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 includes a melody with vocal, then the key of the song will be chosen with the singer’s vocal range in mind.

The notes of a 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 that singer’s 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 maybe to musicians who can at times favor playing songs in certain keys).

Over time, singers become accustomed 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, e.g., pop, Jazz, country, and then by the 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 singer ultimately chooses for the song.

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 version of the song gradually comes to life.

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.

 

 

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There have been a number of articles and papers written over the years on the topic of how music involvement, and more so, music study, has positively affected humans; some of these I have posted here at the blog. This piece takes a more scientific view, which in and of itself is even more assuring to me.

Though this compelling piece puts the primary focus on children and youth, it makes the case later in the article that an active involvement with music benefits a person throughout life.

The title is: The power of music: its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people.
The white paper was written by Susan Hallam from the Institute of Education, University of London. Enjoy!

http://www.laphil.com/sites/default/files/media/pdfs/shared/education/yola/susan-hallam-music-development_research.pdf

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In past posts I had shared here some perspectives from professionals on what music study has meant to their lives as they look back- well on in the careers- having achieved great success in careers outside of music. Still. music was a key part of the learning process for them in their youth.

In this piece the focus is youth development and how music training can help positively effect social skills, IQ development, academic skills, spatial-temporal skills and making the brain work harder. Very fascinating study here.

Enjoy!

 

http://www.mildermusicalarts.com/our_blog/5-ways-children-benefit-music-lessons/

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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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In some ways this piece is a departure from my other posts, given the focus on choral. But it very much ties in with similar posts here that focus on the importance of music in our society today- at a time when music and the arts are less likely to be counted into school budgets, and when the industry in general has changed drastically in this age of the digital download.

Elaine Brown was Temple University Professor Emerita and choral director from 1948 to 1956; she had a vision for what was best for her students- as singers- and as people. Brown made certain that her choral groups were racial integrated. Given this time in American history- she could be touted as a trailblazer for sure.

This quote from Tara Webb Duey, Director of Development, Center for the Arts, Temple University, really says a lot about the legacy of this woman: “She worked to bring people together- at at time when society wanted to keep them apart.”

In this article, two former students of Elaine Brown reflect on what this Iconic music professor meant to them and how she helped shape their lives.

Enjoy!

https://news.temple.edu/publications/temple-magazine/2015/fall/pursuit-harmony

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