Many singers will create a group of “anchor songs,” or best songs that they enjoy practicing. These are songs that you like to sing because they make you feel good, you can sing them confidently, and they are fun to sing. Most of the time, these songs would be considered easy songs to sing.
The best songs for you could be currently popular songs and a perfect song for your voice, or it could just be a fun song that has a catchy tune. Great songs to practice singing technique are songs that are in your vocal range. Songs that practice various vocal techniques and work through some of your vocal strengths are always good choices as well.
Is this Song the Right Song for Me?
Even though a song might seem like it is the right song for you because it appeals to your emotional side and gets you pumped, focused, and has a simple melody, some songs may not suit your voice well if you chose to include it in your set at your next gig. It could be a technical song that requires precise rhythmic accuracy and clear tone quality, or it could be some different songs that just lead you through some vocal exercises.
How to Choose the Best Songs for Practice Singing
We thought we would offer some tips for putting together an anchor song list. This list will also be great to use in auditions or include in performances because they showcase your strengths and suit your voice.
The greater vocal range and better vocal technique you have, the more choices you will have of songs to practice and add to this list. But, you also do not have to have music lessons or be able to read sheet music to create a good song list. Powerful songs are what you are looking for.
To get started, make a list of your favorite songs that you love to sing. The songs that make you feel good, empowered, focused, and confident. They can be sad songs, spiritual songs, torch songs, power ballads, rocking anthems – and can be from any genre. Just make a list of songs that appeal to your heart and soul! There are so many good songs out there.
Start with easy songs that various artists sing, like Green Day, Ed Sheeran or Harry Styles would sing. Then, once you have figured out your vocal range and voice type, consider some more advanced pop songs that Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston or Christina Aguilera have sung.
Experienced singers can sing songs that no one else can, but they know their voice range and which songs are good songs for them.
Group By Genre
Next, you want to group your songs according to genre. This may be tough since a lot of music is fusion or eclectic and mixed genres, like county-rock, blues-pop, folk-jazz, and so on.
Just group them as best you can. It will give a read on your musical tastes as a singer, what you like to listen to, and you can compare that with your natural vocal qualities like phrasing, color, tone, range, and so on. It will help you think about your voice and the style of music that you feel it is best tailored for.
A Handful Of Hopeful
Pick a handful that you’re most attached to. The next step is to record your performance (preferably video) of each of the songs with a break in between to rest, so they can be fairly evaluated.
After watching and/or listening to the recording by yourself a few times, invite a friend or two in to review it with you. It’s good to get feedback beyond a self-critique. If one of your friends can bring along someone you don’t know, that can help tremendously because they’re less likely to have any bias.
Weed The Garden
The point of this evaluation process is to eliminate any songs that are not a good fit for auditioning or including in a song set for a live gig. A good song may not be the best fit for you.
It may be fairly easy to figure out which songs you need to omit, or you may have to do some research. For example, you may need to consider what types of venues you will be performing. Is it a song that you’re attached to, but you feel it may not be as relatable to your audience?
Define the Vocal Range
There are a few questions to ask yourself and others in the evaluation process. Was the song comfortably within your vocal range? If not, will it be manageable soon if you continue to work with a vocal coach and strengthen your vocal cords? Otherwise, do not include it in your anchor songs.
If you feel like the song includes too many high notes, then it may be a question of setting this song as a goal for the future. It may not be an easy song, but it may aid in the training process for your future song list.
What is the story of the song? What is its message? Do you connect? Do you relate to the story of the song? Does the message come through clearly? If not, the song may not be appropriate because of a lack of life experience. And no amount of good singing is going to make this song believable for you.
Revisit the song so that you can interpret it fully before including it in a song set. Don’t add this song to your list of broken dreams yet, just set it aside for now.
A Great Song that isn’t Great For You
Elvis Presley might sing great songs, but it may not be great for you. Maybe you relate to a song but find its vocal style difficult to emulate. Maybe this song requires work on your part to figure out how to sing in your own style.
A personally stylized song is good, but may not be the best way to reach your audience. So, you may choose to skip a great song if it’s not a great practice song.
By Leaps and Skips
Are there big adjustments to make in the melody between notes? In other words, are the notes close to each other like stepping up and down one note at a time, or do they have bigger jumps of four to five notes and even higher? Is the song in one key or two or three keys? Listen for how this is handled in the songs you’ve chosen. Eliminate songs with leaps of more than four or five notes and two to three keys until you become more comfortable with them.
Did you manage to naturally pick up and play with the rhythmic measures in the song? Some songs will have a variety of rhythms. It may shift from the verse to chorus. The bridge or a build may have a slight rhythmic shift of some kind. Sam Smith, known for his love song, “Stay with Me,” is known for doing things like this.
Complex and varied rhythms can add excitement to a performance and heighten not only the thematic feel but the emotional thrust of a song. But if handled improperly, they become a distraction. If there are challenges with rhythm, pull the piece from your anchor songs.
What about the tempo of the song? Is the song too fast or too slow? Do you find yourself speeding up or slowing down when it’s not necessary? What about your articulation? Do you tend to slur when singing up-tempo songs? Articulation can even be a problem with slower pieces due to placement issues or a lack of properly strengthened muscles for articulation.
For the time being, eliminate any songs from your anchor songs that present a problem with articulation, but keep them handy for practice. They can always be added to your song set or anchor songs once the articulation required is mastered. If this is an issue, some better song choices would include songs with simple lyrics.
Songs That Work
So, after working through the evaluation process, you now have your list of anchor songs that will be there for warm-ups, fun, vocal exercise, confidence boosting, auditions, and your singing gigs. You can add similar songs to this group that reflect your strengths so that a little mix of material is on hand in several genres that are within your mastered comfort zone.
Songs To Work On
In addition to your anchor songs, you’ll also have a set of practice songs that you enjoy singing. You can use these to work on rhythm, tempo, articulation, range, and interpretation or understanding.
Also, if you are a good tenor, work on a good tenor song. This would play to your strengths and be a great song for you when you practice singing.
Songs that Challenge You
Your anchor songs feature your strengths, and your practice songs exercise the skills you need to strengthen. And best of all, these are songs you love to sing! After six weeks, you can revisit your practice songs through a newly recorded performance evaluation.
For more information about vocal techniques and vocal training, check us out here. We are a vocal studio that gives voice lessons and we have vocal training products as well. We specialize in vocal style and vocal training for singers who sing songs in all genres.
Brett Manning is a vocal coach and has coached hundreds of artists such as Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and Miley Cyrus. He is the creator and founder of Singing Success and Brett Manning Studios located on Music Row in Nashville, TN.