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Song Selection: How to Pick the Perfect Song

You may find when choosing your song selection, picking the perfect song to sing often takes a little bit of time, but it’s well worth it when it comes time to step on stage. Now, let’s talk about a few key factors that will help you discover the perfect song for you.

Know Your Strengths

We all have vocal strengths. Some of our voices naturally sound better in one genre than they do another. This also holds true for stylistic elements… some of us sing incredible runs for instance, whereas others struggle with runs, but can do impressive things with dynamics and vibrato. Also, there are some people that shine singing ballads, while others ooze charisma when performing up beat songs.

Identifying your vocal strengths can be a great starting point in figuring out the criteria you want to use when selecting the perfect song for you.

Find Music that Mostly Fits Your Range

This point is somewhat obvious, but important enough to mention. You want to pick a song that falls within a comfortable part of your range. However, if you find the perfect song and the only issue is it’s slightly high (or low), you can change the key of the song up or down a half step or two. As a side note, I wouldn’t lower a song more than a full step, as the more you lower the key of a song, the less energy it feels like it has to your audience.

You can also change unimportant notes of a song to make it more comfortable for you. The only notes I wouldn’t change are in the chorus. The reason I wouldn’t change the chorus is because that’s what people are the most likely to know, so if you change that, you’ve changed the whole song. However, if you switch a few notes around in the verse, you’ve altered it and made it your own which is a good thing.

That brings me to my next point…

Know What Song Choices Your Audience Likes

When performing, it’s important that your song selections reflect your audience’s preferences when possible. Think about it… if you were opening for Aerosmith, you wouldn’t sing something from The Sound of Music. So, if you’re singing at a high school or karaoke talent contest, do you really think your audience is going to appreciate something operatic?

Knowing your audience can make or break a performance, because if you sing what they like, they’ll likely get into it and feed you energy. But, if you slow down the tempo and sing something that they aren’t a big fan of, there’s a reasonable chance that people will start checking their cell phones, talking, or worse, leaving during your performance. So, always keep in mind what your audience will enjoy when selecting your song choice.

Don’t Forget About the Performance

Finally, don’t make the mistake that so many people do and not consider what your performance will look like when picking your song. When you’re on stage, you’ve got to be able to play the role of the song. The more you do, the more the audience gets involved and the more everyone (including you) enjoys it!

If you pick a song that’s high energy, you’ve got to be high energy on stage. If you pick a slow ballad, then you need to be able to command the attention of your audience while singing it (this means do more than just stand there).

The performance is always a good factor to consider when choosing a song because some performances take longer to prepare than others, especially if you’re not a natural performer. So, as a kind reminder, be sure to take the time to plan out your performance and if possible, practice it enough that it becomes habit. That way when you’re on stage and the nerves kick in, you won’t have to rely on your memory to get you through it.

You can also check out our article on Singing Performance Tips.

Summing Up Song Selection…

Picking the perfect song isn’t just about the song itself, but about the total package. Once you find a song that not only will you shine on, but your audience will enjoy, you’ve struck gold.

I hope this helps, and best of luck in your journey of finding the perfect song!

~ Vocal Coach Ken Taylor

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