It can be really difficult to choose a song to work on if you’ve never done it before, particularly if you want to find a good “learning song”. Here are some suggestions to help you get started with this process
Choose a great composer, someone who is well respected and has many great compositions.
1. For classical selections, some examples that I recommend:
- Mozart (primarily Italian, some German)
- Anything from the 24 Italian Songs and Arias (published by G. Schirmer and available almost anywhere. It’s only available in Med. High or Med. Low—sopranos and tenors should get the Med. High and mezzos (altos) and baritones should get the Med. Low. It goes without saying that altos and basses would get the Med. Low.
- Schubert (German)
- Roger Quilter (English)
- Ernest Chausson (French) Don’t choose French unless instructed that you are ready by your instructor / voice teacher.
2. For Musical Theater:
- Kander and Ebb
- Rodgers and Hammerstein
- Lerner and Lowe
- Stephen Sondheim
3. Jazz Standards
- Many Broadway anthologies are full of what are actually considered to be Jazz Standards. These were made popular by artists like Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Judy Garland, etc. These can be great selections to learn from if you don’t read music well and don’t want to start with a classical or Musical Theater selection. The composers are various–try to choose a song that you have not heard very often or you will run into problems trying to sound “like the recording”.
Find a book of your chosen composer’s selections (look for one in your voice range, usually “High Voice” –also listed as Soprano or Tenor; “Medium Voice”—also listed as Mezzo-Soprano or Baritone; or “Low Voice”—also listed as Alto or Bass.
Before listening to the melody of any of the songs in any way—go through the book and look at the texts. Find one that truly speaks to you. In addition—to make sure that it will be a good song from which to actually learn and indeed, not prove to be too difficult:
Before choosing a text—look at the melody notes and make sure that the range is “do-able”. Know what the highest and lowest notes of your range are (if you don’t read music well, you can still memorize what they look like)—and don’t choose anything that goes beyond those notes.
Don’t choose a song with a “busy looking” accompaniment (lots of sixteenth notes or an overall look of being very “black” on the page) because you’ll probably have a hard time learning the song without a regular coaching. SIMPLE accompaniment probably means that your part will be a good learning song.
If you’re still having a hard time narrowing things down to one song—choose five different selections and bring them to your instructor or voice teacher—and let them choose the best selection for you and your particular level of skills at the moment.