Choosing a Song that Suits You - dummies

By Pamelia S. Phillips

Finding songs that suit your interest and skill is not as difficult as you might think. The following list includes the three basic song levels from which you want to choose.

  • Beginner: Beginner songs have simple rhythms, a narrow range, an accompaniment part that plays the singer’s melody, a melody line and accompaniment that are the same, and simple articulation opportunities.

    Examples of a beginner song include “The Sound of Music” and “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music. “The Sound of Music” has rhythms that are fairly easy to count, and the range isn’t too extreme. “Edelweiss” also has easy rhythms, a narrow range, and smooth lines to help you work on phrasing.

    Other beginner songs include the following:

    • The folk ballad “Greensleeves”

    • The Old Scottish Air “Auld Lang Syne”

    • The traditional air “Drink to me Only With Thine Eyes,” by Ben Jonson

    • “In The Gloaming,” by Mete Orred and Annie F. Harrison

    • The spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

    • “Killing me Softly,” as sung by Roberta Flack

    • “You Light Up My Life,” by Joe Brooks

    • “Love me Tender,” by Elvis Presley and Vera Matson

  • Intermediate: Intermediate songs have harder rhythms that test you a bit beyond your current level. If you’re an intermediate-level singer, you can opt for a wider range, a few high notes to test your top notes, more difficult intervals that challenge your ear, and opportunities to explore more detailed articulation. The piano accompaniment may not follow the melody note for note.

    Some intermediate songs include “Over the Rainbow,” from The Wizard of Oz, and “My Favorite Things,” from The Sound of Music. “Over the Rainbow” is an intermediate song because the rhythms are a little more complex and varied than in a beginner song, such as “Edelweiss,” and the leaps are much wider than in songs that move in stepwise motion.

    “My Favorite Things” moves quickly, with more variety and more complex rhythms than “The Sound of Music” from the same show, and the articulation of text has to be much faster. After you get some experience working on slower songs, such as “Edelweiss,” to get your articulation fluid, a song like “My Favorite Things” offers you the challenge of articulating faster.

    The following is a list of familiar intermediate-level songs that you may recognize:

    • “Crazy,” by Willie Nelson

    • “You’re So Vain,” by Carly Simon

    • “You Oughta Be Here With Me,” from Big River

    • “Desperado,” by Don Henley and Alen Frey

    • “O sole mio!,” by E. di Capua (tenor)

  • Advanced: An advanced song is a song that really tests your skills. The melody you sing may be completely different from the accompaniment and have intervals that don’t always blend with the piano music.

    You may be confronted with long notes that require breath control, several high notes that demand skill in execution, a detailed story that requires you to make the journey of the text as you use your technical skill, text that enables you to portray the height of the story, and an opportunity to convey the specific style appropriate for the song, such as high belt, classical legit, or the twang of a country song.

    A list of advanced songs you may know include the following:

    • “Take me or Leave Me,” from Rent

    • “Miss Independent,” by Kelly Clarkson

    • “Habañera,” from the opera Carmen, by Bizet (mezzo)

    • “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth,” from The Messiah, by Handel (soprano)

    • “Se vuol ballare, Signor contino,” from The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro), by Mozart (bass)