When you hear a song that inspires you or gives you chills, you can be moved in a way that brings you to tears. This is not just a reaction to the lyrics of the song, but how the singer has tailored the melody to their own individual voice. They have found a song that suits their voice and absolutely nailed the performance.
To find the best song for your voice, you first need to determine your vocal range and tessitura, which is the range of notes where your voice is most pleasing. Then you should find a song sung by someone of the same gender, as well as one that resonates with you individually and is simplistic.
There are millions of songs out there to choose from and making a decision can be daunting. If you pair the wrong song with your voice, it can end up crippling your tone and natural vocal range. Continue reading to discover what you need to do to find the best song for your voice so you can deliver a great performance.
How to Find the Best Song for Your Voice
It may seem like the most simplistic thing in the world - to choose a song to sing and then, simply, sing it. However, not all songs are alike and certainly, not all voices are alike.
Everyone is going to have a different vocal range which affects not only how they are able to sing, but what they are able to sing. Therefore, before finding a song and committing to the melody, there are a few things you must consider.
1. Determine Your Vocal Range
There are six common voice types that will help you to determine where your vocal range falls. Each range falls within two notes on the keyboard, which are represented by a numbering system. Each note on the keyboard is paired with a number that matches the octave it belongs to.
For example, Middle C (the center of the keyboard) is called C4 because C is the name of the note you are singing and it is the 4th octave, starting from the bottom of the keyboard. In other words, it is the 4th C from the bottom. Continue reading for an overview of each vocal range, from lowest to highest.
If you have ever heard the sound of booming thunder, you have essentially heard a bass tone. That example may be a tad extreme, however, bass is the lowest singing range and usually falls between E2 to E4.
Baritone is the second-lowest singing range and it typically muddles in with both bass and tenor ranges. This makes it more of a fluid voice range that, although quite low, is able to hit more common notes while also maintaining distinct deep sounds. The typical range for baritone is usually from A2 to A4.
Bass and baritone voices are both typically male ranges, and coming in third to these male voices is tenor. The range for tenor typically falls between C3 and C5, making this a voice type for males that seems quite high when heard. However, this voice type typically gives males the ability to control their falsetto very well, which allows them to hit notes that usually only females are able to reach.
Moving into the female voice range, we first encounter the lowest voice type which is alto. This voice range, for those who can sing below the average range, can actually sing in a range that is very closely matched to a tenor. However, the typical alto range falls between F3 and F5. The sound that comes from an alto voice is typically very smooth and somewhat rich, making it very pleasing to the majority of those listening.
Mezzo-Soprano is the voice type you would think of when trying to consider a female voice that falls in the middle range. Mezzo-soprano voices actually crossover into both the alto and soprano ranges. The versatility of this voice range is what makes it such a nice voice type. The mezzo-soprano voice range usually falls in between A3 and A5, but again, can make its appearance within the ranges of alto and soprano.
Soprano is the highest singing voice and is typically the type of voice that few individuals are able to perform in a way that is smooth, clear, and unstrained. For those who can, their range typically falls between C4 and C6.
How to Determine Your Vocal Range
Now that you know the six main voice types, you can determine where your vocal range actually is. For a visual representation of where these voice types sit on a keyboard, check out my article on the six vocal ranges.
This is essential because knowing the capabilities of your voice will be what guides you when it comes to the genre of music you sing, the artist or artists whose songs you are most comfortable singing, where your weak spots are, and ultimately, it will help you find the best song for your voice.
The process of determining your vocal range is really quite simplistic. Find a piano, or keyboard and play middle C. Start here and sing this note. Now, continue to play each note on either instrument and move downward as you sing every note as it gets lower while singing “Ah.” Once you have hit your lowest comfortable note, mark this as the lowest note your voice can reach.
Now that you have found the lowest note your voice can go, you need to determine the highest note you can sing. To do this, start back at middle C and sing every note as you go up on the keyboard singing “Ah”. Again, once you reach the highest point where your voice is still comfortable, mark this note as the highest point that your voice can reach. Remember that middle C is C4.
