Hard Songs to Sing: Let it Go from Disney’s “Frozen”
Disney’s “Frozen” is a great movie made better by the hit number Let it Go—and Olaf the Snowman of course. Singer Idina Menzel powerfully captures the moment when her character, Elsa, breaks free from her inner turmoil, resulting in a memorable song that has taken the world of music by storm—snowstorm that is. Journey with us as we show you step by step how to surmount the most challenging parts of Let it Go—perform this song on a snowy mountaintop at your own risk.
Why the Song is Hard: Sizing Up the Climb
Simply put, Let it Go is obscenely difficult. Idina Menzel belts the entire thing and sounds fabulous, but given how high it is, belting the whole thing may not be an option for many. Let it Go contains a zillion difficult high notes that you have to convincingly hit considering they mark the climax of the song—suddenly losing steam at the emotional peak isn’t really an option.
You’re at basecamp, and here’s what you’ve got in front of you:
I. The Eb5’s that Idina belts in the choruses.
• The “I” in “I don’t care”
• The “here” in “Here I stand”
• The “going” in “going to say”
II. The long-sustained C#5 on “past” in the bridge: “the past is in the paaaaaast.”
III. Last, and most terrifying, is the “Let the storm rage oooooon” at the end. Idina belts the “on” with an Eb5 and holds it for a long time. You don’t meet many singers who find sustaining a belt on an Eb5 a manageable request.
Quick Fixes: The Air is Thinner Way Up Here!
I. For “I don’t care,” try dumping the diphthong in the “I” and make it into an “a” (as in “cat”). “A” is a very chesty-sounding vowel, so whether you’re belting this word or just want to sound like you’re belting, modifying toward the “A” vowel is helpful.
The fix for “here” depends on whether you’re going to attempt a belt mix or you’re going to go into head voice. If belting it doesn’t sound like a massive stretch for you, and you think you’ll be able to do it without tension, try opening the “EE” sound slightly, so you’re almost saying “hair.” That’ll lead you back toward the “A” vowel.
If you’re going to attempt a strong head voice that connects well with the belt sound on “here,” the “EE” is actually perfect, since it’s a headier vowel. Try really emphasizing the “EE” vowel to make the sound bright and forward. It should sing like “hee-rah stand.”
“Going to say” is probably the toughest of the bunch. Trying to jam all the sounds into one extended syllable isn’t going to be easy. Try “guhn-to,” keeping your jaw as relaxed as possible on the “uh.”
II. Unless you’re able to effectively belt “past” in the bridge (it’s really tough to sustain a C#5 without excessive throat tension, and there aren’t really any quick fixes for this), you’ll to have to find a decent place to transition into head tones. Play around with pivoting from chestmix to head voice on different words until you find what works for you. Regardless of where you pivot, try to stay as twangy as possible on the head tones so that they’re easier to weave in with the chestier parts. Try sounding like a bratty kid if you aren’t sure how to create twang.
III. So far, I haven’t run across very many people who can belt the sustained “on” on the Eb5, even though this is what Idina is doing. If you’re able to, congratulations, but I’m going to assume you need get into head voice there and that you’ll need help keeping it from sounding weak. Again, try modifying the “AH” to something closer to an “A” on the “on.” As before, stay as twangy (bratty, duck-like…whatever image works for you) as possible. This will create a chestier sound and keep the register shift from sounding anticlimactic.
Exercises: Scaling to the Top–Brrr!
It’s fortunate that there are a ton of “A” vowels in Let it Go, as well as vowels you can modify to an “A,” because this is arguably the chestiest vowel and the easiest to both belt and faux-belt (a faux belt is basically a twangy headmix).
To get your A’s to be A pluses, try the exercise “na na na” on an arpeggio. Make the “na” sound bratty. See how high you can go in your chestmix without any throat tension. Over time, with patience, you should be able to go higher. Once you can’t go any higher without tension, switch into your head voice while trying to keep the same bratty tone, making the register transition as seamless as possible.
When this exercise becomes easy, try sustaining the top “na.” You’ll find that you won’t be able to stay chesty as long when you sustain, so figure out where you need to transition. It helps to really put a cry into that top note; you’ll feel your abdominal muscles working and this will help add some power to that sustained note.
Woo! You did it! You climbed to the top! Ready, set, Let it Go!
Molly is the founder of Molly’s Music. She is a dedicated singer and pianist whose musical journey spans 2.5 decades, with stops along the way to sing for the pope, pass Certificate of Merit at the highest level, study with Gwen Verdon and Ben Vereen, and record an original album.