Arts & Entertainment, Music

Vocal Arrangements

Alicia Keys

Lesson time 13:27 min

Alicia walks you through the strength in specific vocal arrangements.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Structuring Harmonies: “Fallin’ ”


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Once I have the basics of what I'm going to create, that's when I'm ready to start to experiment and try it. Usually how it goes is I'll write the song, generally get the most parts that I feel really good about, work on the lyrics, work on, you know, how it goes so that when I'm sitting at the piano I love it just at the piano or I love it just at the guitar or I love it just banging on the sink. Whatever the case is is like I strip down. Do I love it in that stripped-down way? And then I come and start to arrange vocals. I actually love vocal arrangement so much. It is such a special part of my process. It is really a big reason where the energy comes from, where the emotion comes from, where the joy comes from, where the darkness comes from. There is so much. To me, it's like the colors. You know, if writing the song is like the sketch, to me, the arranging the song and particularly the vocals is like painting it. It just comes alive. So, again, it happens a hundred different ways. Some people come right into the booth and freestyle words and lyrics and melodies, and that's how they-- and then step away and write it and come back and finish it. Me, I usually write it, really have a good idea of it, then come in and start to cut it. [MUSIC PLAYING] So I'll have had a basic track going at this point. I'll have put the piano down. I'll have dropped some type of drum behind it just so that I can feel it, and then I start to go at the vocals. So usually I'll do the lead vocal first, and it really depends on how I feel. "Fallin'", since it was one of my first songs, we actually recorded "Fallin'" onto tape, which is so amazing because now obviously everybody is digital, and you go straight to Pro Tools or you go straight to, you know, whatever it is that you're recording it on. But it's usually not tape, and obviously all the greats that have recorded in the past-- you know, Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield and Nina Simone and, you know, all of the incredible people-- Jimi Hendrix, on and on, name, name it-- were all onto tape. And so when you actually hear this particular vocal, you can hear the tape. And how I hear it, you can hear the thickness. There's a thickness, a fatness that it's almost a part of the sonic that if you listen to this song maybe compared to another song that wasn't on tape, you can kind of hear there's a space almost. So it's really cool. And there's actually been times where we've taken vocals or taken drums or taken different parts and run them through tape even now just to create that, like, fatness. So that's a little trick, but it's kind of hard to find. Like, tape is almost obsolete. So it's pretty awesome when you can find the little vintage moment, catch a vibe. So this one was on tape. And I started at the beginning. I can imagine, if I'm taking myself back to "Fallin'", I was probably pretty nervous, to be honest. You know, it's like this is the very beginning of ...

About the Instructor

With 15 Grammy Awards and more than 40 million albums sold so far, Alicia Keys is one of the world’s most beloved singer-songwriters. Now the legendary artist invites you into her studio to share her process for creating music built from authentic emotion. Breaking down anthems like “Fallin’,” Alicia shows you how she writes lyrics, crafts melodies, and explores sonics so you can discover the music you were born to make.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Alicia Keys

The legendary singer-songwriter and producer shares her approach to making music that resonates and helps you find the power of your unique voice.

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