How To Hit High Notes – Episode One

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Arthur Lessac is a certified genius. No doubt about it. Not only his intuition, his natural curiosity, but also his ability to create memorable experiences for his students so that the learning stayed in.

Hitting high notes is the great quest of any singer. But what stops us?

In a word – tension.

You probably know the feeling – that ‘urp’ in the throat when you reach upwards above a certain level. The internal muscles of the larynx contract and pull against each other, creating internal tension that spreads outwards like chain lightning. This tension can ‘flip’ the voice, making it lose control.

But Lessac has an extraordinary response to tension, all contained in the duality between two words: ‘Relaxer/Energiser’.

When we normally place conscious effort into something, we usually use more bodily force than we need to, and screw ourselves over. This is apparent in the arm exercise above. When my student just tensed their arm, it wasn’t strong enough to resist my pushing. This is because both the bicep and the tricep are resisting the pushing – and the bicep is actually helping me push! So the wrong kind of force is totally counterproductive.

When my student ‘yawned’ the arm out, creating a full-body experience, the arm was rock-solid. This is because while the tricep worked to resist the force, the bicep was relaxed. One muscle relaxes, and the other gains more energy. This is the crucial part of the relaxer/energiser duality.

The same is true in singing. By engaging the body’s energy using the yawn/stretch, we are able to relax the throat and anchor the body in one motion.

It’s genius. Try it yourself with the same downward scale my student used.

To protect my student’s voice, I also added some thyroid tilt exercises from Estill, similar to the puppy sounds that we’ve used before. Pair this with some simple starter songs and you’ll be well away.

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