Hard Songs to Sing: Shallow, by Lady Gaga

by | Jan 28, 2019 | Hard To Sing Songs, Voice | 0 comments

After the award-winning remake of A Star is Born was released, “Shallow,” the movie’s central musical theme, was catapulted to widespread popularity. I began getting a lot of requests to sing it, from female solos, to mixed gender duets. It quickly became clear that “Shallow” isn’t quite as easy as Gaga makes it sound and that it deserves a place in our Hard Songs to Sing collection.

Shallow

Why Is This Song Hard

While this song may not be quite as hard as, say, Chandelier, by Sia, or Praying, by Kesha, it has its own set of difficulties.

 

1. The Chorus Starts on the High Note

There’s no building up to it. The song goes from very low to its peak with no staircase. You better have great aim and plenty of energy and confidence.

2. And Then it Stays Up There

Let’s look at this one compared to Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” (I’m dating myself here). Kelly’s chorus starts on the same C5 that Gaga’s does, but then the chorus works its way down. Most of it sits in a fairly easy mid-range spot in women’s voices. “Shallow,” on the other hand, starts on that C5 and then just kind of hovers around it throughout. Sure, there are some G4’s in it too, but there’s a lot of A’s, B’s, C’s, and even a D5 on a miserable “EE” vowel. It’s tiring, and a lot of very capable singers close up part of the way through for lack of stamina.

 

Instant Gratification

Because the chorus sits relentlessly in that upper-middle section of most female voices, you’re going to need to stay open more than all those words would suggest. Make sure you get to those open vowels instead of lingering on diphthongs or over-pronouncing consonants.

 

Try This

For “I’m off the deep end,” try “Ah-mahf tha dee-pehn.”
For “I’ll never meet the ground,” try “Ah-nevah-r (light on the r) mihd the grah-nd).”
For “Crash through the surface,” just get off the “cr” as soon as possible to get to that “a” sound. The “r” should be minimized. Go for “Crash thruh (“uh” as in truck) thuh suh-fuhce.”

 

Not-So-Instant Gratification

You need to get comfortable belting if you’re going to sell this one in a gritty Lady Gaga-esque way, and you need to get comfortable grabbing that belt note out of thin air instead of working up to it. Here’s a vocal exercise to get you started.

 

“A” Octave Jump

For this one, go for a very bright “a” sound (as in cat). If you feel your tongue drawing back in your mouth, you can even stick it out! Start on your low note and slide up an octave. It should feel very forward and in your face, but not that heavy (and certainly not pretty). Start with something comfortable, but try eventually working your way up until you at least get to the C5 (preferably the D5)–the octave above Middle C.

Do it With Speech

It may sound odd, but sometimes the best way to learn to belt a particular passage is to start by speaking (or rather, by emitting an energized, pitched-up yell like you’re crying, “yay!”) Energized speech uses many of the same mechanisms that a belt does, but without the mental hangups that cause fear, constriction, and negative self-talk.

Before you go any further, make sure you know these tips for a healthy belt so that you don’t injure your voice. If you’re unsure, always listen to your body. If what you’re doing is causing any throat pain, or eliciting a scratch, tickle, or cough, it’s time to back off and revisit it later (or visit a qualified voice teacher trained in belt technique).

Once you’re comfortable with the foundations, energetically yell, “yay!” There should be no throat constriction, and it shouldn’t feel like you have to push any air out of your lungs to get the sound out. Next, take a line of the chorus: “I’m off the deep end,” and call that out to an imaginary person across the room. Don’t add pitch, but as much as possible, hover around that C5 that’s in the song.

Instant Gratification

Because the chorus sits relentlessly in that upper-middle section of most female voices, you’re going to need to stay open more than all those words would suggest. Make sure you get to those open vowels instead of lingering on diphthongs or over-pronouncing consonants.

 

Try This

For “I’m off the deep end,” try “Ah-mahf tha dee-pehn.”
For “I’ll never meet the ground,” try “Ah-nevah-r (light on the r) mihd the grah-nd).”
For “Crash through the surface,” just get off the “cr” as soon as possible to get to that “a” sound. The “r” should be minimized. Go for “Crash thruh (“uh” as in truck) thuh suh-fuhce.”

 

Not-So-Instant Gratification

You need to get comfortable belting if you’re going to sell this one in a gritty Lady Gaga-esque way, and you need to get comfortable grabbing that belt note out of thin air instead of working up to it. Here’s a vocal exercise to get you started.

 

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