Most difficult songs to sing along with?
November 15, 2010 3:44 PM   Subscribe

What are some of the most difficult songs to sing? I love to sing (especially in the car) and would like to refine my vocal technique. I can't afford vocal lessons, so I'm looking for challenging songs that will give me a great vocal work out.

I'm open to all genres. I don't necessarily have to like the song or the singer, I just want to extend myself. For instance, I think Mariah Carey's Music Box is a big ole box of sappy ballads, but have listened to it a billion times because it's a bear to sing along with.
posted by Surinam Toad to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (49 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
"The Major-General's Song" from Pirates of Penzance. "Sam" from Forbidden Places by Meat Puppets (think "End of the World As We Know It," only more so). Jeff Buckley's cover of "The Way Young Lovers Do" (challenge yourself to replicate every syllable).
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 3:48 PM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

Cocteau Twins - Carolyns Fingers
posted by fire&wings at 3:48 PM on November 15, 2010

Bohemian Rhapsody. Properly.
posted by phunniemee at 3:48 PM on November 15, 2010

MacArthur Park. With a straight face.
posted by Danf at 3:49 PM on November 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Star Spangled Banner. Properly.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:50 PM on November 15, 2010 [9 favorites]

The Australian national anthem has defeated the vocal ranges of schoolchildren, new citizens and international athletes for four decades or more. It's famously bad and difficult music.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:53 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seconding the "Banner". A chorus teacher used it to quickly gauge the skills of his auditioners.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:56 PM on November 15, 2010

My current car singing challenge is Darrell Scott's "Hank Williams' Ghost."

I love his version of "American Tune" as well, and always feel like I've had a bit of a workout trying to keep up.

Not an expert, just someone who likes to sing as I drive. Scott has been covered by the Dixie Chicks--"Long Time Gone"--but does great bluegrass and is currently supporting Robert Plant on tour, IIRC. His voice isn't stunning, but I think it's acrobatic.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:02 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

"killer queen" by queen
posted by sourwookie at 4:09 PM on November 15, 2010

"Amen" by Jewel. It really exercises your vocal range, especially the end. Also, "Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush.
posted by calcetina at 4:10 PM on November 15, 2010

Beyond Belief by Elvis Costello. I can sing it but I have to change my octave a few times and it's not comfortable. Plus it's got a lot of very fast wordplay and syncopation.
posted by matildaben at 4:13 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Ballad of Czolgosz is really fun and difficult to sing (not vocally, but breath and diction-wise) because there are so many words!
posted by moxiedoll at 4:18 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

"My Funny Valentine" the Sarah Vaughn version.

Early Siouxsie and the Banshees - pick one! Especially anything off the Hyæna album, or try "Cities in Dust" if you are feeling really skillfull.
posted by jbenben at 4:23 PM on November 15, 2010

Charlie Ryan's Hot Rod Lincoln. It's not fast, it doesn't have giant octave shifts. But it's relentless. Try it without stumbling over all the hard D and K sounds, I dare you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:24 PM on November 15, 2010

Diamanda Galas.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:26 PM on November 15, 2010

Delilah - Tom Jones
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:30 PM on November 15, 2010

I would also think that Florence + the Machine's Dog Days are Over would be difficult to do properly live.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:31 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe you already know this, but if you're actually looking to improve your technique, look for songs that are comfortably in your range, which you can much more easily refine. Learning to sing isn't about vocal workouts the way bodybuilding is, and you can end up with vocal nodules if you go at it too hard too much.

That said, Brandi Carlile's The Story is all over the place.

And of course there is Heart's Alone.
posted by wondermouse at 4:37 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Funnily enough, I'd vote for Goodbye Horses. Seems straight-forward enough, but the notes she hits always stumped my normally competent voice.
posted by arishaun at 4:45 PM on November 15, 2010

Come on! Unchained Melody try hitting those notes.
posted by Max Power at 5:29 PM on November 15, 2010

Piggybacking on moxiedoll's suggestion above, lots of Stephen Sondheim's work is vocally challenging. "Sweeney Todd" in particular has lots of tricky lyrics and complicated rhythms. The original broadway cast recording with Angela Lansbury is the best recording. His musical "Company" is another good example.
posted by jroybal at 5:38 PM on November 15, 2010

Strauss's Grossmachtige Prinzessin from Ariadne Auf Naxos.
posted by thatdawnperson at 5:52 PM on November 15, 2010

Mariah Carey,
posted by Aubergine at 6:29 PM on November 15, 2010

Although it's a bit of a fudge (since it's technically a duet), I suppose, try the live version of The Who's "A Quick One, While He's Away" (from the Live from Leeds album). Townshend and Daltry's vocals are stunning in range and stylistic variation, and the song does the sort of thing that "Bohemian Rhapsody" does, only with the ferocity of '60s live rock.
posted by 5Q7 at 6:35 PM on November 15, 2010

Regina Spektor's Rejazz always feels like a hell of a workout to me, and it's an amazing song.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:37 PM on November 15, 2010

Definitely try Tori Amos's "Pandora's Aquarium" -- it's crazy! Also -- have you ever tried any modern operatic stuff? Like George Crumb? There are also song versions of Franz Kafka's fragments written by György Kurtág --- it might be hard to find a recording of them but they are completely insane.
posted by RingerChopChop at 6:39 PM on November 15, 2010

This will work out your vocal range...

