If you've been following our blog posts, you've probably expanded your vocal range and now wants to sing higher. You've probably find that you cannot sustain those high notes even though you've worked so hard. Or if you're singing a piece that has a lot of high notes (as opposed to simply hitting one and coming back down), your voice may get very fatigued.
For both scenarios, tessitura is the problem and not just range. Tessitura is your comfortable range, in which you can sing the notes consistently, on-pitch, and without strain. The term is also used to describe the average pitch range of a song or choral part.
Let's site and example. Let's say that the tessitura of a number of mezzo-soprano is just an octave to half an octave below the "A" above the middle "C" to the second "A" above middle "C" but they can sing an occasional high C at the extreme of their range. If they're trying to sing a piece in which the tessitura is from high G to high C, they will experience vocal strain and fatigue.
You run the risk of straining your voice even though you are able to sing higher than your natural tessitura. You can choose songs within the range of your tessitura. The key then, is to know where that is, know your own tessitura.
So, is it possible to raise your tessitura? Again, Yes, but it takes work. The key is breath support, combined with upper resonance. If you try to sing higher notes from your throat without adequate breath support, the result is vocal strain. Over an extended period of time, you could cause lasting damage.
To sing higher notes takes more breath energy that to sing lower ones. You need to use all of your breath muscles--diaphragm, abdominal, spinals, and intercostals--and fully expand your midsection with each inhalation. As you exhale, keep everything expanded except your abdominal, which will control the rate of breath flow.
Once you are breathing properly, focus on your upper resonance, or "head voice". Imagine the sound coming from your forehead and the top of your head and think of the tone as being vertical rather than horizontal. You can compare to like riding an elevator, with your breath as the mechanism that makes the elevator ascend.
You should feel the vibration in your sinuses and the roof of your mouth (soft palate). Your mouth should be horizontally narrow but vertically tall inside. One voice teacher tells her students to imagine trying to swallow something unpleasant, opening the throat enough so that whatever it is won't touch the sides.
Don't try to force anything out from your tone, keep it light. Start with the yawn-slide or the vocal siren. For the yawn-slide, inhale and open your mouth as if to yawn, then exhale on "hoo" or "hee", starting at the top of your range and sliding rapidly all the way to the bottom. Try to start each successive one a bit higher.
The vocal siren is similar, except that it starts at the bottom of your range and goes up. Do it on a hum. As your breath support gets stronger, do the siren up and down several times on the same breath.
Another good exercise is the rapidly ascending and descending five-tone scale. Start in the middle of your range and use either the buzz (also called lip roll or bubble lips) or a vowel sound, such as "oo" or "ah". The pattern is do-re-mi-fa-so-fa-mi-re-do. Start the second pattern a half-step above the first and continue in that manner. Be sure to use good breath support.
Don't worry too much, you can raise your tessitura and sing higher notes more comfortably and easily with a little time and effort. Just be patient, persistent, and realistic.