Recently Christine Aguilera performed the Star-Spangled Banner at the Superbowl. This poor performance was more than just forgetting the words. In this post I hope to provide valuable information to female singers worldwide about the importance of key choices and style choices of songs they sing. I will compare famous pop singers who belt and link to their Star-Spangled Banner performance.
First, you will need to know the first female passagio is around A above middle C (middle C is C4). This “bridge” is the transition between your lower voice (chest) and your high voice (head). It is more than just one note, it is a “passage” of usually 2-3 notes…anywhere from A flat to B flat. Do you notice that when you sing in this area, it feels different? This is where your voice needs to “mix” well so you can transition well into your higher register.
Watch Christine Aguilera’s performance here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpCFpYLPw74
Her key choice is F major. The “big note” on the words red glare and the last line free is C above middle (C5). A good belter has no problem hitting this note. Unfortunately, Christine was not well prepared for this performance. She started very shouty and never got “in the mix”. She basically got stuck in her chest voice and had to flip for the big note at the end. I think the reason she forgot the words is because she realized straight away that she was not mixing well, and was in trouble for the big finish. She knew her energy and focus was off, and it reflected not only in the lyrics, but also in her voice.
Watch Jennifer Hudson’s performance here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GE-7YqwZZ4o
Jennifer’s key choice is A major. This performance is spectacular. She is one of the best “mixing” chest belters in the business right now. What the listener may not realize is that Jennifer is belting C#5 in the second line on the word proudly and this is already a higher note than Christine’s “big note” of C5. Listen to how Jennifer can slip easily into her dynamic range of loud and soft within any given phrase. This ability means she is definitely mixing well. Christine’s voice on the other hand would not have been able to decrease in volume without “flipping” into a heady sound.
Watch Mariah Carey here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-Hw-0_JOys
Mariah’s key choice is E major. This is a semi-tone lower than Christine’s. Mariah is a fabulous “mixer”. Listen to her delicate weaving back and forth in the mix at the beginning of the song. I am disappointed that she picked such a low key. Her “big note” is only a B4…..however…..I guess that’s not really true…because on the words free she shows us her fabulous super head voice which I believe is a B6. This will be why she picked the Key of E major so she could fit this note in. I would have preferred a higher key and have her leave the super high note out.
Watch Beyonce here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWgZ_MSMHgw
Beyonce’s key choice is G major. Love this key and performance. She saves the belt for the appropriate spots in the song. She has a beautiful mix throughout.
Watch Whitney Houston here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqqL_LRWyJs
Whitney’s key choice is A flat major. This is, of course, when Whitney was belting and mixing superbly. This performance is A+. Whitney’s decline in vocal ability over the last few years is a prime example of not taking care of your instrument. Her choice of lifestyle has all but destroyed her voice…..very sad to say the least.
Watch Faith Hill here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJI_rlar68M
Faith’s key choice is G major. This is a good performance for Faith. She is mixing well. You can hear her carefulness at the beginning of the song, to be sure to include her head resonance in the low notes. This is important so that as she ascends she can stay well in her mix. Indeed, there is a beautiful balance in her belting notes of B4, C5 and D5.
Watch Kelly Clarkson here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMuaXm0Ps2E
Kelly’s key choice is E major. A very low key choice in my opinion for Kelly. This was I suppose a safe choice, but she can definitely belt higher in her mix. The “big note” is only a B4. Also, I feel she is rushing through the song. It could have been a touch slower with more emotion.
Watch Celine Dion here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z53EROEjCsA
Celine’s key choice is G major. This really is the optimum key choice for this song. I would have preferred to hear her start a little more subtle in dynamics. But, nonetheless, Celine is one of the best chest belters in the business, and this performance only proves that. Her big notes are B4, C5 and D5. This key allows the biggest part of the song to stay just under the next passagio which starts around D#5. Perfect key choice for chest belters.
Watch Carrie Underwood here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePMrIe5SBqw
Carrie’s key choice is F#. Good performance for Carrie. She is mixing well and her belt is strong from A#5 through C#5.
Watch Taylor Swift here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbvMDTkdoKE&feature=related
Taylor’s key choice is E major. This is about the only key she could safely pick without having trouble at her bridge. Taylor is not a good mixer. Her big notes are G#4, A#4 and B4.
Well, there you have it. For anyone wanting to practise their chest belting I suggest you “copy” Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce. Get the feel of their gentle, relaxed mixed voice, which then leads into a beautiful mixed belt at the climax of the song. Work your belting this way, and you will get stronger the correct way. The reverse is true for copying singers who belt in their low range. You run the risk of not being in a good mix, and therefore you will get stuck. This kind of voice can rarely sing well above a B flat or high C. And, while I admire Christine Aguilera’s talent, I highly suggest you never ever try to copy her voice. You are only asking for trouble.
I appreciate your comments or questions. Why not drop me a line.