Singers and their songs- Part 2


Posted on Jul 11, 2017

In part one of Singers and their Songs we looked at how songs come together- from a songs origin in a scale and then to the arrangement as a means to complete the song.

As singers assemble their songs (known as their “repertoire” of songs), whether it may be a writer creating the full arrangement of their song, or a vocalist doing a cover version, the first step for the singer is to choose “the Key” of the song.

We said earlier that a scale is chosen by the songwriter based in part, on the type of mood, or effect they want to achieve with the melody and accompaniment. The “key” of a song is known to be the first note through to the last note of the scale. If the song will have a singer singing a melody, then the key will be chosen with the singer’s vocal range in mind.

The notes of scale can be structured within 26 keys, 12 are major scales, and 12 are minor scales and each has a letter designation that indicates the first and last note of the Key, such as C or E, or A Flat, or C Sharp.

Major and minor scales each create a different sound or mood; the singer then chooses a key, in part, so that the song melody can be sung unique to the singers vocal range (of low and high notes) and the key, sometimes on its own, then has a unique “feel” or sound; thus there are no “good or bad” keys (except if you are the musicians playing the song- so they say…).

In time, singers get used to singing songs in a variety of keys, and this is so because songs will vary greatly, especially in complexity, depending on the genre of music, eg., pop, Jazz, country, and then by tempo or speed, such as a ballad (slow song), mid tempo or up tempo (such as a dance song). So these variables change the song dynamics, and if the writer has chosen a simple melody, or a complex melody, then these variables will impact the key that a given singer chooses.

If a song becomes a challenge due to melody leaps, high or low, the singer may first consider alterations to the melody to deal with those changes, rather than shift the key. When the melody has a lot of leaps high and low, it may make key choice a challenge at times, but a key choice must eventually be decided upon by the singer. Then the arrangement process continues and the unique overall version of the song is thus created.

It’s important for all singers to be open to change the key of a song away from the original artist. This is done as a step toward creating the most “original” sound for the song; and the song can still greatly resemble the original; this is where a skilled arranger can come in with expertise to help. Beyond originality, this is also a step towards brand development and image for the singer as well.

If the singer works with a band, then the band must adapt the songs to the key dictated by the singer. Yes, the band should adapt to the singer (not the other way around- as some think).

In some isolated situations a bandleader may demand that a classic song stay in the original key, and then the singer needs to adapt to that key. Of course, this is often worked out ahead of time, and hopefully the musicians and singers rehearse so that there are no surprises.

But wherever possible, the singer should dictate the key of the song, and if the band cannot adapt to that key demand by the singer, then the singer needs to find a band with a level of musicianship and proper attitude- that can accommodate the singer.

As the scale and key are established for the singer, arrangement touches are added and may include any special effects of the voice (which we will look at in depth in a future topic), as well as any other arrangement choices that are made in terms of instrumentation, intro’s and endings and other considerations.

Would love to hear your comments and questions.

 

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In an earlier post we briefly examined some of the challenges singers face building a song catalogue for performance, or album or demo recording.

Here we’ll take a more in depth look at how singers might approach the structure of their songs from the outset. In examining this structure, it’s best to start with some basics.

Whether you’re a singer, musician, music aficionado or all the above, you may have wondered as you listened to a song, what was the process whereby a song came together with its finished sound in a specific way?

A singer sings a melody and lyrics- and then that melody and lyrics are supported by the accompaniment music around it. If you have ever heard a demo version of song, it is typically played on guitar or keyboard while the writer or singer sings the melody.

Demos always sound basic and thin, because they are typically one voice and one instrument. But then the completed song seems to take on a life of its own. All of the individual and collective song elements are created by an arranger.

The arranger could be the composer of the song, or someone else (it’s usually a music producer or a musician with some, or a lot, of music theory background.) Looking back in music history, two famed arrangers are George Martin (for The Beatles) and Quincy Jones (for Michael Jackson). The Beatles, for example, brought their demo versions of songs to George and then he would finish them, along with input from the Beatles.

A song’s arrangement is everything that goes into the final sound that you hear in the recording or performance; the elements include the instrumentation, to the speed or tempo of the music, to the way in which the singer(s) sings, to the intro and ending of the song.

At the most basic level- the melodies of songs, as well as their accompaniment, or background music, are derived from a scale. A scale is a series of notes with a resulting sound or effect and writers choose these scales based on the mood that they want for their song.

The scale is to a songwriter what brushes and oils are to a painter. Many contemporary songs across a multitude of genres will stay in one scale, but it is possible to have multiple scales in one song.

Major scale is the most widely used scale – dating back to greek times with classical music- and is still the predominant scale used today in contemporary music- though its certainly not the only one.

So a crucial element in beginning a song arrangement is to look at matching the songs melody with the singer and their vocal range.

In part two, we’ll look at how songs come together with vocal and the rest of the arrangement.

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Recording contract opportunities


Posted on Jul 3, 2016

In the past I have shared  the Music Clout site with my blog readers in instances when MC has promoted various resources that I viewed as worthy for singers and musicians. Here they are offering an opportunity for artists to get their music heard and to possibly get a recording contract. Check it out- and good luck.

 

https://www.musicclout.com/contents/opportunity-5927-seeking-talented-bands-artists–producers-for-recording-contract.aspx

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Hey All:

Red Train Records is looking to add Country, Folk/Americana and singer-songwriters to their labe. They will provide a vast array of resources to the accepted musicians as well. Red Train has worked with names such as Fiona Apple, Robert Palmer and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Follow the link below for more details! They do have a deadline to submit. Good Luck

 

https://musicclout.com/contents/opportunity-5786-indie-label-offering-label-representation-management-and-marketing–artist-development-for-new-and-established-artists.aspx

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The trend toward smaller recording studios and away from the big, expensive ones, especially for those singers and musicians with budgetary concerns is nothing new.

However this article from the Temple (University) News exposes  a newer trend toward studios that are carved out within existing spaces, and often in more urban, industrial buildings. Interesting how the vibe of these spaces incites creativity for these young musicians while also creating a sense of community as well.

Enjoy!

http://temple-news.com/arts/a-changing-landscape-for-local-music/

 

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