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Finding the Right Songs

Finding great songs that will work well for you takes more work than just dreaming. It isn’t as simple as just saying, “I like that song. It moves me.  I think I’ll perform that at my next opportunity.”  There is, however, a process you can work through that will help you qualify songs that you will be able to sing and communicate well, and here it is:

  1. KNOW YOURSELF.That means knowing your dependable vocal range. That’s the one that works every time you sing after a good warm-up, not the “it worked once” one. Also, be honest about what styles you can relate to at this time in your life. Loving a song doesn’t mean you are culturally and vocally ready to sing it.
  2. MAKE A LIST OF SONGS. Think out of the box and consider not only what you like, but what others like.  It’s a big world and if you want to be heard you need to be willing to color outside your familiar lines and even take some risks.
  3. MAKE SURE THE RANGE FITS, AND THE TESSITURA FITS. Range: If you are limited to commercial tracks, or an accompanist who doesn’t transpose well it’s more challenging.  Why?  Because your range, and the song’srange have to agree. If you, your accompanist or band can transpose keys to make this work it’s much easier to find songs. Tessitura: You need to also consider the “tessitura,” or average siging area of the song.  If a song has a 1 1/2 octave range and you can get it in a key that works for you, GREAT.  But if 98% of the song sits on the top 5 notes, or bottom 4 notes of your range it can wear you out vocally.  So, analyze where most the song sits and be honest and realistic as you do.  I’m not saying run from challenges.  I’m just saying know they are there.
  4. TYPE OUT THE LYRICS, THEN ACT IT. Type out the lyrics in 14-point type, triple spaced so you can make notes.  Now, read and act out the lyrics as a monologue.  Do you, and can you believe the message?  If you imagine you are doing a monologue to a group of 1st graders or senior citizens it will help you be more naturally expressive.  If not can you make it convincing, or is this song a poor choice?
  5. GET THAT ALL-IMPORTANT NEUTRAL FEEDBACK from those who will be encouraging and honest. You may want to begin by video taping yourself and making obvious changes.  It’s the perfect place to try some new ways to make a song work.  Then move on to live, people feedback. Why?  Bacause you must be willing to hear other’s opinions if you are to grow. It’s not always fun, but it is necessary.  When someone doesn’t think a song is working find out why.  Is it the message, the range, the arrangement, unclear diction, lack of meaningful phrasing or physical expressions? These are all fixable, but you have to know there’s a problem before you can fix it.
  6. There are millions of songs out there in addition to what you can write.  As you choose carefully you will increase your chances for strong communications.

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