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Hitting the high notes

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Falsetto (81)
Help: Tips on singing falsetto? (57)
men singing high (28)
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Deep voice vs falsetto (16)


Murray MacLeod 14 May 00 - 07:23 PM
sophocleese 14 May 00 - 08:15 PM
MK 14 May 00 - 08:17 PM
Murray MacLeod 14 May 00 - 08:36 PM
Little Neophyte 14 May 00 - 08:44 PM
GUEST,moonchildatwork 15 May 00 - 09:46 AM
Vixen 15 May 00 - 10:26 AM
sophocleese 15 May 00 - 12:20 PM
Alice 15 May 00 - 12:35 PM
Little Neophyte 15 May 00 - 12:42 PM
Vixen 15 May 00 - 12:58 PM
Alice 15 May 00 - 01:24 PM
Grab 15 May 00 - 02:20 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 May 00 - 02:53 PM
Alice 15 May 00 - 02:56 PM
Gary T 15 May 00 - 03:04 PM
Alice 15 May 00 - 03:06 PM
Escamillo 15 May 00 - 03:29 PM
Kim C 15 May 00 - 03:30 PM
Alice 15 May 00 - 03:36 PM
MMario 15 May 00 - 03:40 PM
Escamillo 15 May 00 - 04:10 PM
catspaw49 15 May 00 - 04:14 PM
MMario 15 May 00 - 04:28 PM
Escamillo 15 May 00 - 04:42 PM
Bert 15 May 00 - 04:50 PM
GUEST,Mimosa@work 15 May 00 - 04:53 PM
Murray MacLeod 15 May 00 - 06:23 PM
catspaw49 15 May 00 - 08:15 PM
Escamillo 15 May 00 - 08:39 PM
McGrath of Harlow 15 May 00 - 08:42 PM
Gervase 16 May 00 - 11:51 AM
GUEST 13 Feb 09 - 11:44 AM
GUEST 13 Feb 09 - 11:44 AM
mouldy 13 Feb 09 - 11:56 AM
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Subject: Hitting the high notes
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 14 May 00 - 07:23 PM

I would be interested to know whether any singers have consciously set out to expand their vocal range, and been successful in the endeavour.

In the course of my (brief my most standards) performing career, the highest note which I can comfortably sustain has risen to E-flat,( maybe an E natural with a following wind) When I started I could just reach C-sharp. Is it realistic to expect that I can expand upwards? If so what exercises, techniques are available to help ? (Surgery is NOT an option !)

I would also be interested to know what is the highest note most of you can sing. From observation, the high note for most men appears to be D, and for women, A. I am sure however there are many who can exceed these parameters.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: sophocleese
Date: 14 May 00 - 08:15 PM

As with any other exercise practise can extend your abilities, within limits of course. You could try, after you are thoroughly warmed up, singing to the top of your range using simple exercises and then going for a half tone higher. Slowly approach the extension and if anything you do hurts, stop immediately and don't try it again. You may find that although you can hit the E flat the E is difficult but you can sometimes hit the F with accuracy. As your voice gets higher the breaks in your voice tend to get closer and closer together so particular high notes will land on the breaks and cause more difficulty than the notes between the breaks. Falsetto is a natural part of your range what you should aim for is a smooth transition between the falsetto and lower ranges.

Ranges for men and women vary greatly and so I, as a soprano, can hit an A with no difficulty and no real warm up but for many altos it would be more of a strain, but when I get below middle C my voice sounds like gravel when altos sound warm and clear.


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: MK
Date: 14 May 00 - 08:17 PM

I'm just sitting here with baited breath in anticipation of Catspaw's answer to this one. *BG*


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 14 May 00 - 08:36 PM

I hope I pre-empted Catspaw by stating I would refuse surgery ...

Murray


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 14 May 00 - 08:44 PM

Sophocleese, just wondering......
When I try to expand my high range it tends to feel sore. It doesn't really hurt, it is just feels sore. I figured that is because I am using muscles that have never been used much before.
Is that okay? or should I stop?

Little Neo


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: GUEST,moonchildatwork
Date: 15 May 00 - 09:46 AM

Sore muscles are caused from singing from your throat and not from your diaphragm. Regardless of whether you're soprano or alto, baritone or bass, you must support the vocal chords by breathing through your diaphragm. In addition, if you will visualize the placement of the notes in your head and "sing" them from those spots, you will find that not only can you hit the notes but you will be right on pitch.

