Hard Songs to Sing: Speechless, by Naomi Scott

by | Aug 2, 2019 | Hard To Sing Songs, Voice | 0 comments

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If you’ve been around kids, teens, or even adults who grew up in the 90’s, there’s a 96.4% chance that you’ve run across the song “Speechless” from Aladdin, sung by the lovely Naomi Scott. As a voice teacher, I’ve gotten constant requests to teach the song, and since it requires a vocal technique tour de force to pull off, it’s a fun one for me. But this one is in no way easy–it may start off fairly mild, but it builds and builds until it hits a very high bridge and final chorus. It definitely deserves a place in our Hard Songs to Sing collection.

Speechless

Why Is “Speechless” a Hard Song?

Ideally, “Speechless” requires both a great belt and a great head-mix that’s seamlessly woven together, to a point where you can’t really hear voice breaks without specifically listening for vocal registration. Greener singers will often assume Naomi is belting the whole song because of how well blended her vocal registers are and then struggle with the song when they reach the highest notes. But mastering this song is more about tying chest-mix and head-mix together than about belting into the stratosphere.

How Naomi Scott Uses Her Vocal Registers

In order to map out this song for you, it’s helpful to pick our way through the song and map our the way Naomi Scott uses her vocal registers. This doesn’t mean that you need to structure the song the same way. In fact, everyone’s voice is built differently, and you shouldn’t mimic exactly what she does. But determining where she’s belting and where she isn’t is a great way to show you that you don’t need to belt the whole song to make it happen effectively.

How Naomi Scott Uses Her Vocal Registers

In order to map out this song for you, it’s helpful to pick our way through the song and map our the way Naomi Scott uses her vocal registers. This doesn’t mean that you need to structure the song the same way. In fact, everyone’s voice is built differently, and you shouldn’t mimic exactly what she does. But determining where she’s belting and where she isn’t is a great way to show you that you don’t need to belt the whole song to make it happen effectively.

Verse 1

This whole verse is mainly a light chest voice, but it weaves in a head-mix in places like “thunder.” I won’t go into detail about any of this, because I don’t think this is one of the more difficult aspects of the song.

Pre-Chorus 1

The pre-chorus is mostly a light chest-mix, but it moves into a head-mix in some parts, most obviously, the word “down” that leads into the chorus.

Chorus 1

“I won’t be” is a chest-mix, and the top note in “silenced,” moves into a breathy head voice and stays there until the word “quiet.” Then it moves into a fairly light belt-mix through “’cause I’ll…” When Naomi moves into “breathe,” she moves into a strong, very well-blended head-mix. The rest of the chorus mainly sits in a very light belt-mix. Until the end of the chorus, it’s a very heady belt.

Verse 2

Verse 2 is almost exclusively chest-mix.

Pre-Chorus 2

Pre-Chorus 2 is pretty much all belt-mix.

Chorus 2

I know this chorus sounds powerful, but Naomi is still weaving in a lot of head-mix, including the top note in “silenced” and all the similarly high notes.

Bridge

Even the high notes in the bridge are in a head-mix, although Naomi has such a powerful one that it’s barely discernible that she isn’t just straight-up belting the whole time. If you listen carefully though, words like “lay” and “silenced,” there’s a lot of head resonance mixed in. 

3rd chorus

Still lots of head-mix, but again, barely discernible, because Naomi has still built the song. Listen carefully to “suffocate” though, and you’ll hear the “cate” syllable transitioning registers to a chest voice. Then the high “underestimate” is a very clear head-mix. “Cause I know that I won’t go speechless” characteristically becomes a belt. The last two times she sings the word “speechless” are full-on belting, but by this point, she’s saved her voice for this moment by not belting the entire time. 

How to Sing the Hardest Parts of “Speechless” 

Let’s start with some instant gratification: mouth shaping and vowel modifications. Since I don’t think most singers attempting this song are particularly concerned about the verses or pre-choruses, I’ll cover the bridge and final chorus. 

The Bridge

The first sustained word is “cage.” Luckily, the “ay” sound makes it fairly manageable. Open your mouth like you’re biting a big apple and take a bite out of that “ay” sound. 

Same goes for “lay” in “lay me down and die.” Bite into that “ay” sound and imagine tipping onto the note instead of attacking it horizontally. 

The next tough note happens on “wings.” Make it waaaangs,” again with that huge bite face. 

When you go for the word “burn,” make it a little dopey to create some more space in your mouth. Keep it weighty, but it’s okay for it to feel a little heady. 

For the word “sky,” make it “szgah” with an “a” (as in “cat”) like “ah.” Again, make that bite face and maybe even scrunch your nose. 

For the word “echos,” make it “a-kahs” with the bite face on the “a” parts. 

On “saying I,” we’ve got more of the same. Same face. Same vowel: “aaaahh.” 

On “silenced,” make it za-laaaanced.” 


The Last Chorus

For the higher “speechless” at 2.45, let it transition to head-mix on “less,” but keep that same twangy  “a” sound. Also, put a slight puppy-dog whimper into it get that bright crying sound. 

On the high “I’ll breathe,” hold the “ah” open as long as possible and just barely shade the “l’s” in.

On “underestimate,” make the word “ah-duh-a-zdah-made.” 

Since the last “speechless” is belted, keep those same modifications (speech-laaaz) with the same bite face, but think out and down a little more to get a little more chestiness in there. 

What to Work on Over Time

Even if you put all these modifications in, your head-mix might not have Naomi’s power yet, and your belt might not sound quite so effortless. Here are some exercises to get you going. 

Nay Nay Exercise

It’s an oldie but a goodie. This is a great one for developing twang. Make sure that as soon as it feels like you have to push, you just transition out of a belt and into a heady twangy mix.

Na Na Octave Jump


To work on a belt, on the other hand, try this octave jump. Visualize throwing the sound like a ball, light and overhanded. 

How is “Speechless” going for you? Let us know in the comment section below, or suggest our next hard song! 

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