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You Can Sing the Note — How to Work Through a Passage That Feels Impossible

Have you ever found yourself banging your head against the wall over a particular note? Maybe it feels like your voice “can’t do that”, or you find yourself blaming external factors like sleep and hydration more than you should.

Here’s the thing: there is no note that you just “can’t” sing — if the note is in your range, your vocal folds are up to the task. If there is a note that you’re having trouble producing — it is always a matter of how the breath is functioning, or how you are shaping the vocal tract. It’s never a matter of “can’t”.

Simple to say, more difficult to figure out. But the idea should provide some relief for your angst around that break & strain you are feeling. Adjustments have to be made in the breath and the shape of your vocal tractin order to easily sing the note — once you find the right adjustment consistently, you’ll have it. Easy-peasy.

Some ways to get you started:

Assess the breath.

  1. The inhale. Is it noisy? Could someone hear your inhale from the front row? Raise the back of your tongue, and endeavor towards a “cool” stream of air which isn’t audible to those around you.

  2. The onset, or start of the phonation. Is there an unnecessary burst of air to begin the phonation? Are your folds completely “gathered”, or do they only fully gather in the middle of the phrase?

Assess the vocal tract.

  1. The back of your tongue should generally be high (higher than is natural for most of us), and the tip of the tongue should comfortably rest against the bottom teeth.

  2. What is your favorite vowel to sing on? Do some isolated exercises on that vowel and observe how the inside of your mouth is functioning.

  3. Sing your least favorite vowel and try to stretch the inside of your mouth to match more closely to your favorite vowel. What changes? What feels difficult to change?

Of course, what really helps is working with a knowledgable teacher — but it’s important to check in to these concepts even when you regularly take lessons. Hope this helps —and when it doubt, remember to stop pushing & take "can't" out of your vocabulary!

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