It may not have reached “Let It Go” acclaim quite yet, but “Into the Unknown” is exploding in popularity, and nobody is that surprised. When Frozen 2 came on the scene, everyone was already waiting to hear what the next big Idina Menzel hit would sound like. “Into the Unknown” is catchy and fun to sing, but those choruses and that bridge are high and on fairly unfriendly vowels. If you’re ready to stop ignoring the whispers and want to try journeying into the unknown vocally, start with this post to make your trip a little less perilous.
Why is Into the Unknown so Tough?
Well, for one thing, it’s written for Idina Menzel’s very high belt. As early as the chorus, you’re already having to sustain an Eb5 (2 Eb’s about Middle C), move down off of it and then work your way back up to it. Not to mention that the “oh” vowel isn’t particularly friendly to a high belt. It’s heavy and clunky, and more conducive to a lower chest sound. If you have a particularly strong twangy head-mix that blends well, you can certainly get away with it, but it’s important for the last “Into the unknown” of the chorus to not feel anticlimactic.
The bridge also has the C5 (the C above Middle C) sustained on an “ee” sound, not at all friendly to belting because of how closed it is.
I’ll start with my usual disclaimer that some of these fixes will only help if you’re already close to being able to belt the Eb5. If you’re nowhere near that, no vowel modification will suddenly kick your belt up by 5 notes. If you’re close, go ahead and read the section on belting the whole chorus. If you aren’t anywhere near that, start with the section about head-mix, and then head over to the Vocal Strengthening section up belt your belt game.
The High Notes on Verse 2
The hard stuff doesn’t even start with the chorus. It starts before that, in verse 2 with, “Everyone I’ve ever loved…” Luckily, this section uses a number of vowels that can be modified toward “a” (as in cat), which tends to be the easiest mixed belt vowel for most singers.
Try these modifications:
For “Everyone I’ve ever loved”: A-very one ahve aver loved…
For “I’m sorry secret siren”: Ahm sarry secret sah-ren…”
The next tough one, “I’ve had my adventure,” already uses the “a” vowel in had. There’s no need to dig into this note. Visualize throwing the sound like you’re throwing a ball (overhand). Make sure there’s a feeling of release and not of clenching. It may feel like you lack control, but it’s better to use this feeling of throwing and miss the note several times until you build up some muscle memory than it is to clench your throat and squeeze up to the note.
For “follow you”: fah-llow you.”
Belting the Whole Chorus
If you feel you’re ready to try belting the whole chorus, read this section. If you try this, and you feel your throat getting tight or scratchy, please back off of this.
First off, start in as stable a stance as possible, feet about hips distance apart. No one should be able to push you over. You can try gently pulling a theraband between your hands for some added support.
Next, read this tutorial on retracting your false vocal folds, which will help keep your voice safe as you work toward this.
Finally, try these modifications:
Start on a “na” (as in cat) sound and sing “into the unnaaaaaa.” You should be making a face like you’re biting an apple. Visualize the sound traveling out of your throat, up and over and into your face. You can even scrunch your nose. If you can get close to belting the notes in the chorus comfortably this way, read on. If not, skip to the head-mix section and then work on the strengthening section to build up to this.
Next, keep your mouth, tongue, and everything else in roughly the same position, and sing “into the unkn-uuuuun.” The “uh” is a good enough approximation of the “oh” sound that listeners will perceive it as the same word as unknown, but the elimination of the “oh” dipthong will make it more sing-able. You should still be fitting the vowel into that same space you were creating with the “a” sound.
Using Head-Mix on the Chorus
It’s really not that different from the belt–just a little less weighty. You still need all that forward energy.
Sing “Into the unknown” on a bratty “nya” sound, like you’re an obnoxious kid taunting her brother.
Next, add the words back in, but it in that bright, forward space you just created with the nya sound.
Tackling the Bridge
That sustained “me” at the end of the bridge is no joke. Open you mouth as if you’re saying “may,” but keep your tongue up in that “ee” position. To belt the note, your larynx will also need to rise a little. To feel that happen, put your hand on your Adam’s apple and play around with singing the note like you’re a munchkin from The Wizard of Oz. You should feel that notch in your neck move up.
Oh, Woe! That Woh section!
Luckily, these don’t reach the great heights of the chorus, but these can be wearing to keep up with. Start with “Waaaaa,” like you’re a crying baby. When you’re able to do that comfortably, switch back to the “Woh” sound, but keep it in that same space as the “waaaa.” Your face and your whole vocal tract should feel like it’s roughly the same position.
Are We There Yet?
No! The last two lines take a lot of vocal chops as well!
The you in “follow you” is a sustained “ooh” sound on a C#5. Oof! Not only is the vowel among the most unfriendly belt vowels, a C# belt is nothing to sneeze at. Make your tongue and mouth say “yeeeeeoooh” as much as possible, and get rid of any trace of hootiness. This is not your moment to imitate an owl (in case you have those moments).
For the blessedly final “into the unknown,” which is a sustained C5, go back and find that “a” space you worked on earlier and then focus it back into the “uh” sound. As with the other ones, an “oh” is very difficult to sustain because it’s a dipthong–a combination of “uh” and “ooh.”
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your voice. If these notes aren’t happening for you yet, give yourself time (and the right vocal exercises).
Na Na Na!
Start with this octave jump. We aren’t sustaining yet.
Let’s Hold it Out
Next, we’ll move onto sustaining your “a” sound.
If you want to work on a stronger head-mix, simply replace the belt with a headier tone, but keep that really bright forward energy. If you do these regularly (and correctly), you should see an improvement in both your belt and your head-mix over the course of a few months.
We want to hear from you! Which songs are you struggling with that you’d love to see a Hard Songs blog written about?