I never think of what is the highest note I can hit. Just because a singer can "hit" it doesn't mean they can sing it. Also, it depends on the type of venue. If you're in room with wood walls and ceiling, the acoustics can be wonderful and your voice will soar. If you are outside, with no acoustic shell, you won't be able to hear yourself sing.

To head off any rude remarks from catspaw ... went to get my first method of birth control when I was 18 (mind you, at that time I had been in voice training for 5 years). The doctor suggested a diaphragm or the pill. I declined the diaphragm because I couldn't figure out how breathing through my diaphragm was going to keep me from getting pregnant ... moonchild


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Vixen
Date: 15 May 00 - 10:26 AM

My range has expanded upward sort of naturally as I have started working with my voice. I haven't been trying to expand my range, since it was already fairly large to start with. My question is this though, about high notes:

When I'm singing the melody line of a song, and my friend Sherry, who is a soprano's soprano, goes off on a descant above me, my throat starts to ACHE. When I sing the same melody alone, or in unison with Sherry, I have no discomfort at all. The songs we do this on are pretty much in my midrange, and no strain at all to sing. Everyone loves the harmony of her descant with my voice; people say our voices blend well. But whenever she goes high, I get really "tight" in my throat, feel as if I'm losing volume, feel like I'm off-pitch, feel like I'm out of air, feel like I'm getting strangled.

Anyone know what this is about? Our provisional solution is to do the verses in unison and only the choruses in harmony, which gives my throat a chance to loosen up in between the tight spells.

V


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: sophocleese
Date: 15 May 00 - 12:20 PM

Vixen, it sounds as if you're unconsciously tensing your own throat in anticipation of her high singing. I sometimes strain at easy notes when singing along with the radio or a tape because the singer is straining and I pick up on that tone as well as the note. Try singing your part over and over again by yourself until you're doing it in your sleep and then try it with her again. Concentrate on your singing not on hers. Also notice hwere you and she are breathing in the piece, if you're following her breathing pattern and its uncomfortable develop another place to breath.

Little Neo, moonchild is right when she says that you're likely singing from the throat not your diaphragm. When you're trying to sing in the higher range make it as easy as possible on your throat. For practice up there don't sing while playing banjo, you may be hunching over a little, but stand up straight. Do not lift your chin to the ceiling that puts strain on the muscles. Try looking straight ahead and yawning, leave your mouth in that position and then sing a nice open vowel, ah or oh. Use that to head on up to the higher notes.


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Alice
Date: 15 May 00 - 12:35 PM

Murray, I have been keeping track of singing threads and put them together in one - click here - threads on the singing Voice.
There are links in that thread to sites on vocal health, warming up your voice, and many discussions on the subject including expanding your range.

In general, you have to realize that we are each born with unique vocal cords (now referred to as vocal folds) that will have potential range, quality of tone, and the unique sound that is our voice. The best way to expand your range is to find a good voice teacher and spend the time learning how to use your voice to its full potential. That includes learning how to control your breath, gradually singing higher and lower until you can "hit" those notes, and learning how to lift the soft palate in the back of your mouth, how to relax muscles, how to place your tongue, and more. This is best done one-on-one with a GOOD teacher, a person who has extensive experience themselves in what singing entails, not someone who will approach you with a template and try to make your voice fit into it. Find someone who will teach you from the point you are at with your voice and help you form your instrument into what it can potentially be.

If you can't take voice lessons, some suggestions provided here already will help you. But, whether you are doing these things correctly can only be determined by a good teacher or another good singer LISTENING to what you are doing and telling you whether or not you are doing the techniques correctly. This isn't really something that can be learned from a book or tape. Someone else has to listen to you and show you what to do.

Lifting the soft palate, relaxing, having enough breath and control over the breath, gradually stretching your range, being able to float the tone on air (breath) rather than forcing it.... Think of the muscles in the floor of your abdomen, and pull them down when you breath in. Hold those muscles down as long as possible as you sing a note. Think of your lungs as a bagpipe and that you are creating as much space in your torso as possible to fill them with air by pulling downward with the floor of your abdomen. Pulling your other organs lower and holding them down, then slowly controlling the release of air from your lungs is what is meant by breathing from the diaphragm. Funny how people repeat that phrase about the diaphragm, but people don't usually explain what it means.

