The Beatles

How High You Sing Can Have a Big Effect On Song Energy

You can define song energy in several ways, but for the purposes of this post, song energy is the sense of musical intensity a listener perceives when they hear your song.

And there are several aspects of music that might contribute to intensity:

  1. Loudness
  2. Rhythmic complexity
  3. General rhythmic activity
  4. Tonal quality of the various instruments
  5. Melodic range

Most of those aspects are no-brainers; you likely know even just by instinct that louder music tends to be more musically intense, for example.

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That final attribute, melodic range, is an interesting one, because some instruments can play higher without it contributing much to the intensity of the music. And in fact, for some instruments, like a piano, playing higher might make music sound more delicate, lessening the sense of intensity we pick up.

But if you’re talking about your voice, and how high you’re singing in your song, that might contribute a lot to the intensity that’s picked up by someone listening to you. That happens for two main reasons:

  1. Singing higher means you’re more likely to sing louder, and this can intensify musical energy.
  2. As you sing higher, you might find that your audience picks up more of a natural strain in your voice.

All of this means that as you write your songs, and you get to the stage where you’re going to make a final decision on what key you’re going to choose, you will want to give this some extra thought. The higher the key, the higher the melody. And that means the higher you’ll be required to sing.

That fact alone makes choosing the key of a song an important production decision. If you’re recording your song but you find that you’re not getting the level of intensity you’re hoping for, your first decision might be to simply put a bit more edge on your voice.

But one of the best ways to do that — to add some intensity to your voice — is to push the key upward until the highest notes of the melody match your own personal highest range.

Vocal range has a lot to do with how listeners perceive your song, and can add an important sense of subtext to your lyric. Think of the Beatles’ “She Loves You“, and every time they sing out those words, “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah…” — you’re hearing some of the highest notes of the song, and placed up high, almost at the top of the lads’ voices.

So when at the stage of adding a bit of intensity to your song, don’t ignore the power that comes from moving your songs key from the one you thought would work, to one a bit higher.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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