Hard Songs to Sing: When the Party’s Over, by Billie Eilish

by | May 30, 2019 | Hard To Sing Songs, Voice | 0 comments

This month, songs by the teen Indie-pop sensation known as Billie Eilish have been making their way around my studio, and it’s easy to understand why. Her dark, Lana Del Rey-inspired lyrics, coupled with her breathy, hypnotic vocals are beautiful and evocative. But singing quietly consistently, especially something as rangy as “When the Party’s Over,” can be extremely challenging, and in some ways harder than just being loud. That’s why we decided to do something unusual and pick a song known for its quiet vocals instead of its powerful ones for our newest Hard Songs to Sing post.

Why Is This Song Hard?

The Range

First off, the verse starts low! E3 (i.e. the E below Middle C) is not a rock solid note for many women. It’s really in the G3 territory that trained female vocalists tend to be pretty across-the-board comfortable. That wouldn’t be so problematic if it didn’t rapidly climb up 2 octaves to an E5 (2 E’s above Middle C).

The Volume

Singing powerfully on high notes may be tough, but you know what’s often tougher? Singing quietly on high notes. And this song is no different.

How to Sing the Low Notes

Unless you have a particularly well controlled high range, I’m guessing you don’t want to just raise the whole song. That leaves you stuck with the low E. When you’re hitting a really low note, it’s tempting to just push it out as hard as you can. That’s rarely the most effective way to get a low note out. Luckily, this song makes use of a lot of whispery vocals, so even if you can’t get the E out solidly, it’s acceptable to just whisper it at the bottom of your range, or even sing the note but let it wobble and break. It’s the type of song that that can easily accommodate these more broken vocals.

How to Sing the Middle Notes

The trick for these middle parts, like “Tore my shirt to stop the bleeding,” is getting a consistently light, breathy mix all the way through your range. You might be tempted to either go full throttle and belt or just land prematurely in an ungrounded, hooty head voice, but it’s preferable to find something in between.

To find this space, sing the notes on a really light “meow” or even “neow” (whichever you find easier). Make it light, like a little kitten. Your voice should feel very thin and small, but still rooted to your body and not disconnected.

How to Sing the High Notes

Singing high notes very quietly but still well controlled is harder than singing them loudly for many singers, especially trained sopranos who get a lot of power on those E’s at the top of the staff. For all the support that it takes to make the notes loud, you may need to even support more to make them soft. Start with a great foundation. Stand tall with your feet hips distance apart. You should be so stable that if someone were to come try to knock you over by pushing on your shoulder, he wouldn’t be able to. Check out our previous post for some other tips and tricks for finding your support muscles.

Once you’re in that position, go back to that tiny “meow” or “neow” sound, this time on the high note. Don’t give any weight to your “meow.”

Vocal Exercise #2

"meow/neow - high note"

Next, put the words back in, keeping them in that tiny little space.

After you have all the pieces individually, try weaving the whole thing together!

Try This Vocal Exercise

Sing on the syllable “mi,” making it as tiny and heady as you can.

Working on this song? Share your story with us in the comments, or request a song you’d like a tutorial for!

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