Don't visualize HIGH as UP THERE or a note ON TOP when you are trying to sing higher notes. It will only intimidate and tense you up. Think of PULLING DOWN with the muscles on the floor of your abdomen, then gently sing a high note, thinking -pull down, not jump up! Also, realize that your vocal chords are only moving to make a larger or smaller space to make the low or high notes. It isn't an "UP THERE" location at all. I think because we visualize notes on sheet music at the top or high keys on a piano, and use the word "high", many of us think of those notes of the as UP, and that can cause tension. Think of the cords in your throat instead, becoming stretched horizontally to a smaller opening to make that pitch. Think of the breath being controlled with support of the muscles that hold your internal organs. Think of the bones in your head and the spaces in your sinuses as the vibration sounding board. Some singers when they are learning this visualize a spot between their eyes or above the top of their head to feel the resonance of the pitch while they sing it. Singing exercises and songs every day that take you into higher and higher pitch will help you to reach your potential range.

hope this helps

Alice Flynn


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 15 May 00 - 12:42 PM

Thanks for the tips moonchild and sophocleese. I have been doing everything I should not be doing. Seated hunched over my banjo with my chin to the ceiling like a wolf howling.
Guess I've been watching too many Pete Seeger videos.
As for singing from my diaphram, Moonchild you make me laugh. The biggest difficulty I've got now is singing from my diaphram without cracking up.

Little Neo


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Vixen
Date: 15 May 00 - 12:58 PM

Sophocleese--

Thanks for the pointers--especially about the breathing--I have no idea whether we're breathing together or not; it will certainly be something I'll check next time we sing together!

V


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Alice
Date: 15 May 00 - 01:24 PM

Vixen, if you can go through the lyrics with your partner and make choices where to take a breath according to phrases, you can pace yourself as well as have a smooth sound through phrases of words and notes that should logically be tied together. In other words, look at where the commas and periods are in the lyrics, and whatever you do, don't take a breath in the middle of a word.

For an example, you can breathe before a long phrase, even though you haven't run out of air yet, in order to keep the long legato line of the phrase. In the song Fields of Athenry, for example, if you sing "Michael (breath) they are taking you away." it is better than singing "Michael they are taking you (breath) away." By going through your lyrics and finding the phrases (thoughts) that should remain connected on one breath, you can decide where to insert a breath together.

Alice


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Grab
Date: 15 May 00 - 02:20 PM

To continue the theme, even though I'm a bloke...

Does your range deteriorate over time? Age 18 I sang tenor in a local choir (Mozart's Requiem plus some other rather bizarre piece I can't remember offhand) and sang to myself quite a bit for a little while after that. At the time I could easily reach G, and I could get up to B with a bit of a push. But now I'm singing more (in late 20s), I find I can't get higher than E without it breaks up and I squeak!

Would practice/training/a good singing teacher help get my range back up? Or is it age creeping in already? :-) Is it possible to get that kind of step in range with practice? And would different music (choral instead of folk) be better, maybe? Sounds like there's ppl there (like Alice) with more singing experience than I'm ever likely to see...

Grab.


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 May 00 - 02:53 PM

Using a head voice can be an important part of some traditional singing. The clever techniques classical singers have may make for a prettier sound, but that may not always be the sound that is most fitting for Sean Nos singing, or mountainy songs.

It's a bit akin to the difference between classical violin techniques, and those of fiddler-players. And there was an interesting thread about that recently too.


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Alice
Date: 15 May 00 - 02:56 PM

McGrath, I don't think the term you mean is head voice, which is used by classical singers. The trad folk voice is more a "nasal" voice than a head voice, appropriate to sean nós, bluegrass, and old time music.

alice


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Gary T
Date: 15 May 00 - 03:04 PM

I thought McGrath might be referring to the "head register" (higher notes in your range) as opposed to the "chest register" (lower notes). I wouldn't think "nasal" or lack thereof would apply to that. Have I misinterpreted someone?


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Alice
Date: 15 May 00 - 03:06 PM

Grab, you are just getting a more mature range, settling into your adult full grown voice rather than your teenage voice. Children and teens naturally have higher voices. It stands to reason that your voice would become lower as you changed from a teen to an adult man. What it sounds like you want is to sing as high as you used to, but if your true mature range isn't high, then it just won't be there! The more you can learn and train the use of your voice the more choices you have in what you sing. If you want to sing clearly, the training will help you do that. If you want to sing music that needs a nasal "twang", like bluegrass, then you can do that, too, out of choice. Having the training will just help you with keeping your vocal cords from damage, reaching the potential of your range, and giving you breath support when others around you are gasping for air or need a mic when you can sing loudly without one.

