One of the first questions my students ask me when introduced to a new piece of music is ‘Are there high notes?’ or ‘How high does it go?’ It would seem that being a tad intimidated by high notes comes with being a singer. But like everything, it’s all a matter of perspective.
Focusing on the higher notes of a piece of music before they are even sung will most likely cause unnecessary anxiety and stress. It is almost like trying to climb a mountain by focusing solely on the tip and without looking at all at the base, or trying to build a house from the roof going down. The foundation is where the journey to the top starts, and so needs to be nurtured as does every step until the summit. In singing terms the base of the mountain is the lower middle range. The lower middle range needs to be a solid foundation that each singer can then build on. It is only then that the higher range can be cultivated and worked on. Allowing the lower middle range to move freely and comfortably through an open throat supported by the lower abdominal muscles, will eventually lead to the higher notes. So the key to the high notes is actually the low-middle notes.
Singers strive to achieve consistency of sound all through their voice, keeping the richness and core in both higher and lower ranges. Exclusively focusing on the higher notes can lead to reaching and pinching in the throat, and the larynx going high as the pitch rises. The above mentioned restrict the space the sound needs to move freely and vibrantly through the instrument. This will make moving towards the higher range and maintaining it nearly impossible.
So the next time high notes are a stressor or difficult to achieve, maybe think of ‘taking it down a notch’...or an octave or a perfect fifth. Getting back to the lower middle range and smoothing things out there is a smart investment for future high notes.