• Jennifer Iovanne, Singers, Songwriting 16.09.2009 Comments Off on Identifying your vocal range

    When students begin learning piano (or guitar, or any instrument for that matter!), there’s a common starting point – learn to identify intervals, types of notes, and so forth.  With voice, the path is generally not as clearly laid out.  While music theory still applies, students beginning voice lessons have quite likely sung before at some point and have an idea in their head of how their voice sounds – raspy, low, thin, high, mellow, and so forth.  In other words, folks generally begin voice lessons with an idea of their own ability.  Identifying our conceptions of our own voice is very important for many reasons – it helps us better identify specific aspects we like or dislike about our voice, identify areas we’ve like to improve upon, and gain a deeper awareness and ability to listen to vocal qualities.  A great way to begin thinking about your voice is to work with your voice teacher to figure out your vocal range and “type”.  Here’s a run-down of how that works:

    Everyone has a vocal range – a particular number of notes they can comfortably hit.  Over time with practice, our ability to higher or lower notes clearly can increase, which can expand the vocal range a bit.  In general everyone falls into a particular voice “type”.  This is GREAT info to use when purchasing vocal music – especially for classical or musical theater voice music, look for music meant for your voice type!

    The general names used for vocal types are:

    Soprano: the higher female voice.  Generally from the A or B below middle C to high C.

    Alto: the lower female voice.  Generally from F below middle C to F on the top line of the treble clef.

    Tenor: the higher male voice.  Generally from C one octave below middle C to the G above middle C.

    Bass: the lower male voice.  Generally from the C below the bass clef to middle C.

    There are other types as well, including:

    Contralto – a low alto voice

    Mezzo – “mixed” voice – between alto and soprano ranges

    Baritone – between tenor and bass ranges

    Do you know your voice type?  Work with your voice teacher to gain a better understanding of your own voice, and how we can use proper vocal technique to make your vocal range stronger!

    Jennifer Iovanne

  • Songwriting 26.10.2006 Comments Off on Writing Melodies (3 of 3)

    © 2000, Tyler Tullock. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

    In “Memorable Melodies Part 1 & 2” I walked you though the basics of how to write a solid melody line. This time I am going to show you how to create 4 melodic lines that work together to create a section of a song (a verse or chorus for example).

    First, I would like to again go over the purpose of this article in case you missed it in parts 1 & 2…

    To teach you how to write melody form the ground up, step by step from a completely mechanical point of view. This will help you to learn to write melody by taking the “artistic risk” out of the process. Please read parts 1 & 2 before this part 3 so you get the entire picture.

    How 4 melody lines create a Verse, Chorus, Bridge, etc.
    Most sections (Verse, Chorus, Bridge, etc.) in pop music have 4 lines of lyrics. Each line of lyrics is sung to a melody that is written over 2 or 4 bars (measures) of chords. Are you with me so far? To demonstrate in a purely mechanical way how to write 4 lines that work together I wrote a melody line (bars 1 through 4) and then copied it 3 more times to create 4 identical melodic lines each 4 bars in length. Next, I modified the melody a little in lines 2 & 4 (yellow parts in the diagram below). Notice that the yellow parts are the same. I then modified the last bar of lines 2 & 4 but this time they are different from one another with the last bar of line 4 rising in pitch to lead you towards the next section of the song (verse, chorus, etc.).

    It is all about a lot of symmetry and a few variations. What I mean by this can be demonstrated by the following examples:

    You might write a melody where…

    • Lines 1 & 3 are similar and lines 2 & 4 are similar yet different than lines 1 & 3. You would want slight variations in lines 2 & 4 or 1 & 3 so that they are not identical.
    • Lines 1 & 2 are similar and lines 3 & 4 are similar yet different than lines 1 & 2. You would want slight variations in lines 1 & 2 or 3 & 4 so that they are not identical.
    • Lines 1, 2, & 3 are similar but line 4 is unique. In this case you might have a slight variation in 1 or more of lines 1, 2, or 3. It’s all up to you!

    There are no rules!
    Don’t get hung up thinking that these are the only valid ways to write good melody. This article is meant to jump start the creative process! These are proven techniques and after you exercise them by writing a couple of songs I want you to forget all the guidelines and just write from your heart. You will have a subconscious guide with you at all times after you have written a few songs using my method so don’t worry about the rules and just write, write, write!!!