Getting older doesn't mean your voice will deteriorate. If you learn techniques to take care of it, your voice will actually grow stronger and more secure with age.

alice


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Escamillo
Date: 15 May 00 - 03:29 PM

(wheww.. when the subject is the singing voice I can contribute much more than in the subject of folk !) :)
Very short recommendation: don´t loose your time practizing alone, go to a good, CLASSICAL teacher. Alice has said it all. Why not a popular singer who teaches ? Because classical singers have a much deeper knowledge and experience in voice training. Once you achieve some important goals (extending the range is only one), you may go to any popular teacher you may like.
My experience ? Went to my first choir as a bass at age 46, my director reclassified me as a baritone, started serious study at 49, now I'm a tenor and my range is from low G to high Bflat (in rainy days some of the famous high C), I mean two octaves and 3 semitones, and am enjoying solo performances too, at age 53, and improving. And my voice is nothing special. And I´m a smoker.
(You know, the best age for a well educated singer is beyond 60)
Never force your voice, never sing in open air, keep improving slowly with a teacher listening to you.
Best of luck and good work! - Andrés


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Kim C
Date: 15 May 00 - 03:30 PM

I have been singing for most of my almost 33 years, even had lessons in college, but did not fully understand correct breathing until very recently. It has made all the difference.

I learned to yodel several years ago and because it is trying on one's throat, it is all the more important to breathe right. The light bulb started to come on then, but didn't fully light until much later.

A good, controlled breath will support those high notes. I can't splain it to you very well in writing, but if you relax the diaphragm you notice the air just sort of rushes in by itself. (Try it.)Rather than your bosom expanding from the air, your abdomen will expand as well. Make sense?


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Alice
Date: 15 May 00 - 03:36 PM

Gary - the classical repertoire is written so that a soprano or tenor has to sing much higher than in folk or ethnic music. A coloratura soprano piece, for example can have notes in the third octave above middle C. You don't find that in most folk music. Folk singers usually sing more in the range of their natural speaking voice, and often add a kind of drone sound on the ends of words, which is a kind of nasal sound, rather than singing mostly on open vowels, like classical singers do. I sing folk music, too, so I am not using the term nasal as a disparaging word. It is just a different sound than classical.

alice


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: MMario
Date: 15 May 00 - 03:40 PM

andres - you say "never sing in open air" - I'm curious...what is the rational here? The REASON I'm curious is probably 95% of my singing is outdoors...


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Escamillo
Date: 15 May 00 - 04:10 PM

MMario, in open air you don't have a feedback, this annoys the singer and make him feel tense and unsure of what people hear. It is the worst situation for the singer, unless.. you use a mic and power amplifiers and they are properly balanced to give you that feedback. I know many singers enjoy this form of performance, and in many cases it is the only way to perform, however.. people don´t hear you. They hear the loudspeakers. I was referring to informal performances.
That´s why I don't attend Pavarotti's big shows in parks, but I respect the musical preferences of many people that like them.
Un abrazo - Andrés (an anti-PA maniac)


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: catspaw49
Date: 15 May 00 - 04:14 PM

When 3 of the first 5 posts after the thread starts name me as though I'm about to step in and make a single entendre joke.................Well, I wonder what kind of rep I must have. Listen, I can't be everywhere and do everything ya' know? I'm supposed to insult everyone and make tasteless jokes on every potential thread....I tell you its a challenge just to keep up.

But in all truth, I DO try to stay away from the legit discussions which, even though I loved the title, I considered this to be. However, I think if Murray would clamp up his balls in a pair of Vise Grips and squeeze whenever he needed the higher notes, that would save an awful lot of practice and voice exercises and such. All you'd have to learn is what amount of pressure equals what note.

This technique works well for Pavarotti I've heard, but due to his portly stature, he uses an assistant to operate the pliers. Its really a full time position also in charge of other operations such as urination and the like since the great star has not seen or been able to reach his 3 piece set in 32 years. .... Kind of a "Genital Handyman." ......A "Jack Off All Trades," so to speak.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: MMario
Date: 15 May 00 - 04:28 PM

okay - I can follow that. (I guess it doesn't bother me because I don't really care if anyone is listening or not. I usually sing for me...)


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Escamillo
Date: 15 May 00 - 04:42 PM

Spaw, my teacher told me, in his first class : will you work hard, or you prefer the pliers ? Since then I work really hard.
Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Bert
Date: 15 May 00 - 04:50 PM

Well I never thought I'd hear Spaw say... 'I tell you its a challenge just to keep up.'


