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High Tenor Notes as a Psychological Problem

Hello,
 
I've been really focusing on training my voice for the last couple of years (I've been a musician forever but singing is relatively new, having picked it up towards the end of undergrad - I'm 24 now).
 
I have sort of an ambigous, "bari-tenor" voice. I've sung both baritone and tenor 2 parts in different choirs, sometimes switching between them on different pieces on the program, and I'm usually happy and comfortable in both sections.
 
So now we're doing the Mozart Requiem, and I'm having some problems with the tenor part. I think part of it is that the tessitura of that piece is generally higher than most other pieces I've sung tenor on, so it's a bit tiring. But I think the main problem is that i'm getting psyched out by the high notes.
 
When I practice on my own or in a voice lesson, or sing solo pieces, I have a solid G and A flat up top (my A natural is pretty shouty right now). We even worked on the "Tuba Mirum" tenor solos in my voice lesson and it went fine (the "mors stupebit et natura" one - it goes up to an A flat).
But for whatever reason, I have trouble singing those notes in the Requiem choral rehearsals, and have been resorting to falsetto.
 
I think i'm sort of self conscously afraid of the amount of physical commitment it tkes for me to sing those notes, and doing it in an ensemble setting. Most of the other tenors have really light, quiet voices, and perhaps I have this sort of sub conscious fear that I'm not a "real" tenor for not having those notes effortlessly - plus the fact that I'm afraid of sticking way out of the texture by singing out more than they do. Perhaps I'm sabotaging my technique by thinking this way.
My voice teacher has said that I'm more of a solo tenor than a choral tenor, because in a small choir of relatively untrained voices it's hard to avoid sticking out when I do what I have to do to sing the high notes. 
 
Then again there are a couple sopranos in this choir that are more trained than the others, and they just go for it. They definitely stick out, but no one has ever said anything.
 
 
Sorry, that was sort of rambly. Does anyone have any advice for how to approach this piece?
Even though I'm a little frustrated right now, I'm also kind of excited - I feel like this is one of those challeneges that will make me a much better singer if I figure it out.
on February 19, 2014 6:41am
I don't actully see a problem using falsetto to sing high notes in choral music, especially if you are a young singer!  I know that it took me a while to get the top of my voice "worked out," and until everything came together, I felt exactly what you described--getting to the high register in full voice was a sometime thing, especially in choral music.  
 
And in my experience--as both a voice teacher and a tenor--using falsetto is preferable to repeated straining!  Falsetto will do you no harm, and you can continue to work out the top of your voice in the studio.  When your voice is ready, it will "take over," and you won't have to think about which way to produce a high note.  But this can take a few years!
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on February 21, 2014 10:03pm
Alex,
 
The top G-A flat area is typically the top for both a legitimate baritone and a tenor who has not yet learned how to get into the real tenor top. Unfortunately, you have not given us enough information in order to make an educated guess. You mentioned your voice teacher, so please do not take anything I say as an attempt to contradict, just to add to.
 
Let me ask you to investigate a few questions:
1. Does your low range bottom out at a comfortable F/G or is a B flat/A the lowest? If you have a solid low G you may be a legitimate baritone. If you struggle for the A you may be a tenor with no top - yet.
2. Do you sing your higher notes with a raised or lowered larynx? Many a singer who thought they were a baritone with no bottom learned they were really a tenor when they learned to sing with a comfortably lowered larynx (as, for example, through the sensation of the yawn) which made the top available to them. If you have been singing with a raised larynx, then learning to sing with a lowered larynx should set you on the more definite tenor or baritone path fairly soon.
 
Good luck, and let us know how things turn out.
 
The Mozart is a great piece!
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