    Feel free to email me with any questions!


  • Songwriting 25.10.2006 2 Comments

    © 2000, Tyler Tullock. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

    In the “Memorable Melodies Part 1” I walked you though the basics of how to write a solid melody. This time we are going to discuss how to add some real life to that solid but somewhat mechanical sounding piece!

    First, I would like to reiterate the purpose of this article…

    To teach you how to write melody form the ground up, step by step from a completely mechanical point of view. This will help you to learn to write melody by taking the “artistic risk” out of the process.

    Eliminating “Artistic Risk”
    I don’t know of a single writer who thinks that the first song they wrote was great! In fact I always tell my students to write 5-10 “crumby” songs, record them on a crumby tape recorder, then put them in a shoe box in their closet and they will never have to play them for anybody! What this does is to eliminate the “artistic risk” so you can get on with the process of learning to write songs without the pressure of having to write a good one. Inevitably, you probably will end up liking and being proud of one or more of your songs but the beauty of this approach is that you aren’t expecting anything out of yourself! It really works!!!

    More About Rhythm
    In part I we ended up with a solid melody idea over 4 chords. The problem with what we have so far is that rhythmically it is quite boring. Each note is held for the same amount of time (1 beat). To make your melody more interesting, try making some notes 2, 3 or even 4 beats long. You can also make a note last only 1/2 of a beat (an eighth note).

    * A lot of pop music phrases end with a note that is 2 beats (or more) in length.

    More About Connecting the Dots
    In part 1, I mentioned that it is usually a bad idea to have too many skips in a row. I recommend no more than 2 in a row. Don’t forget to try skipping back to the note you just came from as in…
    C > F > C or E > G > E (as in bar 2 of ex. 4)

    Also don’t forget about repeating the same note 2 or more times in a row. This is a very common melodic tool! Such as… G > G (as in bar 1 of ex. 4) or E > E > E These moves should be considered steps for the purpose of my melody writing technique.

    Song Structure
    We have now learned how to write a solid melodic line. The next step is to learn how melody lines are grouped together to create sections of a song (Verse, Chorus, etc). At this point I need to explain a few songwriting terms for those who are just starting to write songs.


      4 beats (foot taps)
    • Intro
      (Usually music only) Memorable melodic phrase or catchy rhythm to prepare the listener for the first Verse.
    • Verse
      Vocal melody & words. It tells the story, as in chapters of a book. The words are usually different in each Verse.
    • Chorus
      Vocal melody and words (The catch phrase or hook of the song, the part that gets stuck in your head and you find yourself singing it over and over (sometimes even when you hate the song!) The words are typically the same from chorus to chorus in a song.
    • Bridge
      The job of the Bridge is to breakup the monotony of Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus, to cleanse the musical pallet so to speak. Almost anything can work as a Bridge since it’s job is to simple create a temporary diversion! A Bridge can be drums and bass only (a breakdown), a whole new section of music and words that reach for the highest level of energy in the song, or anything else you can think of!

    Growing a Melodic Idea
    Melody lines usually work together in groups of four to form parts of songs (i.e. Verse, Chorus, etc.) . As in the 1st Verse of my song “Avalanche”.

    1. Ion powered lights (2 bar melody line)
    2. Are shining all the way (2 bar melody line)
    3. To your desolation (2 bar melody line)
    4. Night will turn to day (2 bar melody line)

    Then these parts are often connected like this…

    Verse 1
    Chorus 1
    Break / re-intro
    (music only, 2-4 bars. Often, the intro is simply played again.)
    Verse 2
    Chorus 2 (Often, Chorus 1 played 2 times)
    Verse 3
    Chorus 3 (Often, Chorus 1 played 4 times while fading out)

    So try these ideas and next time I will show you how to write four melody lines that interact & work together to lead the listener to a new part of the song!

    Feel free to email me with any questions!


  • Songwriting 25.10.2006 Comments Off on Writing Melodies (1 of 3)

    © 2000, Tyler Tullock. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

    What makes a hit song? What makes a song stick in the minds of a listener? What makes people call their local DJ’s begging them to play the same song time and time again? The #1 reason is a STRONG MELODY! Yeah, sometimes a catchy rhythmic figure or groove can do the trick all by itself. A lot of Rap, Dance, & Electronica songs have very little melody and sell tons of copies based on rhythm and/or a catchy musical idea, lyric, sound effect or production technique alone but…

    For most popular forms of music (Rock, Pop, Country, R&B, Alternative, Christian, Funk, Ballads, etc.), STRONG MELODY is the main reason most hit songs became hits! That is so important I want to say it again and again!

