No matter how skilled you are at singing, you will encounter songs that are challenging to sing. Difficult songs are a blessing in disguise because they present an opportunity for vocal growth, as long as you implement the right plan.
Here’s how you should sing challenging songs:
1. Identify the song’s vocal range and vocal registers.
Check the lowest and highest notes of the song to ensure they’re in your range. After you’ve done that, take the time to assess what vocal registers are being used, particularly on the higher notes; Depending on the song, the coordination might change from syllable to syllable, so be thorough. These details are crucial because they’ll guide you through the next steps.
Side note: This step is most efficiently done using your ear and a keyboard (a piano app is equally effective). Additionally, some of you may need the help of a musician, such as a choir director or pianist, to complete this step.
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2. Change the key of the song, if necessary.
If the lowest note of the song is below your range, then key the song up. If the highest note of the song is above your range, then key the song down.
Here’s a more technical point: If the song requires a mixed voice at C5, but you can only sing C5 in head voice, then you should key the song down to your nearest mixed voice note.
Side note: If you’re practicing with a track, then try importing it into an app like Tonal Energy to change the key. Some websites, like karaoke-version.com, also let you buy tracks and change their key after the fact. Again, some of you might need someone else’s help to complete this step.
3. Warm up according to the song’s requirements.
For example: if the song requires 1st and 2nd bridge head voice, then make sure those coordinations are warmed up in your vocal exercises. If the song requires agility, then you should include exercises with a fast tempo in your warm up.
4. Sing the melody using an exercise.
Now that you’ve warmed up, it’s time to start practicing the song. But don’t sing the lyrics yet, use an exercise to sing the melody first. This step will help train your voice to sing the challenging parts with more ease.
5. Sing the melody using the lyrics.
As you begin practicing the melody with the lyrics, keep your approach very technical. Don’t add stylistic elements yet. The main goal in this step is to sing the lyrics with as much ease as possible.
6. Add style without compromising technique.
The voice can lose proper technique really easily when working on challenging songs, especially as you take the step of adding style. Make sure to stay mindful of how much effort you’re using as you stylize your vocal performance.
7. Do steps 3 through 6 daily.
A challenging song will require regular practice in order to become easy. Make sure not to overwork your voice, otherwise you might have to take multiple days off. If you can’t practice daily, try at a minimum to practice three unique days of the week. The more you repeat this step, the more progress you’ll make.
Benny Meza is a Master Associate at Brett Manning Studios in Nashville, TN. He’s taught over 7,000 vocal lessons and has worked with clients from Warner Music, RCA, Universal Music Group, and many others.
If you’d like one-on-one help working through a challenging song, book a Skype or in-person lesson with Benny today!