Demi Lovato; The Neon Lights Tour (Belo Horizonte), by João Bicalho, under CC BY 2.0
Without a doubt, “Stone Cold,” by Demi Lovato is one of the hardest hit belt songs to come out in the last couple years. It’s extremely rangy, swinging between an F3 on the low end and a belted (or at least hyper-forward resonant) G#5 on the high end. As if the range of the belt doesn’t make the song frustrating enough for singers, it’s full of very challenging runs and sustains. If you’ve tried to sing this song and, like many singers, have given up on it halfway through, try some of the tips in this Hard Songs post. Most importantly, give yourself some time and don’t come down too hard on yourself. Along with Listen and Chandelier, “Stone Cold” is arguably one of the hardest songs I’ve written a tutorial for.
Why is This Song Hard?
1. It’s a High Belt
Let’s just start there. The G#5 is really high. Even if you leave that note out, the way Demi does in some of her live versions, the song still takes you up to an F5.
2. The Runs are Rough
First off, the chorus runs on the word if, (for example, the one at 2.20 in the video), go from low to high, something that tends to take more control than starting high and dropping. Secondly, they’re just flat-out long and high, spanning an entire octave, Eb4 to Eb5.
3. The Song Register Jumps a Lot
The jump from a belt to a breathy head voice between stone cold at 41s and baby at 43s takes an immense amount of support to be convincing.
The best advice I can give you for this song is to get comfortable with the “a” (as in cat) vowel. Try to make it so forward that it’s piercing (think of a duck or a cackling witch). Then, once you have that crying point (or twang) open your mouth as if you’re biting an apple in order to open up the resonance. When you attack that G#5 on her at 3.09, instead of singing the actual word, just tack an “h” onto the thinnest, most piercing vowel (you can try “a” or “i” as in kick) you can find. It’s unlikely you’re going to get a very chest-heavy mix that high up, so think forward and in your face rather than thick and heavy. While the G#5 is the most extreme example of this, you can use this technique throughout the song. Luckily, there are plenty of words with “a” vowels, like am, can’t, and understand. Each time you sing one of these words, take a big bite out of that imaginary apple in order to drive the sound forward while lifting your soft palate enough to make a bigger sound.
Use Plenty of Support
I hate using the word support without explaining it well, because it’s one of those terms voice teachers tend to throw around a lot and expect singers to understand without instruction. If you don’t know how to find your support, try sitting on a stool, and grabbing the bottom of it, pulling up with your hands. Feel what that does to your body? These are some of the muscles you’ll need to engage during passages that require a lot of support. When you sing that breathy baby, exhale through the note more than you normally would, but make sure you’re still using your support muscles and making the apple-biting face so these sections still sound controlled and well connected. Make sure to use these muscles for the runs as well, keeping the if light and buoyant and resisting the urge to shout up to the top notes in order to get more sound.
Be Lighter Than You Think
I said this once, but I think it’s worth repeating. Most people’s tendency when singing “Stone Cold” is to just go full throttle and push as hard as they possibly can. But if you carry too much weight (i.e. if your vocal folds are too thick), particularly through the upward runs that culminate in the word happy, you’re probably going to cap out and not make it high enough. You’ll have the best shot at making it if you (like Demi herself) use some sort of mixed belt instead of slamming into the notes with all your might.
You’re going to want to develop a boatload of twang to accomplish this song. Regardless of which passages you’re belting, you’ll be a lot more convincing on the song if you can narrow your epilarynx and pharyngeal space (don’t worry. You don’t need to know what that means to learn how to do it). Try these vocal exercises, going up and down your range with them.
“A” Tongue Exercise
I use this one a lot, because it’s a good one for so many of these hard songs. Stick your tongue out, and use a gentle glottal onset (to understand what that kind of onset sounds like, try percussively exclaiming “uh oh”). Now say “a, a, a” (as in cat.) Now try arpeggiating on the “A” sound, making it sound nasty and witch-like.
“A” Tongue Exercise Sustained
If you want any shot at making that G#5 Demi sustains at the end of the recorded version of “Stone Cold,” you’ll need to figure out how to sustain a twangy sound.
Na Na Octave Jump
You’re going to want to do more than twang on this song. For at least some portion of the song, it’s best to try belting it. Try belting an octave jump on “na.” Don’t push too hard at the top. You’ll have the best shot if you just throw the sound, like a call.
Have any comments or suggestions for the next Hard Songs to Sing post? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!