A vocal exercise that makes high notes easier

I was thinking over the last several blog posts I’ve done and I realized I haven’t done anything on vocal technique in quite some time. So today I thought I’d get back to basics and talk a bit about one of the most common things we singers struggle with- strain when singing in the upper part of our ranges. Now, I could get really technical here, and if I did it would get really long and really boring. So I’m going to focus only on one element of making high notes easier.

There are several things that need to work together in order to make accessing the higher parts of your range feel easier and less straining. But at the center of all of those things-the hub that holds all the spokes on the wheel in place- is your larynx. The larynx is more commonly referred to as your “Adam’s Apple”. It’s that lump in your throat that goes up and down. In a nutshell, a higher larynx equals more strain when you sing higher notes. A lower, more stable larynx means more relaxed, easier singing in your upper range.

Today I want to give you one simple vocal exercise that will help train your larynx to be lower and more stable. This will help you feel much less strain in the choir stand singing those demanding Gospel songs, or on the praise team belting it out on Sunday morning.

These exercises engage muscles that pull your larynx down, thus helping to train your larynx not to jump up high in your throat when you start to approach higher notes in your range. I’m going to have you do this exercise two ways. Both of them will use the vowel “U”.  For the first exercise we’ll combine that U vowel with what we call a “hard consonant”.  For the second one will use a “soft consonant”. This refers to the amount of air stoppage a consonant causes in your mouth when you pronounce it.

First Exercise:

For the first exercise we’ll use the sound “GUH”. For the right pronunciation, think of the word “guppy” or “gutter”. Just leave off everything after the U. Try using this sound on a simple 5 tone scale. You remember the Major Scale we all learned that uses the words “Do Re Me Fa Sol La Ti Do”, right?  Well for this exercise we’ll sing the first 5 notes of that scale forward and backwards, using the word “GUH”. In other words, it would sound like “Do Re Me Fa So Fa Me Re Do”. Only we’ll be singing those notes using “Guh”.

Start out in a comfortable place in your range and do the 5 tone scale forward and backward, singing “GUH”. Then move up a half step and do it again. Keep doing that until you’ve reached the highest place in your range you can sing COMFORTABLY. Then simple start going back down one half note at a time.

Second Exercise:

Exercise #2 is exactly the same, only we’ll substitute the “G” for an “N”. Now we’ll sing “NUH NUH NUH”, as in the word “nothing” or “nugget”.

Do this exercise exactly the same way you did the first one, doing the 5 tone scale forward and backward, then moving up a half-step and doing it again until you reach the highest place in your range you can sing comfortably.

An added twist:

After you’ve done this a couple of days and you’re pretty comfortable with the exercises, I want you to add a new element. Instead of doing the exercises in your normal singing voice, do it in what we call a “dopey” sound. Think “Sylvester Stalone….Adrian!!! Another example of the dopey sound (and where it gets it’s name) is that sound you make when someone says something that’s really so obvious it’s almost stupid..and you go “DUUUH!”. It’s an exagerated, throaty sound. Using this with your GUH GUH and NUH NUH NUH exercises makes them even more effective because they cause this “friendly compression” that helps force the larynx down even further. Try these for a few minutes a day-5-10 minutes tops. Do them daily for a week or so and tell me what you think. Remember though, don’t overdo it and don’t do anything painful!

I’ve explained this stuff as clearly as I can, but let’s face it: It’s hard to really get the full understanding of a vocal exercise looking at printed text. If you’d like to actually see and hear vocal exercises demonstrated, try my free 5 day vocal training course!



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14 Responses to A vocal exercise that makes high notes easier

  1. Dogli Robert says:

    please help me to become a great gosple singer

  2. Pingback: A vocal exercise that makes high notes easier | Monique Charles

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  5. Thanks for sharing this! I can use all the singing help I can get! Maybe this will help…

  6. Ron Cross says:

    Hey Jessica, I posted it on my fan page this morning and this evening I got a comment from a follower saying it had already increased her range. Let me know if it works for you!

  7. Olga Hermans says:

    I told I always learn something good when I come to your website; love it! I gave this to my daughter, who loves to sing and always had a hard time with the higher notes. She really enjoyed your recommendations. Thanks Ron

    • Ron Cross says:

      You’re welcome Olga, glad your daughter liked it as well. I feel the same way about my visits to your site, by the way. You are always on point!

  8. On point as always!!!

    • Ron Cross says:

      Nothing is more gratifying than praise from your peers, man. As someone whose knowledge in this field I respect a great deal, that means a lot. Thanks my brother.

  9. Claudia Looi says:

    Great tips for vocal exercise Ron. This get me singing the do-re-mi from Sound of Music.

  10. Ron, this is great to know. I have a very deep voice for a female (sing alto & even some tenor), so when I get to the higher stuff, I feel like my voice is struggling. Thanks for these exercises!!

  11. Thanks for the exercises – they look like something I could attempt and my voice could certainly do with the practise!

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