What can I ask a singer to sing?

Do you need to hire a singer but are not sure what exactly that you need? In this article we give you a run-down of all the things you can ask a singer to sing.

Solo Singer 

The most common vocal role people hire is the solo vocal line. Most vocalists have a specialism, whether that’s jazz, EDM, pop or rock, so make sure you do your research and don’t hire someone who doesn’t suit the style of your track. You also need to make sure that the song fits the singer’s vocal range. There’s three main vocal ranges you need to be aware of: Soprano, tenor and bass.

Soprano is typically the highest vocal part sung by a woman and ranges from middle C (C4) to “high A” (A5). Tenor is typically the highest vocal part sung by a man and ranges from C3, the C one octave below middle C, to A4 (A above middle C). Bass vocals normally range from E2 (the second E below middle C) to E4 (the E above middle C).

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If there’s more than one vocalist involved on the track then there are three main roles that they can take:

1. Lead Singer

A lead singer normally usually sings before the main vocalist, during verses (“leads” into the song), and sings the chorus (backed by the main vocalist).

2. Main Singer

The main singer usually sings the belted or high notes in the background to support the lead vocalist. Their role is to support the lead vocal line for any parts of the song that are particularly technically challenging.

3. Features

A feature is simply a guest vocal on a track. Features are normally limited to one or two verses and supporting the main vocal during the chorus. Features are usually either setup for an artist by their record label or, more commonly, you pay a fee to have an artist do a feature on a track. Feature and some top level artists charge tens of thousands just for one feature. When hiring an artist for a feature it’s important to make sure that they don’t outshine your main vocals. Also, be clear on their intellectual property rights, because you don’t want to end up with a situation where they get equal royalties to the main vocalist, but also avoid them getting nothing.

It’s important to add that these lead and main vocal roles aren’t strict distinctions. Each song might distribute the roles differently, or there might not be a clear distinction between the singers, so just take it on a song by song basis.

 

A Capella

A Capella simply means group or solo singing which doesn’t have any instrumental accompaniment. Barbershop quartets and choirs are the most common types of A Capella vocals groups. The term is also used for any unaccompanied vocal files that producers and DJs can hire or buy to put on their tracks.

Backing vocals

Backing vocalists are singers who provide vocal harmony with the lead vocalist or other backing vocalists and there are hundreds of possible configurations that used in the music industry, ranging from one singer harmonising with a lead vocal, to hundreds of singers in a large chorus, or anything in between. In some cases, a backing singer may sing alone as a lead-in to the main vocalist’s entry or to sing a counter-melody.

Overall, the important thing is that it is the right voice for that particular project, and that the voice is compatible with the other vocalists. Studio time is expensive, so backing vocalists are often supplied with sheet music which they sight read and sing the notes as directed. 

Harmony Singer

A harmony singer is similar to a backing vocalist, but focusing particular on adding harmonies. This means that they need a really good ear for chords and be able to improvise harmonies without needing sheet music. 

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Beatboxing

Beatboxing is where a vocalist mimics the sounds of a drum machine using their mouth, lips, tongue, and voice. Beat boxing is normally used to add extra sounds to a traditional drum track or to add a change of feel to the drums during a drop in a track. Beat boxers usually require microphones, because they press their mouth against them to amplify the bass and create certain effects.

Top Line

It’s important to not expect that a singer will write the vocal line or the lyrics for a track. That is a separate skill known as ‘top line writing’. There are singers who offer both services but it’s not the norm.

If you need someone to write the vocal line and lyrics then make sure that you clearly specify that you need a top line writer. If you provide them with an existing instrumental (or beat) then it’s often easier and cheaper for a producer to create a piece of music from scratch, because they have a template to work with, which gives them the feel of the track you want.

There’s so many to choose from!

As you can see, there are many different things you can hire a singer to do so read through each carefully so you’re clear on the differences between them. Generally, the main thing you need to be aware of is whether you need a soloist, someone who can write and sing, or someone who provides vocal support. If you have any questions or issues, please leave them in the comments below.

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Joe Scarffe

Joe Scarffe

Joe is the Community and Marketing Manager and is currently finishing up a PhD in music at Birmingham Conservatoire and still hasn’t got over his addiction to coffee. He loves getting involved in crazy music projects and plays the bassoon, oboe, piano, recorder and guitar. He also makes lots of electronic music and loves collaborating. He sings too if you ask nicely and once shamefully sang as a backing singer for Will Young. When he’s not moaning about the state of the music industry or public transport in Manchester, he works with the Twine community and handles social media, the blog and partnerships with companies and institutions.

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Joe Scarffe

Joe Scarffe

Joe is the Community and Marketing Manager and is currently finishing up a PhD in music at Birmingham Conservatoire and still hasn’t got over his addiction to coffee.

He loves getting involved in crazy music projects and plays the bassoon, oboe, piano, recorder and guitar. He also makes lots of electronic music and loves collaborating. He sings too if you ask nicely and once shamefully sang as a backing singer for Will Young.

When he’s not moaning about the state of the music industry or public transport in Manchester, he works with the Twine community and handles social media, the blog and partnerships with companies and institutions.