The term vocal topline is quite new in the music world. Made popular by EDM producers, a vocal topline is a sung melody that usually has lyrics written along with the melodic content. Topline vocals are often said to be extremely catchy and well-made when it comes to song structure. A topline singer often has an incredible talent for writing and performing to a pre-made beat. A topline can sometimes be referring only to the melody line without any lyrics.
In EDM and similar genres of music instrumentation, the beat is often very complex and does a lot of heavy lifting for the song overall. Many times, the vocalist will only sing over small sections in a song with very simple songwriting involved. The vocalist in this instance is seen as adding a top-line to a fully fleshed-out work that has already been made and already tells a story without words.
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I was confused years ago when I first heard the term topliner. Someone asked if I was a topline vocalist. I figured they were asking if I liked to sing the soprano parts in harmony breakdowns. The term topline really only circled the Dance, Pop, and EDM realm, but it easily relates to those who write vocal lines for Hip Hop and R&B songs as well. As an R&B creator, I am used to just calling myself a topliner. In the end, they both mean the same thing when it comes to writing lyrics and/or melodies to a beat.
Songwriters are often seen in other genres as those who can create chord progressions and play musical instruments along with their vocal melody lines and lyrics as well. Songwriters in the folk or country world for example will not be used to writing a song to a beat and will likely feel more comfortable writing their songs from scratch. In this sense, a topliner does way less and has less creative control when compared to these types of songwriters. But a topliner, in the end, is just a type of songwriter.
You can check songwriting credits for a lot of your favorite dance, pop, and urban hits to get the names of some of the most successful topliners in the industry. You can also find many independent songwriters who are available to create a topline for your tracks on sites like Fiverr, Airgigs, and Vocalizr. I have used these 3 sites in the past and had several successful collaborations on each platform.
If you are on a budget or don't need anything that's original, consider using royalty-free vocal samples. Many vocal sample packs have some great vocal work from singers and songwriters who are willing to let you use their vocals for any of your future releases. This is often a popular choice for up-and-coming producers who often use vocal acapella from popular song releases and add them to their own remixes and original beats.
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If you are looking to become a vocal topliner, the good thing is that it's very free to start practicing to beats you find online! You don't need to publish songs to work on your skills as a vocal topliner. You can use beats that are on the radio, beats you find on Youtube, and so much more to come up with vocal topline ideas. Here are some key pointers I want aspiring topliners to have.
A great way to increase your songwriting skills and marketability as a topliner is to have the ability to write to several different types of beats. if you can write to pop, hip hop, electronica, or even other genres that aren't traditionally known for having premade beats like jazz or rock, you will really be able to boost your skills over time!
Don't worry about making money if you're just starting. Work on building your songwriting and singing demo reel! Collaborate with people you know and people you don't know. Go to local events and get your name out there in your music scene. Practice co-writing with other songwriters and share tips with each other.
Topline writing involves talent for songwriting, but you don't want to stop growing in your vocal ability as you get better at songwriting. A lot of successful topline vocalists are through and through vocalists with some amazing pipes and a knack for connecting with a beat perfectly. Your vocal delivery should be as great as your pen.
Sign sites like Fiverr, Airgigs, and Vocalizr once you feel like you are ready to take things to a professional level and work on other people's projects. Start your pricing on the low side to gain experience on these platforms and build up a lot of positive ratings from clients.
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As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, features, nursery rhymes, and DJ drops, she currently spends her time engulfed in creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her most recent creative collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!
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