Please Read This BEFORE Giving Up on That Hard Note
I get it. You’ve tried to hit it a dozen times. Maybe closer to a hundred times.
And nothing is working.
It’s pitchy, it’s strained, it’s cracking, it’s JUST. NOT. HAPPENING.
I also know you probably want to give up on trying to get this and binge watch Netflix instead. You’re only human.
But please let me tell you something that might heal some of your frustration.
IF I WAS ONLY ABLE TO COMMUNICATE ONE THING TO SINGERS JUST LIKE YOU, IT’D BE THIS:
There are no hard notes (in your range), only the wrong breath support and/or the wrong vowel shape.
Every day singers tell me “I can’t sing this note”, “But my voice can’t do that” and “It’s on my break so it’s awful”. And they firmly believe that’s the truth.
Because right now, it is. That note isn’t jumping out all shiny waving its jazz hands.
But it could. Because…
If the note is in your range then you vocal cords can make it happen for you.
It’s what else you’re doing that’s getting in the way of that note coming our cleanly, easily and with resonance.
SO IS IT YOUR BREATH?
OR THE WAY YOU’RE SHAPING THE WORD?
Pfft Kim, that’s it? One of those two things?
Seems too good to be true right? But really, these two (kinda big) puzzle pieces are the secret.
Once you've got these on lock and you understand how they work, you can tweak your approach to that "hard note" pretty easily.
How you train the breath and how you use it as fuel is going to allow you to get the note.
How you shape the vocal tract (mouth and throat) is going to determine how easily it comes out and the colour it has.
So are you touching base with both of these things in your lessons and/or practice sessions?
If the answer is no, let’s get you started.
MY SUGGESTIONS TO GET STARTED
Start with the inhale
Do your breath control exercises
Imagine projecting to a spot ahead of you and using the breath to get you there (how far away will depend on the volume you’re after).
How are you starting the note (the onset)?
Can you hear breathiness before the note starts (like an added H)?
Or a harsh glottal attack?
What happens if you aim for a clean or glide onset instead (breath and vocal cord connection happening simultaneously)?
First, check whether or not the tip of your tongue naturally rests behind your bottom teeth when you sing all your vowels (Ah, Eh, Ee, Oh and Oo is a good start). This is where he needs to live (it’s his safe space).
If the tip of your tongue is all good to go, find the vowel you like most (that feels the easiest) and the vowel you like least (that feels the hardest).
Notice what changes between the two on the same note.
Does your tongue want to tense? Or raise/flatten?
Does your soft palate want to lift/lower? Does your jaw drop or lock? Do your lips spread?
What happens if you model the tricky vowel off the easy one?
Do the same thing but compare what the shape of your mouth feels like when you sing that same vowel/word on a lower note and when you go up to a higher note.
Does anything change? And does it feel any easier if you DON’T LET IT MAKE THAT CHANGE?
THE TRUTH IS, WE DO WEIRD STUFF WHEN WE’RE WORRIED ABOUT A “HARD NOTE”
We try too hard.
We hold back our airflow.
We let our tongue go crazy.
We over-lift our soft palate.
We push a panic button right when we need things to go smoothly and it’s incredibly frustrating.
You just need to figure out what your particular flavour/s of panic button pushing are and work on them.
I hope that’s given you a few ideas on how you can put this into action.
How you can become your own vocal detective and get more clarity on what clicks and what doesn’t.