Guest Article: Annie Bzdawka
Belting Out High Notes
Did you know there are a few simple tricks that singers can use to hit those high notes right on the money, and with lots of power and control?
One trick is to use your voice just like you use it when you speak. Your voice has been designed to make sounds a certain way, and the natural way that your voice wants to be used when you sing is the same way you use it when you speak. There are exceptions to this, such as when you are singing in your other vocal registers, like your “head” voice, or in your “mixed” voice (which is a mix between head voice and chest voice). This trick of using your voice just like you use it when you speak is most appropriate when singing largely in your chest voice.
It’s all about where you place your vowels… Take note of where those vowels are placed when you speak. Make a simple statement out loud to yourself with confidence and conviction, like, “Today is going to be an incredible day!” Note where you feel the activity in your throat… where do you feel things vibrating? Note that the vibrations are happening deep in the back of your throat. Then take a breath and yell a nice, quick, biting, “Hey!” as if you are trying to get someone’s attention who is across the street and down the block a bit. Make it quick and biting.
What did you notice about where things are happening with this loud, quick “Hey”?
You probably noticed that you felt something way back there in your throat, but perhaps not with a placement as low as when you simply made a statement in your speaking voice. THIS is where you want those vowels to be placed when you are belting it out, singing those high notes.
BE CAREFUL not to over-do it… you can do some real damage to your voice by over-working it or singing/speaking the wrong way. I recommend voice lessons from a reputable teacher in your area, as you can develop nodes or polyps on your vocal folds (vocal cords) if you over-use them, or if you sing with improper technique.
Having enough breath support, and being relaxed are also of the utmost importance for belting out high notes.
This might sound like I am saying that when you want to hit high notes properly, you have to basically yell out your notes. Well, in order for you to learn exactly where this placement is, and how to find it, many people can find it with this “yelling technique” to get used to the placement. Again, having enough air (breath) to support these high notes is also a key ingredient. Try reading the entire set of lyrics of the song you’re working on like you’re an evangelist, perhaps like Billy Graham, speaking loudly and clearly with conviction. This can help you build a habit of the correct vowel placement while you sing this song. After you have mastered this, you can place your vowels in this spot, and sing much more quietly, or with more control, to get the exact tone and volume you desire.
There’s a lot more to this than what can be explained in this article, but this is a great starting point for the beginner first learning how to belt.
Most importantly, any time you find your voice starting to get hoarse, stop practicing immediately, and give your voice a rest. Chances are that you’re singing with improper technique. The direction of a reputable vocal coach in your area will always be a better route to take than learning how to belt on your own!
About the Author:
Annie Bzdawka is the founder of the Milwaukee Music Academy, located in Milwaukee, WI. She’s been singing professionally for over 25 years, and has gained critical acclaim as a singer and songwriter. She teaches voice, guitar, and piano.