Working on expressive toplines can be an exciting and playful endeavor.
It doesn’t really matter if you’re writing top-lines from scratch or on an existing beat, certain mechanisms can be applied to all styles of work.
We gathered a list of pointers to give you some ideas on how to freshen up your toplining process. There are a couple of intricacies a topliner should be aware of, and some work modes that can really help your writing-flow.
So let’s start with some anatomical boundary-breaking:
Moving outside of your range
Ever hear SIA’s intense jumps around her natural range? Even in her finished songs you can hear how she pushed herself to move within her range, sometimes even beyond.
This is a great way of delivering unexpected, fresh topline ideas.
Writers tend to move with the boundaries of their comfortable singing habits. By breaking out you not only change the sound, but also the range your melody develops in the course of an idea.
Try not to limit yourself by the way you would usually sing a song comfortably, what would sound “good” in terms of timbre. Try to be eccentric!
Thinking in vocal fragments
Thinking in vocal fragments means: The topline-parts don’t have to fit together instantaneously.
Improvisational freedom is way more important than contentual stringency.
Think of the writing as an “idea-generating process”. A Process where fragments are allowed to fly freely.
Sometimes you end up using an A-part for a C-part and vice versa, and sometimes you derive material for two songs out of the process of writing over a single beat.
Detaching your vocal capabilities from the traditional thought of “singing” to a more instrumental approach will enhance your musical toolbox.
Writing stunning toplines is a musical, hooky endeavor and pairing that with fantastic lyricism is another important step. Obviously, there are no rules to that – some writers can’t make it work without a solid lyrical concept.
Still – it might help to internalize your capabilities as instrumental, leading to interesting lines and hooks that might have not been conceived within a lyrical approach.
Intensity over accuracy
Great top-liners create intense moments. They accept inaccuracies in terms of tonality quite willingly, if it leads them to a unique melodic idea.
Jumping around and sometimes even thinking in “melodic mesh” instead of perfect articulation and interval will help the expressiveness of a given process.
Working in loops, meaning in quantity, can be a great way of developing a unique and special hook mantra.
Save everything that you recorded. It can generate an enormous amount of interesting material. Especially if your mind is unlimited by takes or the stop-and-go of a recording process.0 be the first one to show some appreciation for this!