Where’s Your High Note?


Photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash

Ever wondered what makes a hit ballad a hit? Sure, the singer has to kill it, and the right arrangement helps too. But what made songs like “I Will Always Love You” and “My Heart Will Go On” kick serious butt on the Billboard charts?

A major player in this game is the placement of the highest note in the song. When writing a song, sometimes where the highest note ends up is natural. It just kind of flows as you’re writing the melody. Other times, when trying to write the next big hit, where it’s placed is very strategic. Let’s examine this idea a bit more in depth.

Since we’ve already mentioned it, let’s look at “I Will Always Love You”—an epic ballad written by the epic songwriter Dolly Parton and made popular by the epic singer Whitney Houston. (RIP, girl.)

If you examine the melody of the verses, it teases reaching the highest note in the song. But Whitney doesn’t get there until the chorus. Let’s look at the song in the key of A.

Here’s the highest note in the first verse:

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And then, the fabulous chorus hits and Whitney lets loose those beautiful high notes that the verse hinted at:

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And then there’s the modulation that happens at the end of the song, but we’ll leave modulation for another blog post.

Now, let’s look at “My Heart Will Go On” in the key of E. Here’s the first verse that hovers around the root note, E:

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 7.45.46 PMAnd then the chorus takes us for a ride up the melody roller-coaster:

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Notice the jump in the melody here when songwriter Diane Warren has Celine Dion sing “wherever.” It’s an entire octave, which brings out the high note — a feature that doesn’t appear in “I Will Always Love You.” If you’re a belter and a songwriter, consider working this into your melody in the chorus.

Here are some other places high notes do (and should!) show up

  • When singing the word “high”. This seems silly, but it makes perfect sense. Try shaking your head “no” while saying the word “yes.”  Tough, right? Why sing the word “high” on a low note? Consider the song “High and Dry” by Radiohead. Thom Yorke gets way up there when he sings the word “high.” It happens to be in the chorus, but perhaps in your song it happens elsewhere. Consider using this idea when singing other “high” words like “top” or “above.”
    • At the end of the bridge leading into the chorus. The bridge is the place where you build the tension as we wait for the chorus–getting us ready for the “drop.” Consider Kesha’s comeback hit “Praying.” I mean, holy cow is that note at the end of the bridge amazing! You don’t even realize the chorus came back to hit you in the face while you’re listening to her belt out that Mariah Carey-esque note. Again, if you’ve got that range as a singer, go for it in your songwriting!

I hope I’ve given you some ideas and inspiration for the placement of your high note. I wish you a lack of writer’s block and a pen that flows easily.

Until next time!



Cover Dos and Don’ts: 3 Ways to Make Your Cover (Song) Stand Out

A great way to grab the attention of your potential listeners as a singer or original artist is to cover songs that are hits. Beyoncé and Imagine Dragons already have a fan base that loves their music — and those fans will probably love your sound if you match theirs (or Adele’s or Shawn Mendez’s…you get the idea). 
So let’s talk about how to capitalize on a market that already exists, while making you stand out as an artist too!
My three main pieces of advice are:

  • Don’t be a copycat. If you are unable to sing it better or different, then pick a different song! My biggest pet peeve is when an artist sings a song EXACTLY like the original. A trick for females is to choose a male song, and vice versa for males. If you are in the early stages of recording and learning, then this isn’t as important. But once you’ve had some experience and made the decision to be an ARTIST, this is a MUST in order to carve your own path in this business. (See “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by UB40 or “Wild Horses” by Alicia Keys for examples.)
  • Understand the lyrics. It’s your job as a singer and performer to tell the story. It’s surprising to find out how many singers actually don’t understand the words or message they are singing about. Rewrite the lyrics in your own handwriting, or retype them and print them out. Grab a marker and highlight what you think are the main emotional words or phrases of the song. Listen to the song while reading the lyrics. Live and breathe the song as if you wrote it yourself. 
  • Match the genre, not the artist. If someone tells you that you sound like Bruno Mars, DO NOT pick a Bruno Mars song. Sure you can use this as inspiration and a guideline, but in order to be recognized for your own unique sound, it’s important to choose a song that is not like an artist with a similar tonality as you. You’ll want to choose a song in the genre of Bruno Mars. But if I can’t tell the difference between you and Mr. Mars on your cover of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”, that’s probably not the right fit. Perhaps an Usher cover would work better for you. 

