I’m often working with singer/songwriters on their original material, and we discuss different ways their singing might be improved, so that each song can really stand out and deliver. Of course, there are many ways we can go about this: by adding harmonies, more texture or colour to the vocal, deeper connection to lyrics, and even occasionally I offer a fresh pair of ears to suggest changing around the musical structure of the song: creating rhythmical breaks or adding in new sections.
Tell me, would you prefer your song to sound more like picture A, or B??
When I’m teaching, a common theme occurs time and time again; it’s in relation to the key the song has been written. I notice that singers often choose to write songs/sing in the key where their voice feels quite comfortable and sounds very “easy”. And this isn’t a bad choice! This would be much better than singing a song way too low, or too high. It’s just that it makes the vocal a little too “safe”.
Back in the crooner days, songs were generally lower, and more conversational. (Think Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole)
These days, songs tend to show off a singer’s voice, and include a higher range of notes. This creates a more dramatic, more exciting and more passionate sound.
You can find out more in my video that accompanies this post – right here!
How to figure out where your “money notes” are:
1. Start by sliding down to your lowest note, on the sound of an “ah’ with a sigh. When you hit the lowest note, check what it is on a keyboard and make a note of it.
2. Siren up to your highest possible note on a “Wee!”, then check what that is on the piano.
3. Going up from the bottom, sing the sound of “Wun” on each chromatic note.
4. Make note of the places where your voice feels very comfortable, and also notes where the voice lifts and starts to experience a shift towards the next register. This is usually in the 1st vocal bridge/passagio.
*1st Bridge/Passagio notes*: Female: Ab (above middle C) – C5 Male: Eb – F# above middle C
I often suggest that the key moments of a song’s hook and/or main melody lines be based right within the 1st bridge.
- If you suffer from a pesky vocal break, consider training to smooth this out. It’s 100% possible.
- If you can’t avoid it, try going a little higher, or keep the song in the upper chest voice. You can also use your falsetto to your advantage, as Chris Martin does on “The Scientist”.
- Avoid having the main parts of your song lift right up underneath your bridge, as this can lend itself to straining/squeezing.