If you’re looking for a fun, challenging way to lay out your song set, consider the basic structure of telling a story. You begin with a song that sets the mood and theme for the story your song set will tell.
You might choose an opening number that incorporates an up tempo song with a ballad. The two can be inter cut to explore the subject matter, such as a lost love or falling in love. The subject matter and theme serve as the points of conflict or plot points in the story as you move from song to song.
If you mix up tempo with a ballad, this opening number can give the audience a feel for the variety of music you’ll be singing. And, of course, you can mix the tempo and emotional color of one song. So, that opener sets the scene, establishes the subject matter, and can serve as a theme song of sorts, if you wish.
Twists + Spins + Turning Points
Your next few song reflect attempts to change or make a situation better. These songs lead up to a crisis, climax, or turning point song. A prime example of a turning point number might be the Martina McBride song from several years back, “Independence Day.” In that song, a woman takes control of her life after an abusive, restrictive relationship. Whatever your story, this song must represent a clear sense of action taken or a decision made that results in a clearly defined change in circumstances and attitude.
Step Up Or Fall Out
Your next several songs are born of the change that has been made. You may include a song of remembering what went on before. The point of this section of your set is to illustrate the consequences of the change. In other words, things get better or things get worse, or even a little bit of both.
Your closing number is a song of triumph or downfall, remorse or regret. This song celebrates or commemorates the ultimate outcome in the story your song set has told. It might even be a song of starting the process over again. Or, it may be a song about starting over again but from a wiser, clearer, healthier point of view.
Outpour To Enrich
Remember that as a singer you are a story teller, a messenger, and a communicator. By providing your audience with an over-arcing theme and plot line to follow, you can deliver an enriching theatrical experience that pulls them in and entertains them as you take them on a musical journey.
You can vary tempo and style to further enrich the experience for the audience. This also gives you and your accompanists the chance to have some extra fun while showcasing your strengths.
A story line is a great way to help you frame and focus your song set, but you can also choose a theme to anchor your songs. In that case, what you convey becomes the personal story of your experience in facing issues and circumstances related to your theme for the evening.
Whether you choose the plot line structure approach or decide to tie songs together to a specific theme, what you sing tells a story. These two approaches will also help you strengthen your interpretive skills as you look for deeper meanings and nuances in lyric. It will also broaden your knowledge of available material to sing.