For inspiration to choose a cover, visit Billboard.com’s chart page: http://www.billboard.com/charts#id-chart-category-pop. This link takes you to the pop charts, but you can choose other genres when you get there. 
Until next time, 



Tottenville HS Performs Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” at ET Studios


On Tuesday, Oct. 25th, Tottenville HS’s media students visited ET Studios for a tour and a special recording session.

Led by their instructor Ms. Nolemi, the talented group performed “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen’s most famous anthem. We recorded the students in our largest room at ET Studios and were absolutely blown away by their voices!

We’re excited to welcome Tottenville HS to the ET Family!

Check out some more pics of Ms. Nolemi’s students at our studio below:

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ET Studios’ Production 101 Workshop – Coming This November


Are you interested in producing your own music, right from your own laptop or desktop computer?

ET Studios’ Joey Martino will be leading his Production 101 Workshop on Saturdays this November, from 12 pm to 3 pm. Take a peek at what the workshop has to offer you:

WEEK 1: Linear (Analog) & Nonlinear (Digital) Recording
What is a DAW and which should I use?
How to set up a home studio for music production and audio recording
Inputs vs Outputs and how do I connect my studio gear together correctly

WEEK 2: Creating beats and loops
Working with MIDI
Recording Instruments and Vocals

WEEK 3: Editing your tracks
Time stretching and pitch correction of recorded tracks

WEEK 4: Basic mixing and mastering techniques

REQUIREMENTS: A laptop/desktop computer with internet connection and Pro Tools First (free download). Workshop classes do not require you to bring a computer but you are welcome to do so and perform tasks along with your instructor. Hands on experience will be given to all that attend!

With digital recording and your own imagination, there is no limit to what kind of music YOU can create. There are a limited number of seats for the workshop, so contact Laura at laura@etstudioproductions.com today to register!

Heading into the Recording Studio? 5 Ways Your Microphone Defines Your Vocal Sound


I’ve often been asked by vocalists that I work with in the studio, “Can you make me sound like [fill in the blank with amazing singer]?”

Firstly, the singer should have great technique, which is something you should take care of long before you enter the studio. Second, the microphone you use will make all the difference. It would be nice if you could walk into any studio and sound the same — and great! But that isn’t the case. Let’s take a look at why.

  1. Wide frequency range. You want a microphone that has a wide frequency range allowing low, mid, and high frequencies in your voice to be heard. Try singing the letter “e.” Now sing the word “oh.” Notice where the sound is coming from in each situation: “e” is nasal and “oh” comes from within your chest. Those sounds fall into different frequencies, and you want a microphone that is going to capture those — and everything in between.
  1. Dynamic range. Trying singing the first line of the chorus to “I Can’t Make You Love Me”: I can’t make you love me if you don’t. You had to belt that, right? Now sing the line from The Beatles’ “Yesterday”: Oh I believe, in yesterday. It should be sung quietly, with reserve. You want a microphone that will capture both the softest whispers to the loudest soaring notes of your performance. Otherwise your belting will be distorted, and your more subtle notes won’t be captured on tape at all.
  1. Low noise and low distortion. Have you ever recorded yourself using some low-tech device and heard a hissing sound? That’s what we call “noise.” Have you ever heard a recording of someone where the voice sounds like it’s crackling or fuzzy? That’s “distortion” — when audio signal is too strong. We want neither of these things to happen when recording vocals in the studio, so we want to use a microphone with low noise and low distortion to preserve clarity in your voice.
  1. Natural tone. You want your listeners to hear your voice on tape the way it sounds live, in a room, with you right in front of an audience. You want to capture YOU, and the quality of the microphone you use makes all the difference. (Note: For certain genres of music, altering your voice with effects may be desired, but that doesn’t come from the microphone itself.)
  1. Detail. You will never sound exactly like Adele — and that’s a good thing! You want to sound like you, and you want a microphone that will pick up all the unique tonal nuances of your voice. You may be the same type of singer as Adele, but your voice cracks in different places, and it’s raspier depending on the words you’re singing. They are small details, but they make all the difference in making you sound like YOU.

There are a lot more hardware and software that add to what makes a great vocal recording, and we’ll get more into those in future blog posts. If you like what you’ve read, and would like to be updated when future articles are posted, don’t forget to sign up for our blog!

Talk soon,