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Singers work on their voice, their stage presence, and even their look but they often neglect one crucial component that can make or break their singing career - song choice.
If you are not a songwriter and do not have your own original songs, you must sing other artist's songs, also known as cover songs. Not having original songs will not necessarily hurt your chances of making it big in the music industry, but choosing the wrong cover songs could actually ruin your career quickly.
The first step in choosing the right song is to evaluate your singing voice. Every singer is different, even famous ones. Some singers specialize in power while others have a smooth, sultry quality. People with a thick southern accent often choose country songs and singers with classical vocal training usually stick with opera or Broadway songs.
This may sound a little silly and obvious, but before choosing a song think about who you are. You want to choose a song that is believable when you sing it. It is odd when a thirteen-year-old girl sings a song like Reba McEntire's Does He Love You, about a cheating spouse. Likewise, it would be strange for a fifty-year-old singer to sing Taylor Swift's teenage love song, Our Song.
It is not always best to pick the songs you love to listen to when choosing songs to sing. Look for songs that fit your vocal type and ability so you are comfortable singing and can put your extra energy into putting on a great performance. If you have a soft, low voice, you will struggle through Christina Aguilera's The Voice Within but Colbie Caillat's Realize may suit you perfectly. By choosing a song that suits you, instead of a song you like to listen to (or that you aspire to sing one day), you will feel at ease when performing, which will come through to your audience. Nobody likes to listen to a singer squeal or shout on the high parts because they have chosen a song they love, even though they knew it was too high for their range.
One last factor to consider when choosing songs to sing is that you need to think about the original singer who recorded the song you want to sing. When you sing a song already made famous by someone else, your audience will know the song and will have a preconceived notion of how the song should sound. Even without meaning to, they will compare you to the original singer. If you can sing the song as well as the original artist, go for it. If you are not sure you can match the original artist, the best thing to do is to sing the song differently. You can sing a harmony note, change a vocal run, or even change the melody or timing on a line or two to make the song different from the original artist. If the song is a current top ten hit on the radio, it may be best to hold off on singing it for a while because some people may already be tired of the song.
Song choice is vital for those pursuing a professional singing career. By choosing believable songs that are appropriate for your ability that you can sing in a show stopping way, you will be on your way to achieving the singing career of your dreams.