Songwriting Tips for Vocals

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You can improve your song’s vocals by writing great melodies, creating catchy hooks, and using effective phrasing. You can also use vocal effects to enhance your vocals or change their sound. Let’s get into the meat of this article and show you how to improve your songwriting vocals!

Write A Great Vocal Melody

The first thing you need to do when writing vocals for your song is to come up with a great melody. The melody should be catchy and easy to remember, but also varied enough that it’s not too repetitive. It’s also important that the melody suit the genre of music you’re writing in. If you’re writing a country song, it wouldn’t make sense for the vocals to be too pop-y.

Here are some ways to write a great melody:

Improvise the melody first

The melody is one of the most important parts of the song. Your vocals will standout and be memorable if the melody is strong.

Therefore, focus on creating a solid melody before anything else. Make the melody the first focus and build the song around that. A great melody can inspire great lyrics and everything else will fall into place afterwards.

You can inspire a great melody using some of these techniques:

Hum or sing on top of an interesting chord progression

This will help you find the right notes to use and also give you a starting point for your melody.

Find a sequence of chords that make sense for the key that you’re in. For example, one of the most popular chord progressions is I-IV-V.

In the key of C Major, this would be the chords C-F-G. Once you have a chord progression to work with, try improvising melodies over the top of it.

Try unusual or unconventional chord progressions

If you’re feeling stuck, try some more unusual chord progressions. Try chord progressions that are common in different genres but not in your own.

For example, pop music tends to use Major chord progressions that sound happy and cheerful. The melodies are often diatonic, which means they only use notes from the key you’re in. To add some color, use scales that are different than the key you’re in.

If you want to write a sad or dark song, try using some minor chord progressions that create tension and sound more ominous. The melodies will have less diatonicism but they’ll fit better with the overall feeling of your song.

You might also try chord progressions from different genres of music such as Jazz, Blues, or even folk music from around the world.

“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics

The melody for this song is written in the harmonic minor scale. Using this scale in the melody gives the song an unusual, exotic Arabic sound.

“Steal” A Melody and then Change It

“Lesser artists borrow; great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso

If you want to create a great song, it doesn’t hurt to borrow from some of the best. You can take any melody and change it up so that nobody will recognize where your inspiration came from.

A good way to do this is by changing chord progressions or instrumentation around the original melody. Change one note in each phrase of the melody so it doesn’t sound exactly like the original. This will make the song your own and nobody will be able to accuse you of plagiarism.

Here’s an example:

“Let it Be” by The Beatles

The melody for this song is based on the hymn “Amazing Grace”. If you listen to both melodies, you’ll notice they’re pretty similar. McCartney changed the chord progression around and added a bridge that wasn’t in the original hymn. He also wrote new lyrics for this song, which is probably why nobody accused him of plagiarism back then (and why we still don’t accuse The Beatles of stealing melodies today).

Some ways that you can change the melody include:

  • Adding notes to the original melody.
  • Removing notes from the original melody.
  • Changing note lengths in phrases of the song.
  • Adding chromatic passing tones (notes that don’t belong in either scale but create a dissonant and interesting sound).
  • Switching pitches to different chords or other melodies within your chord progression so they land on different beats than the original melody.

Experiment with Different Scales

If you’re feeling stuck, try experimenting with different scales. This can add some new colors and flavors to your melodies that wouldn’t be possible if you only used the notes in the key you’re in.

There are all sorts of scales out there, so experiment until you find one that you like. You might want to try the pentatonic scale, which is common in Blues and Rock music. Or, you could try the Dorian mode, which is often used in Jazz and Fusion music.

The possibilities are endless, so have some fun with it!

Here are some scales you can use:

Major scales: A Major, B Major, C Major, D Major, E Major, F Major, G Major.

Minor scales: Natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor

Different Modal Scales: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian

Jazz scales: Bebop Dominant scale, Half-Diminished scale, diminished scale, Whole-Tone scale, Chromatic Scale.

Blues scales: Ionian blues scale, Mixolydian blues scale, Dorian blues scale, Aeolian blues scale, Locrian blues scale.

Pentatonic scales: Major pentatonic scale, Minor pentatonic scale, Blues pentatonic scale, Rock pentatonic scale.

There are also a lot of modal scales you can try out. A mode is just another name for a type of scale that starts on a different note other than the note the scale is named after. For example, if you started playing the C Major scale on the A note, you would be playing the A minor scale.

Once you’ve tried out some different scales and have a few that you like, try writing a melody over one of them to get started with your songwriting process. You’ll be surprised by how much more depth using different types of scales can add to your songs.

Create A Catchy Hook

The hook is the part of the song that people will remember long after they’ve heard it. The hook is usually a short phrase or lyric that sticks in their head and makes them want to sing along.

A catchy hook is essential for any good song. The hook can be so strong that it’ll inspire an amazing vocal. Some songwriters value the hook above all else. The entire song gets written to match the hook.

