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Choosing a Song

Choosing A Song To Sing...You can guarantee the success of each new song you select for your chorus by following a few simple steps. Here's a process that has been successful for me:

First the performance tests:

1. Will the song be familiar to your audience? When we sing songs our audience will recognize, the audience is allowed to participate in the making of music with us. They will be part of the show and will tap their toe, sing along in their heads, remember the time they first heard the song, and generally have a good time.

2. Is it an uptune or easy rhythm song? We have to look for good rhythm songs, barbershop ballads will find us. Make at least six out of ten songs in your repertoire rhythm songs, either uptunes or easy rhythm toe tappers. Your audience will thank you with their hands and their faces. You'll see.

3. The third rule is the exception to the other two.
If it's a novelty or comedic song, or a song with of special significance to your area, town, or chorus, it needn't fit the first two rules. Your repertoire can handle one or two of these.

After the above criteria are satisfied, look at the arrangement.

1. Can you sing the melody line in tune without difficulty? Are you in the proper key at the end? Can your leads do the same?

2. Is the bass part too low or high for your basses to handle with comfort?

3. Is the baritone part too high for your baris to handle with ease?

4. Is the tenor part well within the comfortable range of your tenors?

5. Are there awkward leaps in any part?

6. Are there sudden shifts in the tonal center (key feeling) which will be hard for your guys to hear and, consequently to learn and perform well?

7. If there are key changes, can each part sing easily through them? Can your section leaders sing through the key change backwards? Yes, backwards!

8. Can your section leaders read the arrangement and get 75% of it right the first time?

9. Is the story and emotion of the lyric easy to understand and communicate?

10. Is it a good song? Do you like it? Will your guys like it?

If the song satisfies all the above criteria, and you and your music team really like it, try it out on the guys. Have a demonstration quartet learn it and sing it for your chorus. Have the chorus read through it. Did they get most of it the first time through? Did they like it? Do they want to sing it? If so, put it in!

A song that is well within the capabilities of your chorus will learn faster, sing better, and get higher marks from all of your judges, the ones in the audience at the show and the ones in the pit at the contest. And, your guys will have more fun when they make better music together sooner and more often.

It takes time and effort to teach a song to your chorus. Make sure the song and arrangement you choose is worth it. Use a logical system when you select music for your chorus. It works. I guarantee it!

Thanks for reading.
Bill Biffle
Vice Chair for Chorus Director Training
Chorus Director Development Committee

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