Once you have determined the lowest and highest notes that your voice can reach, you will then write them down, including the note name and octave number, so that you have your voice range. This will look something like ”C2-C5”, but this will of course vary for each voice.
The most important thing to remember when finding your vocal range is to remember that your voice should always be relaxed, no matter how high or how low the note is.
If you are straining to reach a certain high note or have to release copious amounts of air to get to a low note, the sound will not be smooth. It will feel and sound strained as you try to reach it. A voice that is comfortable will always sound better than a voice that is constricted. If you push the limits of your voice too far, your throat will hurt after singing, so it's important to know these limits.
2. Determine Your Tessitura
Speaking of keeping yourself from straining, this is the next most important step in finding the perfect song for your voice: determining your tessitura. Tessitura is a lovely word that embodies 'lovely singing'. The definition of this term is the most comfortable vocal range for any given singer or instrument.
The range at which your voice is the most comfortable, but also sounds the best is your tessitura. Some singers can train themselves to sing higher or lower, but there is still a range in their voice that sounds the best.
Breaking this term down even more, tessitura is where your voice always, without waver, sounds good. This means there is no straining, no voice-cracking, no wobbly tones, but only the most perfect sounds you are able to produce, no matter what.
By finding this range, you are able to tailor songs even better to fit your voice as you know that you will not have to push your vocal range to a point that it simply does not sound as pleasing.
There is no perfect way to determine your tessitura, but there are a few guidelines to go by to help figure out where your voice is going to sound the best without inquiring the help of a voice coach.
In general, for those that are just finding their vocal range, you will typically subtract a perfect 5th from the highest note in your vocal range to determine your tessitura. However, let’s look at a few more tips to help guide you.
Do You Strain After Holding a Note For a Short Amount of Time?
You may find that simply singing “Ah” when determining your vocal range presents no trouble for the highest and lowest note you are able to reach. However, once you find these two notes, it is important that you see if you are able to maintain them without straining.
To do this, either sing an extended “Ah” or find a longer word that is a bit more challenging. If you are unable to hold this note for an extended amount of time, it is not within your tessitura.
Can the Note Be Practically Applied in a Song?
Many times, singers are able to hit certain high and low notes when simply practicing the note in an isolated instance, but it can be a whole other challenge when it comes to throwing that note into a song.
Why is this? With any song, there are going to be dips and variances within the notes that go from word to word or change even within the same word. This can strain your voice when in transition and can make a note that was easy before, very difficult.
3. Find a Song Sung By The Same Gender
This by no means is a “must,” however, if you are struggling to find a song that suits your voice, it could be because you are singing those of the opposite gender. As you read previously, there are different voice ranges for males and females. Therefore, if a male is singing a song and a female tries to sing exactly the same song, her voice may have a very difficult time reaching all the notes.
The composition of the male and female voices simply differs, there is no way around it and typically, men are able to sing much lower than women, while women are able to sing a lot higher. Of course, there are always going to be certain individuals whose natural talent is able to break through this normative standard, but for the vast majority of people, there are limits to the vocal ranges of each gender.
Because of this, it may be much easier for you to choose a song that matches your own gender. Although there may be a song that you find to be completely inspiring, it simply may not suit your voice due to the fact that it is sung in a key that suits the opposite gender. This can be disappointing, but singing within your vocal range is what will always produce the best sound.
If you are determined to sing a song that is sung by the opposite gender, there are a few ways to make it easier. First, you can simply change the key of the song to fit your own vocal range. By doing this, the same song can be performed, but you will be singing it higher or lower than the original singer. Second, and most time-consuming, is working to expand your vocal range. This can be done, but beware of the effort and time this takes.
You may also find that age can make a difference. Older women, in particular, will have voice changes throughout menopause, which can make it harder to sing songs sung by younger women. Likewise, some older women have a deeper tone that is harder to achieve when you are younger. This is just something else to keep in mind when choosing your song.