The best hooks are short, repeatable, and easy to sing along with.

Maybe it’s just one word (like “Yeah!” or “Woah”) or maybe it’s a few words that make up the chorus of your song (“We will rock you” by Queen). It could even be an entire verse if it captures the spirit of your song.

When you’re writing the hook of the song, it’s important to think about how people will react when they hear it for the first time (or after not hearing it for a few days).

People want something that is catchy and easy to sing; however, too much repetition can make them feel like they’ve heard the song before. It’s a tricky balancing act, but with a little experimentation, you’ll be able to find the perfect hook for your song.

Write Down Your Lyrics in Advance

It can be tough to come up with lyrics on the spot, especially if you want them to fit well with the melody of your song.

When you write a song, it’s easiest if the melody and lyrics come to you at around the same time. However, that isn’t always possible so sometimes you have to get creative when writing songs from scratch.

The best way is to write down your lyrics in advance. Make sure they fit with what’s happening musically for the song. This can be a little tricky, but it’s worth taking the time to get it right.

Once you have the lyrics written down, you can start working on the melody for your song. The two should fit together like puzzle pieces. If they don’t quite fit, then go back and tweak either the lyrics or the melody until they do.

By having either the lyrics or the melody pre-written, you’ll be able to focus on making them work together. Don’t be afraid to change either of them to get the finished product that you’re looking for.

Change the Key of the Song

Another way to make your vocals more interesting is to change the key partway through the song. This can be a great way to add some variety and keep things fresh.

It also gives you the opportunity to show off your vocal range by singing in different keys. You don’t have to change the key of the entire song, either. Maybe just switch it up for one verse or chorus.

Experiment with Different Types of Vocals

There are all sorts of different types of vocals that you can experiment with when writing songs.

You don’t have to stick with one type of vocal throughout the entire song. Try singing in a different style for each verse or chorus. This can add a lot of variety and keep things from getting too monotonous.

Some common types of vocals include:

  • Singing unusually high notes
  • Singing unusually low notes
  • Singing in a falsetto
  • Singing with lots of vibrato
  • Adding vocal embellishments (runs, trills, etc.)
  • Using vocal percussion (beatboxing, scatting, etc.)

The possibilities are endless when it comes to vocals. Experiment and find the type of vocals that best suits your song.

Just trying out different vocal techniques can inspire you to go in new directions with your songwriting. You never know what might happen until you give it a try.

Write with vocal and instrument effects turned on.

You can inspire new ideas by using different effects. If you usually write without any effects, this can be a fun way to experiment with different sounds.

However, if you’re used to writing songs while using effects, then write without them on for a change of pace. This can help you get out of your comfort zone and inspire some new ideas in the process.

Some different effects you can try out include:

  • Autotune or pitch correction on vocals (or pitch shifting on instruments)
  • Reverb or delay on vocals (or reverb/delay on instruments)
  • Use distortion or overdrive mean for guitars on your vocals
  • Different types of vocal effects (harmonizers, vocoders, etc.)
  • Different types of drum effects (reverse cymbals, gated reverb on snares and kicks, etc.)

Just try different things until you find the sounds that work best for your song.

Don’t Forget to Experiment with Harmony and Rhythm

Even though we’re focusing primarily on vocal melody here, don’t neglect the other important aspects of your song.

The best songs are ones that have interesting melodies, harmonies, and rhythms throughout so don’t forget to experiment with those as well.

Experiment with Different Arrangements and Instrumentation

Don’t be afraid to try out different arrangements for your vocals. Maybe have them in the background or use them as a lead instrument. Try writing your song with different instruments.

You can also simply change the tuning of your instruments to get a different sound. If you’re used to writing songs in one key, try changing the key of your song and see what happens.

Pretend You’re Someone Else – Adopt an Alterego

Musicians use alter-egos all the time.

Maybe you don’t have an alter-ego, but try pretending that you do. This can help to give your songwriting a different perspective and inspire new ideas in the process.

It doesn’t matter who they are or what their personality is like – just pretend that there’s someone else with a unique voice helping out on this track.

This can be a great way to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. You might be surprised at the results.

Adopting a different personality can help you come up with new ideas and sounds for your songs.

Some examples of musicians using alter-egos include:

  • Slim Shady aka Eminem
  • Ziggy Stardust aka David Bowie
  • Roman Zolanski aka Nicky Minaj
  • Camille aka Prince
  • Sasha Fierce aka Beyonce

Shock Your Vocal Creativity and Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

These are just some tips to get you started on writing better vocals for your songs. Remember, the most important thing is to experiment and find what works best for you. There’s no right or wrong way to do things.

Don’t be afraid to try new things that you haven’t done before or experiment with different techniques, sounds, etc. Just because something doesn’t work one time doesn’t mean it won’t work another time.

One of the best ways to get inspired and write better songs is to go out of your comfort zone. Be daring, adventurous, and bold! You might be surprised at what you come up with.

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