1. Know Your Range
One of the first steps to getting to those high notes is to know what high notes your voice can hit. Every person has a vocal range, typically between one-and-a-half and two octaves, though professional singers are usually trained to sing beyond that to three or even four octaves. The word for the range of comfortable notes in your vocal register is “tessitura.” The typical vocal ranges are:
- Soprano - from middle C to high C
- Mezzo Soprano - from A below middle C to A above high C
- Contralto / Countertenor - to F below middle C
- Tenor - from B below middle C to A above middle C
- Baritone - from the second G below middle C to F above middle C
- Bass - from the second E below middle C to E above middle C
2. Warm Up Your Vocal Cords
Vocal cords that are relaxed are easier to stretch long and thin, which is how those high notes are made. There are a few simple exercises and massages you can do before exercising your vocal cords to train them to sing higher notes.
Begin with breathing exercises, which help you relax and ease tension. With your lips gently sealed, take a deep breath in through your nose; release your breath while softly humming. Repeat until you feel you have control over your breath. Then, ease tension by rolling your neck around from side to side. You can also massage your jaw and neck.
Start to build heat in your vocal cords by drinking hot water, either plain or with honey, or herbal tea. Avoid drinking cold drinks, milk, or caffeine as these can shrink the vocal cords or prompt your body to produce mucus around the vocal cords.
Warming exercises also help your vocal cords come to life. Try making deep purring sounds, executing vocal runs by singing a single note up and down in scale, or practice singing your octaves.
You can start to develop your vocal range through various exercises. Breathing and singing from your abdomen will help give you more power to those notes. Start by singing in your neutral voice and slowly working your way up the scale—this will exercise your vocal cords and will help make them longer and thinner. You can work with a vocal coach, who will help you get more out of your singing voice and can work with you to hit higher notes.
3. Use Your Voice
There are three different ways to sing and provide your voice with power when hitting high notes: singing with your chest voice, your head voice, or with a mixed voice.
Your chest voice is your speaking voice. It comes mainly from your diaphragm and the thicker, shorter vocal folds therein. This is where singers sing most of their notes, including their lowest notes, as this is where the voice sounds most powerful, clear, and full. When you are singing or speaking with your chest voice, you will feel a vibration in your upper chest.
Singing high notes with your chest voice is called “belting,” and is a way to provide power to those high notes, giving them a fuller, grittier sound. Christina is particularly known for belting, which is how she hits the majority of the big, powerful high notes that made her famous. Think of her song “Ain’t No Other Man,” or her part in “Lady Marmalade” — these are examples of Christina belting.
Another way to get to your high notes is to use your head voice, known as a falsetto. When you sing high notes with your head voice, you use longer, thinner vocal folds, which make it easier to reach a higher range. Try talking in a high-pitched, squeaky voice like Mickey Mouse. Do you feel the vibration on the back of your neck? That is your falsetto.
Many male singers are particularly known for their falsettos. Justin Timberlake has a famous falsetto which he uses to his advantage in songs like “Cry Me a River,” and Adam Levine of Maroon 5 is known for his falsetto in “She Will Be Loved.” Christina is also famous for her falsetto, which she uses less frequently and generally in more emotional or slower songs, such as the beginning of “Beautiful.”
Mixed voice is a method of singing that uses both your chest voice and your head voice: the head voice allows you to reach higher notes while the chest voice provides strength. Singing in this area of your chest and throat can give you better control over your voice and the notes it hits.
The ability to sing high notes is rarely natural; it requires constant practice, even for professional singers. A daily vocal routine will help train your vocal cords so that you too can hit those high notes with power and precision, just like Christina. Professional singers constantly practice to better fine tune their high notes, and work knowing when to hit them using their chest voice, their head voice, or using a mixed voice. Taking the time and dedication to practice how you can best hit your high notes will train your voice to hit them easily, like Christina.