Erasure - A Little Respect
posted by keep it under cover at 6:40 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


4 Non Blondes - What's Up
posted by keep it under cover at 6:43 PM on November 15, 2010

Oh, one more! I love singing along to Big Wreck - That Song
posted by keep it under cover at 6:48 PM on November 15, 2010

Sing along to some Katie Noonan or Annie Ross.

Great fun!
posted by Trivia Newton John at 6:54 PM on November 15, 2010

Goodbye to Love by Carpenters.
posted by alphanerd at 7:19 PM on November 15, 2010

Think of Me

Hocus Pocus
posted by various at 7:20 PM on November 15, 2010

Soundtracks. I think the female vocals for a good number of Disney movies are great singing for practice. Also, soundtracks for musicals are good too. I especially like ones with Julie Andrews. Barbara Streisand too. Show tunes are great because they're quite theatrical in nature and have great vocal range.
posted by loquat at 7:37 PM on November 15, 2010

And I Am Telling You...

In a very different mode: Glitter and Be Gay.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:12 PM on November 15, 2010

Seconding Sondheim. My personal favorite is A Little Night Music. (Go ahead, find your starting note a capella in each of the choral parts. Hah.)

The other nice thing about his musicals as vocal exercises is that there are also unchallenging pieces interspersed that are fun to play with. (He's a realist about casting, if it's more important for to get a great actor than singer, that character's signature song is going to be carried on style, not breath support or great pitch.)
posted by desuetude at 9:19 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whitney Houston - I will always love you. It is the karaoke kiss of death. Not many people (including Whitney these days) even come close to hitting it.
posted by saradarlin at 9:34 PM on November 15, 2010

I've been trying to narrow down a single Neutral Milk Hotel song, I think the one's on Aeroplane over the Sea would be more suited to your purposes. I'm only recommending them because when I started to try to learn how to sing they were my template. I would walk around, far away from other humans and try to do what Jeff Mangum would do. There is a lot of diaphragm work and pacing in breathing to be learned here. I never could quite master some of the songs but I also don't have the breath for it. I always figured that if I quit smoking I could get close to it but he used to smoke on stage. anyway, Jeff Mangum used to worship Robert Wyatt but that's a whole different challenge...
posted by coolxcool=rad at 9:58 PM on November 15, 2010

An older one: Have You Seen But a White Lily Grow. Quite a few renditions out there.
posted by Hither at 10:32 PM on November 15, 2010

Alicia Keys, "No One" and "Falling"
posted by yawper at 7:01 AM on November 16, 2010

Hurt by Elvis, if you want difficult (or painful).
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 7:27 AM on November 16, 2010

I'm a female mezzo-soprano with a big range, who does basically what you do (practice singing in the car b/c I'm too cheap for lessons.) I particularly like singing songs by Bjork, Neko Case, Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, and Queen; all of these artists/bands frequently do things that I find technically tricky (whether it's singing in parts of my range that I need to develop more, using unusual intervals, changing dynamics suddenly, etc.)

Broadway songs/cast recordings are great to sing along with, too.

I'll second the "find artists whose range aligns with your range" suggestions -- otherwise you will hurt yourself. You don't want to leave your throat sore and strained-feeling.

Also, depending on your free time and whether or not you are comfortable singing with others, you might consider joining a choir if you like to sing. Most cities have choirs that aren't affiliated with any churches, and singing in a choir is a great way to get in some practice and develop your voice.
posted by kataclysm at 8:50 AM on November 16, 2010

Regina Spektor's "Fidelity" has been a huge challenge for me because of the glottal stops. I can do it fairly well now, but it took a long time. (Not counting the time it took for me to be able to sing it without crying because of its use in the anti-proposition 8 commercials--anyone who isn't moved by that is made of stone.)

I've also been singing with the first Glee soundtrack lately. My big challenge is "Bust Your Windows"--it spirals up gradually throughout the song in a way that I can't recall having encountered before.

Madonna's "Ray of Light" is fun for practicing runs and holds.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:34 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I went the same route that you did by singing the entirety of Stevie Wonder's Talking book and Innervisions over and over in the car. He covers a lot of ranges, moods and styles of singing and breath control/budgeting is essential for some of the songs.

Careful, though, I also strained my vocal chords on more than one occasion this way.
posted by cmoj at 11:27 AM on November 16, 2010

For breath control: Magnetic Fields, "Absolutely Cuckoo". It's cut together with no pauses for breath, so you have to find your own.
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:50 PM on November 16, 2010

If you like mainstream pop (and judging from your Mariah Carey listening maybe you do) you could give Adam Lambert's album, For Your Entertainment a try. He's a very gifted singer so he can do things with his voice that most of us could never hope to. He's kinda like Freddie Mercury. Anyways, I'd recommend his songs "Soaked" (penned by Matt Bellamy of Muse), "Music Again", or "A Loaded Smile" for some really good vocal workouts.
posted by katyggls at 2:26 PM on November 16, 2010

Pink Floyd: The Great Gig in the Sky. I use this for both vocal exercise and as a whistling exercise. When I found out that the vocalizing was improvised, it made me love it even more.
posted by themissy at 5:03 PM on November 16, 2010

Cole Porter's "Night & Day" (this is one of the Frank Sinatra versions)
posted by alchemist at 3:43 AM on November 17, 2010

You Shook Me by Led Zeppelin.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:41 PM on December 10, 2010

« Older I don't want to give up on people or myself: how...   |   .htaccess redirects Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.