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From monotone to mainstream

“A colour without shades and a sound without varying loudness are monotone.”

Thanks to social media I’ve come across some very talented singers, who enjoy the services of some very talented musicians. Good commercial voices and backed by good commercial music, yet success seems to be overlooking their hard work! And I cannot help them for even if I promoted their work via my word of mouth, it won’t travel too far. But that is not the complete picture of the problem they actually face!

Entertainment industry is a thankless business where no one shares their secrets with the dude across the table. And this in spite the fact that there is enough in the market for every businessman to earn his pie with butter, and then take home a basket full. Jealousy sees no friends! What I am doing right now writing this article, I am doing it well aware of the fact that no one is going to come to me and say even a word of thanks. But anyway, let’s get on with the topic.

So what is monotone singing?

Simply put; monotone singing is characterised by the lack of variation in the loudness of the sound, as opposed to the lack of fluctuation in the tone (that is scale; do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do). Anyone who knows the alphabets and the sounds their combinations make, they can very well sing in multiple tones. What however determines whether the singing is colourful or monotonous (or monotone), is their ability to vary the loudness of their voice within a sung phrase; that is, from pianissimo to fortissimo, or anything in between or beyond.

There are two distinct characters to a mainstream vocalist’s work that differentiates them from an upcoming or struggling artist’s works:
a) Dynamics of their vocals.
b) Their lyrics allow breathing space for the phrases to be extended beyond their written alphabets.

Notice the two characteristics at play in this very beautiful melody by David Guetta, which features Kelly Rowland on vocals:

Notice how Kelly starts every phrase making up a verse at a mezzo-piano level, but then raises the loudness of her voice towards the end of it, to a forte level. And then, as the verse progresses towards the penultimate phrase, the starts of the phrases get louder to mezzo-forte level, while they end at a fortissimo level. The final phrase however mellows the verse down to a mezzo-forte level, as if climaxing the rise. This vocal dynamics make the singing engrossing, lively and colourful.

Also notice how every phrase, after covering a bar or two normally, finishes in a stretched and lingering way, giving Kelly the freedom to display her repertoire as a top-notch performer. These two tricks take her singing, and thus the song, to an altogether different level. This expertise makes up an accomplished singer.

Now how a singer structures their phrase delivery is part determined by the music (which beat is accented) and part by the experience the singer has (if the music is to be developed subsequent to the lyrics). You may not be a master at singing, but if you work hard on your song, you can easily develop a better vocal delivery for the same after sufficient number of trials. Remember; what you lack in talent or experience can indeed be covered by hard-work.

For your homework, try listening to Bruno Mars’ song “I think I wanna marry you” or Katy Perry’s “Firework” etc.

For more tips however, find yourselves a terrorist or a drug dealer. They are generally more famous than me.

Fatal Urge Carefree Kiss “Amanpreet Singh Rai”


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