Songwriting – How to Color Your Tones for More Effective Melodies
Vocal delivery isn’t part of a melody in a technical sense, however it can greatly influence a melody by how it colors the pitches and rhythms that the melody has to offer. There are many aspects to vocal delivery that can make a melody unique to a singer, but the one I want to talk about here is the use of falsetto sprinkled into a melody. Falsetto of course, is singing in a register higher than the singer’s normal range. You’ll see a couple of examples in a sec.
One effective example of this happens in the hook of Taylor Swift’s song “I Knew You Were Trouble.” When she sings the title line, she weaves in and out of a falsetto, as she jumps from a D# to an A# on the words “I knew you were trouble.”
You can hear the falsetto on the words “knew” and “were.” So basically, every other word is hitting the falsetto. That same idea of splashing only some of the words with falsetto continues throughout the chorus in this same way. It makes for a nice varied texture in the melody.
Since vocal delivery isn’t part of a melody, had she sung all of the chorus without the falsetto, the melody would be the same, technically. But this is a good example of how vocal delivery can punch up a melody. Specifically through the use of falsetto.
Try singing this chorus of this song without the falsetto (if you’re able to with your vocal range), to see how it presents itself differently. You’ll see it loses a bit of the catchiness Swift’s version has. It’s the flavor of those occasional falsettos that add a lot of the charm to this melody.
As you probably noticed when you sang the line, depending on the range it won’t be falsetto for everyone. If you wanted to use a move like this in your own music, you’d have to find the right key and melody so that you can come in and out of a falsetto with ease for your own voice.
I also want to take a minute to address the fact that some vocal teachers claim that women don’t have a falsetto. Some claim that women do, and it’s just less noticeable than the male falsetto, because women have voices that are naturally higher in pitch than men’s voices, in most cases. I’m not attempting to debate that issue here. I’m just trying to make the point that clearly in Taylor Swift’s song, she’s changing the texture of her vocals on certain words, as you saw. I’m calling it a falsetto, but you can call it what you like. The point is to focus on the sound that’s created within the final melody here. Not to dwell on what it’s called.
With that being said, let’s look at another example of use of falsetto in a melody. This example is a male falsetto that I’ve mentioned before. In John Mayer’s song “Bigger Than My Body,” he switches over to his falsetto during the phrase “someday I’ll fly, someday I’ll soar.” Interestingly enough, he aligns his falsetto to fall on the word “soar.” The rest of the words in that line are not sung with a falsetto. So he’s using his falsetto to create prosody in his music. When the word “soar” hits, his melody soars by flying up into a falsetto. It’s an effective way to tie his words to his music. It’s a very different strategy than that used by Taylor Swift in “I Knew You Were Trouble.” as she’s using her falsetto to create a varied vocal delivery within her melody.
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Anthony Ceseri is the owner of http://www.SuccessForYourSongs.com, a website dedicated to the growth and development of songwriters of all skill levels. Anthony’s writings appear as examples in the book “Songwriting Without Boundaries: Lyric Writing Exercises For Finding Your Voice” by Pat Pattison, an acclaimed lyric writing professor at Berklee College of Music.
Dick Figures – Bath Rhymes (Official Music Video)
Check out our new favorite animated series Axe Cop – bit.ly Alright partyrockers, keep your pants on… the Official Music Video for “Bath Rhymes” is finally here! Like it, love it, marry it, grow old and die with it. Made by the fans, for the fans. Several hundred animation submissions were combined into an uber-video for the two greatest colors on the planet: Red and Blue. Sit back, relax, and turn up that bass! Visit the official Dick Figures website: richardfigures.com for exclusive videos and more!
music videos Video Rating: 4 / 5