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: GUEST,Mimosa@work
Date: 15 May 00 - 04:53 PM

As a professional classical singer, I just wanted to add my experience to this discussion. Nothing can subsitute for a good teacher. When I (a baritone) sing duets with a good tenor, sometmes I tend to push my voice instead of supporting properly - as discussed elsewhere in this thread - which will always result in my losing volume, quality and range. I was classified as a baritone at age 12, and at 44 I'm still a baritone, but my range has increased by a fourth on the top and probably a fifth on the bottom. I think if a voice is deteriorating before the singer is 65, there's a problem in technique which will require a good teacher to fix.

Trying to learn to sing by listening to yourself is like trying to improve your playing on an instrument by putting your head inside it. Singers can't haer what they actually sound like, so we have to have someone we can trust tell us.

I suspect that my classical technique keeps me from sounding like a folk musician when I sing folk songs, and my blues with folk harp accompaniment is probably off the wall, but I get good audience response with it, so I won't fault what works for me.

Mimosa


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 15 May 00 - 06:23 PM

Spaw's suggestion certainly has merit, but as both hands are occupied playing guitar while the voice is attempting to hit an E natural, and since I could not afford to pay an assistant the exorbitant rate which such a task would command, regrettably I shall have to explore other avenues, perhaps voice training from a teacher, as suggested by Alice, and Escamillo.

Unless of course, Spaw, you as a luthier can rig me up a contraption similar to the Parsons-White B-Bender, which would connect to a pair of Vise-Grips instead of to the B-string ........

Murray


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: catspaw49
Date: 15 May 00 - 08:15 PM

Maybe it would work better with little electric motors or hey....what about hydraulics? Then you control it by a floor rheostat/switch with your foot.......be kinda' the ULTIMATE Wah-Wah Pedal wouldn't it?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Escamillo
Date: 15 May 00 - 08:39 PM

MMario, even if you are singing for yourself, for amusement, possibly you force your voice a little more when you are outdoors (I mean not in the vicinity of walls or reflecting planes of any kind). The effort raises unconsciously and we rapidly get a "tired" throat. This, of course is a recommendation of professional singers. By the way, I've read a long and highly specialized article in Scientific American some years ago, dedicated to "shower" singers. I recall the elegant mathematical demonstration of the improvement in hearing when you are in a cubicle of certain precise dimensions and how sound waves behave inside it, and the effect of vapor in the air over the vocal cords and mouth cavities. Unfortunately we can´t gather a large audience in there :)
Mimosa, I'm glad to see another professional opinion. I'm an amateur but a good student (at my age!) and my classical style applied to negro spirituals and recently some traditionals, has given me many great moments. People really like an educated voice with a little comprehension of the singer regarding the nature of the songs. If we don´t miss the point (and sing everything as an aria), they always respond very enthusiastically. Please keep posting.
Un abrazo - Andrés

Un abrazo - Andrés


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 May 00 - 08:42 PM

I'd call it a head voice, with a nasal kind of sound often enough, but not always. "Quality of voice depending upon adjustment and condition of the vocal chords... the tones of this are mostly higher in pitch than those of thechest voice" is how my dictionary puts it. "A sitting-down kind of a voice."


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: Gervase
Date: 16 May 00 - 11:51 AM

Mimosa's advice about actually listening to your own voice is spot on. I'd been singing terribly for more years than I care to rememebr when I bought a MiniDisc recorder and stereo mike to record sessions earlier this year. Playing the stuff back, I heard a complete pillock in full flow. Bloody hell, it was dire! I sat and squirmed, listening to this forced, strangulated voice, only to realise with some horror that it was me. One listening was enough to tell me I was breathing wrongly and that the intonation was all to pot. I'm not saying I'm brilliant now, but a few solitary sessions with the MD recorder have made an appreciable difference - and hopefully the next time I inflict myself on an audience, they'll also appreciate the difference.


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 11:44 AM

Is it ok if i`m a tenor in my choir....but i can sing soprano and i can get up to a E Or f???


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: GUEST
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 11:44 AM

Oh and i meann a HIGH SOPRANO E OR F???? SHARP ....???


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Subject: RE: Hitting the high notes
From: mouldy
Date: 13 Feb 09 - 11:56 AM

A distant cousin of mine, John Brecknock, was a leading (lyrical) tenor with the ENO. He wrote a book about 10 years ago called "Scaling the High Cs", which is part biography and part help-book for aspiring singers (although more aimed at the operatic style).

You can still get hold of it.

Andrea


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