This podcast is not a quick fix for high notes.
It’s falsetto groundwork for future greatness.
The truth about quick fixes is that they only really work when there are parts of your voice that are present already. Vocal registers being one of them. So, high notes are not going to be easy if you haven’t really explored your falsetto at all, yet so many singers want to know how to skip this detail. Well, you can’t. At least not without some external and unhelpful muscle getting involved, which will burn you in the long run.
This is for EVERYONE
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, checking in on the basics is actually part and parcel of developing and problem solving. For example, many singers might not have fully worked out their falsetto before they moved on to smoothing out the break or belting. In these cases there are often problems down the line, and then comes the need to focus back on single registers.
For todays mini-cast, we’re checking in on falsetto and giving it a reasonably isolated workout. This means that the exercises might seem simple. That they are and that’s what’s best for the job! So make it your own personal challenge to take on these basic principles and see what you discover!
First up, train falsetto… alone
We don’t mean lock yourself in a room.
The basis for vocal range is in falsetto. It’s in the Cricothyroid muscle, the CT, which is the muscle that lengthens, thins and tightens the vocal folds to raise pitch. The ‘stretchy’ muscle, to quote our friends at Voice Science Works. To strengthen that register, muscle, function, whatever, you need to work it in a variety of ways.
Going higher in your range is one common way, but there’s a chance that it’s also working against other things, like chest voice, the TA, the bulk of the cords. The falsetto also responds to volume, which means it can still be worked even when we are low in the range. That means we can train more flexibility into the lower notes and have a much better chance of getting through the middle and out the top with fewer problems.
It’s nothing new
By the way, this way of training has been mentioned by Cornelius Reid, who’s old school Bel Canto, right through to Daniel Zangger Borch: a rock/pop coach who can growl like a legend. So it’s applicable to everyone.
Here’s what you do, but DEFINITELY check the podcast video for the demo.
We’re presuming that chest voice is fairly well explored. That there’s not lots of strain or fatigue in the bottom below E4/F4 for both sexes. That you can be loud toward those middle notes without getting singed. If all that’s true, start with short scales or single note sustains on an OO vowel. Maybe even an EE vowel, depending on what gets a great, true falsetto sound. Breathy is normal initially, and isn’t bad at all.
No higher than C5/B4 initially, sing your scale in falsetto, semi-tone by semi-tone, until you get down to C4/B3. Try going a little lower, maybe even to G3. STAY in falsetto, DO NOT sing in chest, attempt to mix or transition smoothly. It’s easy to do if you allow yourself to get naturally quieter and quieter as you go lower. After all, falsetto is a quiet thing down low and is disconnected from chest. That’s the point of the exercise, as we are ONLY wishing to train the stretchy muscle.
This is a simple exercise again. Still, this exercise can be done in many ways and with many different problems. Check out the podcast for the recommended way.
The pitch range for fellas is G4, coming downwards in an octave scale pattern. Then move through each key downwards, semitone by semitone, for 7 semitones or so. For the ladies, it’s the same method, just starting around Db5 instead.
As for the NG shape, it uses the nasal passages to change how airflow leaves us. It’s slower out of the nose than the mouth because the nose is much narrower. That can help our vocal folds figure out their setting and really discourages us from yelling or pushing air. The NG won’t accept being man handled!
We can also benefit somewhat from the tongue and the soft palette being moved and use as the pitch glides up and down. Over time, this can help us gain awareness of the fleshy bits inside our mouth for resonance adjustments. Many pedagogues over the years have used the NG to do a myriad of things, and finding the resonant effect of a higher tongue is very fruitful for loads of singers. It also combats the flat, backwards tongue that is often the hallmark of tongue tension. Win win.
That’s the start of the range plan!
It’s as easy as that 😉
In all seriousness though, you can begin to change the situation in those higher ranges by first:
- exploring more falsetto and training it in this specific, fairly isolated way, and
- by using the tongue and the NG to create vocal shapes that help bring a clear, resonant tone to it.
They can be your initial groundwork to doing other more challenging things afterwards. Only this time, you’ll have a much more established falsetto to influence your chest register, greater flexibility in general, and an awareness of the tongue consciously. Having those experiences might well create short cuts down the line, as you can project what you learned today onto your singing tasks ahead!
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