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Hard Songs to Sing: Beautiful, by Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera Singing Beautiful to the Breakthrough Prize Scientists, by Melketon, under CC BY 2.0

A few months ago, I got a request for a Hard Songs to Sing tutorial on “Beautiful,” by Christina Aguilera. “Beautiful” is one of those rare pop songs that has a ton of staying power and is widely requested by students 14 years after its release. People love it because not only does Christina slay it, it also has a great message that’s an anthem for anyone who’s ever had a hard time fitting in (and who hasn’t at some point?) “Beautiful” moves along in a very manageable way throughout the verses and choruses, lulling you into a false sense of security about the song’s ease. Then the bridge hits, and everything goes awry.

Why Is This Song Hard?

There’s always something you can find to work on, even in the simplest parts of a song, but let’s cut to the chase. The bridge in “Beautiful” is really what makes this song so difficult. If you don’t throw in any of Christina’s runs and just stick to the melody, even the bridge is pretty doable, but the song ends up sounding anticlimactic without the ornaments. Whenever I work with more advanced students on this song, I encourage them to skip most of the melody line on the bridge and try the hard part. If you’re looking at lyrics for the song, the hard part of the bridge is written in the parentheses. Pretty much this entire section of the song takes a lot of work, so I won’t bother writing out every line that makes it challenging, but by far the biggest killer is the word shine on the F#5.

Instant Gratification

1. Bite an Apple

The beginning of the bridge uses mostly “a” (as in cat) vowels, and fortunately, that’s one of the easiest vowels to belt on for most singers. Sometimes the vowel can have a tendency to sound thinner than you’d like, and to combat that problem, try making a face like you’re biting an apple.

1-1259000618geFzThis action will help your soft palate lift and give you a fuller sound while maintaining a healthy belt.

2. Think Down on the “Yeah” Run

When you go for that belt on the Eb5 (or even if you’re just going to shoot for a strong head-mix), imagine falling onto the note instead of reaching up to it. Your tendency when shooting for a high belt will most likely be to try to reach for the note, but you’ll likely find that the note feels much more comfortable, open, and on key if you imagine the belt coming from the other direction. The visual naturally tends to help your palate lift so that your belt doesn’t feel and sound throaty.

3. Don’t Enunciate the Word Always

The Eb5 is hard enough. It doesn’t need to be even harder by including all those consonants. Almost entirely eliminate the “l” sound, and make the word a dopey-sounding “uh-wa’s.”

4. Modify Shine

The majority of women out there are going to have a very hard time belting the F#5 on shine. Whether you’re planning on belting it or not, get rid of the diphthong (the ah-ee sound), make the apple-biting face again, and try for “shahn,” with a hybrid of the “a” and “ah” vowel.

How to Belt It

If you want to give belting it a shot (please be careful and stop as soon as your voice gets tired), here are a few things you can try for these extreme notes:

  • Bend your knees
  • Use your abs
  • Scrunch your nose
  • Gently lift your chin, without jutting it forward or allowing any tension to creep into your neck

For a more detailed tutorial, visit my How to Belt and How to Belt, Part 2 posts.

Not-So-Instant Gratification

Okay, so if your belt currently goes up to an Bb4, no amount of bending your knees and scrunching your nose is going to suddenly kick it up to an F#5. I have a few favorite vocal exercises for increasing your belt, but for this song, I’d recommend an octave jump on a “na” (as in cat.).

When you hit that belt note at the top of the octave, don’t think of pressing into it. Think of just throwing it away, and if it helps, you might even try making a throwing action as you sing the note. This will keep you from tensing up too much and should increase your belt range much faster.

Have any other songs you’d like to see in our Hard Songs to Sing collection? Let us know in the comments below!

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