Hard To Sing Pop Songs: Firework

Katy Perry’s Firework is an impressive and inspirational pop anthem with an explosive chorus worthy of its namesake. It’s also an extremely hard song to sing. Making Firework sparkle instead of fizzle takes a lot of practice, so be prepared to fall short of dazzling for a while.

Use this video for reference if you need it.

Why is This Song Hard?

1. The high note is high

Yep, it’s just as simple as it sounds. That really high note in the chorus that makes this song so powerful is a high e-flat. For someone with a naturally high voice, that’s right around your tessitura or vocal break, and for someone with a naturally less-than-high voice, that’s well into your head voice. Either way, you’re both in trouble, because singing it with too much head voice risks an anticlimax, and trying to belt it risks sounding like a screeching, injured cat (not to mention, pulling your chest voice too high can be unhealthy).

2. The high note is “bay”

That e-flat falls on the syllable “bay” in “baby.” That long “a” vowel tends to go flat.

3. Fear the dreaded “er”

The “you’re” in “Baby, you’re a firework,” makes for a tough note. First of all, it falls on a high c, only a few steps below the dreaded e-flat. Secondly, the “er” sound in “you’re” closes off your throat, raising your larynx, cutting off power to your voice. That “er” recurs in the most important word of the whole song, “fi[ER]w[ER]k.”

4. The “ah ah’s” make you go ahhh!

In “make ’em go ‘ah, ah, ah,'” you’re singing the “ah” on a B-flat. Your tendency will be to raise and pull back your tongue, leading to a whole chain of events that makes this part a glottal nightmare.

Instant Gratification

Here are some things you can do right now to make firework sound better.

  • Add some “ee” sound to the “ay” in “baby.” Think of a spectrum between a pure “ay” sound and a pure “ee” sound, and find an in-between spot.
  • In addition to changing the “ay” sound, soften the “bee” in “baby” to sound more like “buh.” Both of these should help with shrill nasality, and thicken the sound of that note a little.
  • Soften all your “r” sounds as a person with a British accent might. “r” sounds tend to get stuck in the throat, and softening them will bring them forward. For example change “you’re a” to sound like “yeuh-ruh”
  • Put some “euh” into the “ah, ah, ah” part. Again, don’t replace the “ah” sound entirely. Just try to find some middle ground. I realize this is a hard concept to grasp, so check back in the next few months for some video demonstrations.

Not-So-Instant Gratification

Here are some exercises that, over time, should strengthen your voice in such a way that will make firework sound better.

Arpeggiating on “Nee” and “Nay”

Bear with me, because this is hard to explain in text. I’ve outlined the arpeggio in the key of ‘C,’ because ‘C’ is the most straightforward major piano key. The exercise is outlined by the notes C-E-G-C-C-C-C-G-E-C. The first part ascends from low to high ‘C,’ repeats the ‘C,’ and then descends to the low ‘C’ again. Sing “Nee” on C-E-G-C-C-C, and sing “Nay” on C-G-E-C. Repeat incrementally, a half step up, until you’re really grasping for high notes. This is a good exercise to get power from your “ay” sounds by closing them off with some “ee.” It’s also a great exercise to connect your chest voice to your head voice.

Arpeggiating on “Buh”

Repeat the same pattern as the above exercise, but on the syllable “buh.” Don’t make the “buh” sound pretty. It should sound dopey, like when you say “duh” in a condescending way. This exercise teaches you to keep your larynx lower, so you keep some chest tones, and avoid too many head tones. It will also help eliminate nasality.

1 Comment

  1. aurora

    i want to klnow how to flow into th chorus from the last segment without straining my voice

    Reply

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