4. Find a Song That Suits You Individually
Finding your vocal range and picking a song that is able to accommodate your own vocal capabilities is the most important aspect of picking a song that is best for your voice. However, you should also make sure the songs you are choosing resonate with you individually.
Think of choosing a song like you would pick something to eat. For example, if you are hungry around dinner time and all you have in the fridge are a few slices of deli meat and a bit of bread - no mayonnaise, no pickles, no tomatoes, just the basics - you’ll eat this and it’ll fill you up. However, there won’t be any enthusiasm when it comes to putting the sandwich together, not much anticipation when it comes to eating it, and a low level of satisfaction when you’re done.
Now, consider the same scenario but with one difference. When you are hungry at dinner time you come to the oven to find a glistening lamb roast with potatoes that have been roasting all afternoon in duck fat until they are golden and crispy. There is a variety of tender-cooked vegetables and gravy, mint sauce and the works. This meal, I imagine, would be much more enjoyable.
There is excitement when it comes to putting the dish together, effort is put into the small details of arranging the roast on the tray with the vegetables, potatoes and herbs - eating it is an experience in and of itself, and you are left feeling satisfied beyond words. It's the same when you choose a song to sing. The song needs to fit with your own passions, cares, and overall, who you are as a person.
If you choose a song to sing simply because it is popular, you may not be able to connect with the words on a personal level. You also might not like how the melody sounds, or could be thrown off by the tempo of the song. If you can't enjoy and appreciate the song, it is unlikely that you will be able to sing it in a way that shows the capabilities of your voice.
Finding a song that is to your taste is one of the key elements to picking the perfect song for your voice. Passion and joy are some of the greatest tools when it comes to bringing your voice to life. You may be able to sing just about any song, but when you find a song that moves you and fits your style, you will always sing that song better.
5. Start Out Simply
Too often new vocalists find themselves chasing after the most challenging song on their list. This new passion is so essential to success, but it can also be a component that ends up resulting in more failure than it does success. If you are only just finding your vocal range, it will take some time to adjust to your own capabilities.
Although you may find yourself itching to reach keys that are window-shattering, or hold and manipulate notes that show off your voice control, it is important to allow yourself some grace when first starting out. Start with a song that is a bit easier and work yourself up from there by following these simple guidelines below.
Is the Pace of the Song too Fast?
Beyond the actual melody of the song and the key in which it is being sung, you should also consider the pace of the song. Some songs are sung very quickly, or have complex lyrics that are hard to keep up with. When singing a song for the first time, make sure that you are able to complete the breaks properly without getting winded or straining yourself to hit the syllables.
Don’t Always Lean Towards a Slow Song
For many beginners, it may be tempting to start out with slower songs. Slower songs always seem easier to sing due to the rate at which the melody flows. However, more often than not, slow songs can actually be quite difficult to perform because they require more stamina.
Much like running a marathon - the pace is great at first, but exhausting by the end. When singing a slower song, you still need good breath control to carry out long notes and complete them smoothly. Test your chosen song to make sure the pace isn't too slow to sing comfortably.
A Narrow-Ranged Song is Perfectly Fine
There are some songs that are sung in very narrow ranges. This may seem boring because there aren't many highs and lows, but it can work to your advantage. Having a smaller range to work with, you can make notes much more powerful and really work on your tone.
One thing to watch is if that narrow range is too high or low for your own vocal range. If you find a song with a narrow range, but it feels like you are still straining to sing it, try singing it in a key that is more suited to your range.
Don't be Afraid to Try Any Song
This is one of the most essential aspects of choosing a song to fit your voice. A song may sound too bland or too difficult when you first hear it. However, you will never know whether the song suits your voice if you never try it out.
Your voice, with its own tone and expression, adds an element to any song that will make it unique. Try to sing the song you are considering and let this guide you on whether or not it has some potential with a bit of fine-tuning and practice.