Lack of High Notes

Most professional singers have one anxiety in common; a factor in their careers that may strain their nerves to the breaking point. It lies in the difficulties presented by the top of the voice. Every voice trainer knows that one of his most urgent tasks is to overcome this trouble by eradicating at the outset the singer’s ‘terror of high notes.’

One has to look upon the upper range of the voice as a problem of its own. It is, moreover, a cardinal factor in training the voice. ‘Height’ is not merely a part of the vocal scale – it is an element. The things that bring it about are equally important in producing the lower range, if this part of the voice is to possess the specific qualities of singing.

‘The singing teacher should practise the middle part of the voice, the top will come by itself….’ We find this recommendation in a popular work by a well-known phoneticist and throat specialist of an older generation (plenty of others give the same advice). But it is a wholly amateur opinion, one of the false precepts that persistently circle the singing world.

Unless it is present from the beginning (i.e., is naturally awake), the top range never comes by itself, and should it be present, it will be lost in hundreds of cases, unless it is deliberately maintained.

Like everything needed in singing, the mechanism for producing high notes has been included in this organ of ours; a fact, nota bene, that applies just as much to the normal throat. Every voice has ‘height,’ latently at least. Usually it is simply the impotence of the vocal organ that hides the capacity; and it will stay concealed, unless expert knowledge and infinite care are used to develop it. One cannot wait for it to appear, and to say ‘the singer has a short voice’ is not a valid excuse.

The high range is the product of a special co-ordinate action of various muscle-systems; a number of factors can easily obstruct it. The voice trainer has to know what they are and, unless he is armed with a well-founded knowledge of physiology, he will never really succeed in reaching his goal. The only way of accomplishing what has to be done is by using the proper therapy. Reassuring speeches or vivid aesthetic descriptions of how it ought to be, are of no practical use whatever.


Husler, Frederick, and Yvonne Rodd-Marling. “Singing: the physical nature of the vocal organ: a guide to the unlocking of the singing voice.” (1976).