Ep.21: Sing High Notes: Why you Strain-Part 2

Sing High Notes: Why you Strain-Part 2

If you feel tension and strain when you sing high notes, it’s very likely you are going into swallowing mode. Try humming while you swallow!


Going into swallowing mode when you sing high notes causes real problems. Inside this video, I’ll show you an X-ray video of what that looks like, and what you can do to avoid it so your high notes don’t get choked off!


Hi I’m Chuck Gilmore with Power To Sing.  If you strain when you try and sing high notes, it’s likely that you are going into swallowing mode.


The Larynx is the box where your vocal cords are located. Your Adam’s apple is part of the larynx and the vocal cords are attached just behind your Adam’s apple.


Start humming and then swallow while you hum.  You can’t do it right?


Here’s what swallowing looks like. Pretty freaky, huh?

ezgif.com-cropSing High Notes: When Larynx rises, we are going into swallowing mode

(Click on the image to see the gif)

As the larynx rises the epiglottis covers your windpipe. This allows the water or food you eat to slide down into your stomach and stay out of your lungs. If water goes down the wrong tube, your vocal cords try to close and prevent water from going into your lungs. Usually this starts us coughing to help clear out any fluids.


Why you Strain When You Sing High Notes

When you swallow, the air from your lungs is shut off too. No air = no sound. Also the muscles around the larynx start working to help, which is good if you are swallowing, but bad if you are singing. The more the muscles squeeze the larynx the more squeezed and tense the vocal cords become.


When we feel things tighten up around our singing voices….especially as we are trying to sing high notes, we panic.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 10.01.22 PM

Then we stretch our necks upward to try and hit the note, which gives us more tension around the vocal cords, and now we are even more worried and so then we sing it louder and harder. This makes the problem worse.


Now we have tension around a rising larynx which is squeezing the vocal cords.  The vocal cords are now more tense because we are sending too much air which tightens the vocal cords even more.  Then we go flat, yell, splat, crack, break, flip into falsetto or worse.   This is how we damage our voices, sometimes severely.

Sing High Notes: When Larynx rises, we are going into swallowing mode


How do we keep the larynx resting comfortably like when we’re talking nice and easy?  This is the ideal condition for singing too! Here’s a few ways to help.

  1. Be patient. Developing a great singing voice does not occur by pushing your voice hard.
  2. Reduce the volume when practicing and singing
  3. Use good posture as you sing, chest up, shoulders back, head straight ahead
  4. Resist the temptation to reach your chin up to sing high notes or push it down for low notes.
  5. The Lip Trill, Tongue Trill, Dopey Gee are especially helpful in reducing tension. Substitute these in place of the words. You can feel the larynx relax and the tension ease. [Vocal Demo]
  6. Last, maintain the purity of the vowel. That means that you don’t let the vowel spread or widen. For example to widen from OO to uh, or O to ah, or uh to ah. [Vocal Demo]


Do you see what happens when the vowel widens or spreads. The muscles around the larynx start to kick in and everything tightens…you go into swallowing mode!


If you strain when you sing high notes it’s likely the larynx is rising higher and higher. That means it’s also likely your vocal type is High Larynx. Right? Part of the Pulled Chest/High Larynx vocal type.


Do you know your vocal type? I don’t mean whether you are soprano, alto, tenor or bass.  Your vocal type is what you tend to do when you sing.


There are special exercises in the Knowledge Center that will help you retrain what you tend to do when you sing. Visit Power To Sing.com and take the vocal test, which I call the Power Test.


Immediately you will learn your vocal type. Then go to to Knowledge Center and learn about your vocal type. Watch the video examples. Download the free exercises for your vocal type and start improving your voice today.


I’m Chuck Gilmore with Power To Sing. You can sing higher with beauty, confidence and power.


I’ll see you inside the next video.


Share this post

Chuck Gilmore

Chuck Gilmore

If you want to do more with your singing voice it is possible. This is the first and most important message. It is possible to achieve your dreams to sing better, to sing higher, and to add beauty, confidence and power to your voice!

I know this because I’ve experienced a real change in my voice. I am reaching my dreams to sing and perform. You can find happiness and fulfillment with your singing too!!


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles You Might Like