talk high, talk excessively, or when using a heavier than usual voice.

All this can potentially lead to certain issues, such as dysphonia or vocal nodules.

The symptoms of a misused voice are different … the voice sounds weak, feels discomfort or even pain to sing middle notes, voice trembling, difficulty  when holding a note …   This happens because the muscles responsible for producing the chest voice are weak.

Some singers choose to resolve this issue through the exclusive use of head voice, but this practice is very limiting musically and it’s not healthy.

On the other hand, there are also singing techniques that consider that women should never sing with their chest voice, therefore it is not trained. This leads to an overall imbalance in the voice, in any register to be used … not only does not improve the head voice of the woman, but also makes it more fragile.

Conversely, there are also vocal coaches that suggest addressing the high notes also with chest voice to achieve a more powerful sound, but this is also an unhealthy and potentially harmful practice.

   The use of chest voice in singing

For a balanced and optimal use of the singing voice, it is best to allow slowly appearing to head voice as you go up the scale to vocalize, that is, to move gradually and smoothly from the chest voice to the head voice.

   Finding the chest voice

To give you a practical example, if you are still confused about the different types of vocal registers of which we speak today, I suggest you sing an A sustained (“A” as the u in “putty”)  in a note that feels comfortable. A note that you commonly use to talk. If you put your hand on your chest, you should feel a little (or big!) Vibration. That’s your chest voice! If you try going up in the scale (eg in a glissando, as I showed in the previous post), you’ll notice how the vibration starts to leave your chest until it disappears completely.

   A practical example

In this song is well exemplified the voice register we were talking about throughout this post. As you may notice, the melody does not cover a very wide register and it stays within the comfort zone of the spoken voice. This gives a good sound to the voice and also a comfort that allows the singer to express freely and fill with emotional content the song. Personally, I think it’s a very good song to work on for male singers seeking to strengthen and explore their modal voice before launching to maximize their register.

I hope this information has helped! In the next post, I’ll tell you tips on vocal hygiene so you can protect your instrument.

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