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  • Ash Daws

Write FOR your singer, not in spite of them!

Why exploring different keys for your song is SO important, and the SECRET TRICK we use to write our best melodies. At The Loud Noise Estate, most of the songs that we work on are written by the guitarist in the band. And what do guitarists love most? RIFFS! Now I love a "sick" riff as much as the next guy; but I’m here to explain to you why yours might in fact be limiting the potential of your song, and stifling the strengths, skills, and confidence of your bandmates. As music technology has progressed and become more affordable, bands are writing new songs together less and less often. Most of the music that we personally encounter is written by one person in the band, alone in their bedroom on a computer. Midi Drums, Midi Bass, and Amp Sims are the modern-day writing tools that almost everyone now uses; and whilst this can be incredibly liberating for artists, it seems that consideration for the abilities and talents of other bandmates, and the quality of a song as a whole has gone out the window, in favor of “The Riff”. See below the typical writing workflow of songs we often encounter.

SONGWRITING WORKFLOW Guitarist picks up a guitar in *insert* tuning -> Writes cool riff

-> Writes bass line and drum pattern in MIDI that matches riff


Sends instrumental to rest of band, for the singer to write vocals too.

To a guitarist writing a new song, the most important consideration is usually “does this riff or chord progression sound cool?” Whilst it’s obviously important for riffs to be catchy, there are a few things to consider before finalising your riff if you have a singer in your band.

  1. What KEY is your song in?

  2. What RANGE suits your singer the best?

  3. Is the catchiest melody I can possibly write to this riff/progression within my singer’s CAPABILITIES?

Now it’s a bit of a catch 22, because the key of your song will dictate the melody that your singer writes. Often the first melody (or parts of) that they come up with will turn out to be the best, because it’s based on their first impressions and their gut instinct. However, sometimes the key that your singer has to write in is stuck in an “awkward” range for their voice (either too high or too low for their register) and it can be really tricky to write something catchy. There is one SECRET trick we developed that we always use when writing with bands to help to combat this. Here it is...

Come up with your melody in a FALCETTO OR HEAD VOICE.

Sounds simple I know, but hear me out. What you're essentially doing, is writing a melody that's in the range that you imagine the most powerful and memorable melody lives. When you do this, you will find that when you try to sing your new melody in “Full” voice, it will almost always be unattainable and slightly out of reach. Fear not; This is when you start to mess with the key of the song. Start by dropping the key of the song 3-4 semitones and try singing your melody in full voice again. "A-ha". Often there is a sweet spot where the highest note in your melody is right on the edge of your singer’s range, where they belt the melody in full voice and have it be powerful sounding. The best melodies are often the ones you have to really “go for”, where if you hesitate you won’t quite make it (Think Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard).

Now; “high” doesn’t always mean “better”. We all remember the era of singers like Kellin Quinn and Anthony Green and look back at how high some of their songs were, and think “but…why?”. There is something to be said, however, for exploring the upper ranges of your singer’s voice, and what dancing on the top end of their range can bring to your song. When your singer has to “push” to the upper end of their register, it often brings out a grit, an urgency, a power that helps to elevate the song, make the lyrics more impactful, and make the melody more memorable.

There is a fine line you walk, however, when you’re recording a melody that is at the top end of your range. Too many times have we written something in the studio that is well and truly beyond a singer’s normal capabilities, because we hadn't taken the advice above. Whilst these melodies are often obtainable with a little studio “magic”, many times we have seen singers struggle to replicate this live; choosing to avoid particular notes altogether, singing a lower harmony part instead, or singing down the octave completely.

Nothing brings down the excitement of a song live, and the enjoyment for a diehard fan, more than when the chorus melody is sung differently from the recording; FACT! (check out THIS example of Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls. See how he never sings the high note in the chorus, and what a letdown it is!) There are a few ways around this for live applications which I'll explain in another post, but all this is to say that these problems could have been avoided back in the writing stage of your song, if you’d just taken some time to consider the key, before committing to a recording. As a guitarist and fellow bandmate, once you begin to learn the range of your singer’s voice, you will find a handful of keys that really suit. When you write a cool riff or progression, you will already know whether it will be attainable for your singer. You will to start to write for them, not in spite of them. This will also force you to explore different tunings for your guitar playing, which opens up a whole world of possibilities for your band's sound.

If you're interested in leveling up your songwriting, we'd love to work with you at The Loud Noise Estate. Head over HERE to grab a free quote for your next project, and until next time; happy songwriting.

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