Hard Songs to Sing: Hello, by Adele

Adele Live 2009, by Christopher Macsurak, under CC BY 2.0

At long last, Adele’s much-anticipated new single, “Hello,” has been released. Not only did it set a new high for number of views in 24 hours, breaking Taylor Swift’s record, it’s topped 100 million views in five days, overtaking Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.” Unsurprisingly, this is my most requested song to teach students right now as well, and it leaves plenty in the way of challenging vocal problems to work on, from long, sustained belt notes to high head voice ones. It was an obvious choice for our Hard Songs to Sing collection.

Why Is This Song Hard?

You can usually just assume that if you’re about to sing a popular Adele song, you’re not looking at something super easy, but each song poses its own unique set of challenges.

1. The Sustained Belt

The belt notes in “Hello” actually aren’t that high. A Bb4 is a manageable belt note for many women. However, the sustain makes the belt more precarious.

2. The Register Jumps

Jumping to head voice in the chorus on the word “tell” isn’t that problematic. Getting back down into a belt on the word after is hard. Once you’re in head voice, your voice feels pretty comfortable there and isn’t in any hurry to get back down into a belt.

3. The High Bridge

One of the “ooh’s” in the bridge goes up to a high G#5, which may not be that high for a classical piece but is way up there for a pop song.

Instant Gratification

Belt Modifications

Fortunately, the vowel Adele sustains in “Hello” is optimal for a relatively manageable belt. On the lyrics “other side,” “times,” “outside,” and “tried,” try scrunching your nose and making a face like you’re biting an apple. Eliminate that ah-ee diphthong, and modify the whole sustained vowel to an “ah” verging on “a” (as in cat). At the same time, imagine creating space between your tongue and soft palate, almost like you have a piece of fruit back there (this is a very fruit-themed post, apparently). The thinner vowel will help create a healthy belt, while the space in the back of your mouth and the large apple-biting face will create some more chest and back resonance to give you that fuller Adelesque sound.

Register Jump Help

To get good at register jumps, you’ll need to have excellent control over both your belt and your head voice, so that’s something to practice in the not-so-instant-gratification section. But here are a few helpful tips to get you started, or even to make some finishing touches once you have your different registers well controlled. Getting down from the “tell” to the “you” in the chorus can be challenging, especially since the “ooh” sound in “you” is a fairly light, heady sound. Try modifying the “you” to a thicker “yeuh” to make the transition back into a belt a little more natural.

The other very difficult quick register transition happens in the chorus line, “it don’t matter, it clearly…” To kick the “it” into head voice after belting “matter,” imagine the sound going toward the back of your head and up. Keep the vowel thin, but open the sound up like you’re about to sigh.

Not-So-Instant Gratification

Belt Exercise


Try arpeggiating on a “na” (with an “a” as in cat) to a thin “nah” (with an “ah” as in hot) sound. After you get to the point where your highest note is an Eb5, transition into head voice for your top note, but see if you can get back down into a belt for the note below it as you come down.

Sustained Belt Exercise


Once you dominate the belt exercise, try, arpeggiating on a “nah” and sustaining the top note.

Head Voice Exercise


Since the highest head voice parts of “Hello” are on an “ooh” vowel, and since “ooh” is a nice heady vowel anyway, we’ll use it as our head voice exercise. Try singing “ooh” on a descending 5-note scale. Keep it light and somewhat hooty, and let a little bit of air seep through the sound. Feel like you’re falling onto the top note from above rather than reaching up to it. If you aren’t there yet, see if you can work your way up to a G#5.

Have a song you’d like to see a Hard Songs tutorial on? Mention it in the comments below. We love hearing from you!

5 Comments

  1. tomgsinger

    I would like to see another vocal profile of another few young singers, Johnny Orlando and Carson Lueders.

    Reply
  2. Danielle

    Can anyone identify middle c (c4) in a popular song – I need a reference point to keep in mind when practicing scale vocally.

    Reply
    • Molly Webb

      Danielle, in Adele’s “Hello,” when she first sings “Hello” in the first verse, the “oh” part of the word is on c4. Hope that helps!

      Reply

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