    STRONG MELODY is the main reason most hit songs became hits!

    As a music teacher (Guitar, Bass, Voice), theory is a very important part of my curriculum. Some people are so afraid of the word theory I have a button on my desk that locks the door so they can’t escape until I have shown them how easy it can be to learn all you need to know to write great songs and become your own music teacher for the rest of your life! Seriously…

    I am going to show you in 3 easy steps how to write a solid melody. You don’t have to know anything about music theory as I will provide you with the few basics that you need to know in a few moments.

    * For those of you who think that you already know how to write good melodies, take a few minutes to run through the examples that I provide and you will start writing BETTER melodies immediately!

    Most songwriters play guitar or piano at least a little bit. If you are an aspiring songwriter and you don’t play either of these instruments, you should ask around and try to find a reputable instructor and sign up for 4-8 lessons to learn the following…

    • Major, minor, 7th, & minor 7th chords in all keys
    • How to write out the notes in all keys (Major scales),
    • How to (at least) hack through a major scale in all 12 keys on a guitar or piano/keyboard

    I am going to present this lesson using guitar tablature as most piano players can read basic music notation and should be able to follow along with my examples. If you cannot understand, please email me and I will follow up with the examples converted to standard music notation for you. OK? Here are the basics you need to know before we get started with the actual lesson. Feel free to skip on past if you already know this stuff…


    C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C
    (The C major Scale – all the white keys on the piano)


    Moving up or down a note in a scale is called a scale step.

    Example: in the C major scale above, moving from B to C or B down to A is a scale step.


    Moving up or down more than one note in a scale is called a scale skip.

    Example: in the C major scale above, moving from B to D, B down to G, or F to C is a scale skip.


    A chord goes with each step of the major scale.

    I – C MAJOR
    ii – D minor
    iii – E minor
    IV – F MAJOR
    V – G MAJOR
    vi – A minor
    vii – B diminished (Not used much in pop music styles)

    Note: These chord types have been simplified for pop music styles. All keys (major scale) use the same chord types as above, the only thing that changes is the letter that goes in front of Major or minor!


    Choose 4 chords that you think sound good together from the list above.

    (You can’t make a mistake if you are using chords that are in the same key so just go for it!)

    For my example, I choose the following (By the way, a letter alone without Major or minor after it means Major as far as chords go)…

    STEP 1:

    Choose chord notes for your melody and write them in just below each chord.
    (We are choosing the note that the melody will be playing as we play the first beat or strum of each chord)

    (Click on the image above to hear a midi file)

    A chord note is a note that is in the chord you are playing.
    A few guidelines for you to remember are…

    1) Don’t always pick the A note in an A chord or the C note in a C chord. Each chord has 3 different notes (there are more than 1 of each note in many guitar chord fingerings), so mix it up. You might choose a G in a C chord or an F in a Dmi chord as well as sometimes choosing an G in a G chord.

    2) If you don’t know the note names on the guitar or keyboard, don’t worry about it. Simply pick a note that you are playing in the chord (including open strings that are being played) and record it on tape or write it out in tablature (Tab) instead of using the actual note names.

    STEP 2:

    Choose approaching notes for your melody and write them in just before each chord change.

    (Click on the image above to hear a midi file)

    An approaching note is a note that will lead the listeners ear to the next chord (Oh yeah!).

    An approaching note is one scale step higher or lower than the melody note you will play at the chord change.

    STEP 3:

    Simply connect the dots for a GREAT MELODY EVERY TIME.

    (Click on the image above to hear a midi file)

    A few guidelines for you to remember are…

    1) Try for a ratio of 3 steps for each skip. If you use too many skips your melody will sound choppy and non-melodic (Hey is that a real word?) Too many steps will leave your music sounding like a big boring scale!

    2) Start by writing 2 connecting notes between each chord note and the next approaching note. Then, try using zero or 1 connecting notes in some places and 2 connecting notes in other places.

    Well, that is all there is to it! Next time we’ll get into how this technique fits into writing an entire song!

    ~ Ty