Picking the Right Songs: A Singer’s Guide To Building Repertoire

In the world of music, the list of songs we can sing is our repertoire. Figuring out the right songs is a big deal for any artist. The songs you choose say a lot about your style, what you like, and the stories you want to share. In this singer’s guide to building repertoire, we’ll look at some things to think about when choosing new tunes.

Technical Stuff

Is this song too easy or too hard for me right now?

Songs for practice and songs for performing are different. Practice songs can be tricky to help us get better, but on stage, we want to stay in control. We don’t want songs that are too easy, though! If a song is too simple, it can be difficult for the artist to really get into it. As singer’s when choosing repertoire we want something challenging but not too tough.

What’s the best key to sing this song in?

After picking a song, it’s smart to try singing it in different keys. This isn’t just about hitting the high and low notes—it’s also about how your voice sounds. Changing the key can make your voice sound different, and it can change how the song feels. Lower keys might sound more laid-back, while higher keys can make things more intense. The key you pick can really change how the audience sees the song.

What’s the right speed for the song?

Just like with the key, the original speed of a song might not be the best for you. Speeding up or slowing down a bit can give the song a new feel. Trying out different speeds is a great way to find out your own personal spin on a tune.

Does this song add something new to my repertoire?

When you’re picking songs, think about the big picture. If you already have a lot of slow songs about heartbreak, maybe try adding a few faster one about having fun! If all your songs are loud and bold, maybe throw in a softer one! Your songs should show all sides of you – if you have songs for different moods or situations, that’s a good sign!

Emotional Stuff

Do the words of the song mean something to me?

When you’re picking what to sing, think about the lyrics. It might sound simple, but many singers don’t really pay attention to what they’re singing. If you pick lyrics that mean something to you, your performance will have a real emotional vibe that can’t be faked!

What do I want to say with this song?

Think about the emotion or message you want people to get from the song. If you have a clear idea, you can use technical stuff like volume, speed, and key to make that message come through. Take a song like “God Bless The Child.” In Billie Holiday’s version, it feels emotionally tired, while in Mark Murphy’s version, it comes off as sarcastic. Same words, different feelings!

Billie Holliday sings this song in a way that conveys emotional exhaustion.

In Mark Murphy’s version, the same lyric comes across as sarcastic and ironic.

What can I add to this song that hasn’t been done before?

When you’re picking songs, think about what you can bring to it that’s unique. Sounding good on a song is important, but think about what you can do differently to make it special.

Mixing Feelings with Skills

The point of thinking about the feelings in a song is to guide how you perform it technically. Every technical choice, like how loud, how fast, and what key, should have a reason. Nothing should be random for a true artist.

Practical Stuff

Can I sing this alone, with someone else, or does it need a band?

When you’re picking songs, it’s good to have at least a few that you can sing by yourself or with one other musician. You might not always get to pick the size of the group when you perform, so it’s good to be ready for anything.

Is this song famous or not really known?

Having a mix of popular and not-so-popular songs is great! If all your songs are famous, people might compare you to the original artists. If all your songs are unknown, it might be hard for the audience to connect with you.

Is this a short-term song or one I want to keep singing for a long time?

It’s okay to pick songs for specific times, but also try think about songs you can stick with as you grow as an artist. Think about songs like Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon” or Aretha Franklin’s “Amazing Grace.” These became their signature songs.

Closing Thoughts

Who would have thought that picking songs could be so tricky! We hope you enjoyed our singer’s guide to building repertoire! If you need help finding the right songs for your voice, get in touch with us today and work with one of Toronto’s best singing coaches!