Choice of Songs?

Ron One Person Band


Choice of Songs?

There are really two reasons for choice of songs.  First the person doing the choosing has to like the song.  The second and perhaps even more obvious is that the song must at least have some chance of them doing it.


I think it would be no surprise to us that many of us are the most fond of songs we heard in the location and time when we grew up.  We tend to associate memories with songs many times, and our early teen memories and years around that time are often the strongest memories - therefore the most associated with songs.

That is also true for me.  And sometimes I even joke asking if any decent song was ever made after 1970?  But of course many were.  There were also some great songs before I was born, songs from the 30's and 40's.  For example one song that I am working on that I also have worked on in the past is "Stormy Weather" - Lena Horne and Billie Holiday - a great song from 1943 - before I was born.  One of the greatest band leaders in my opinion was Glen Miller who I thought had a good sense of what to do with a big band.  And I believe he died in WW2 before I was born.  I attribute Glen Miller with the start of what was the big time rock of the 60s and 70s.  His song "In the Mood" for those who played in rock bands fit the rock image to a "T".  It was a common three chord progression of simplicity, and one adds a walking bass part going up to the dominant 7th and then some jazzy movements, and you have the foundation of many rock songs later to come.  But of course, one like me usually has to search the times outside of their teen years and be open minded to the great songs done before their birth and also after their teen years.  And yes, I do try to keep an open mind.  But we all have songs we will associate with memories - and they may well be different.


I had mentioned that I am doing a book on home recording.  In it I am going to have a chapter on vocals, even though I never took singing lessons.  However, I have recorded myself many many times, and that is another way to learn.  Some people are born with great voices and should be respected.  In that I would include Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey and also the king Elvis Presley - among others.  Now some people have great talent and have huge vocal ranges and can do tricks and clever things with their voice.  But that does not often describe the rest of us.  In fact for us normal humans, I would never suggest anyone trying a difficult Michael Jackson or Mariah Carey song.   It can be too much range and too much voice oddity for us mere humans.

For the rest of us, I suggest (among other things) experimenting to find out "what you can do" or at least "have a chance at."  If you try various songs and record yourself, you will sooner or later figure out the range of notes that your voice has a chance at working in.  You can also find out if your voice is best smooth, raspy, or if it is better to hold notes out or let them go in short bursts.  All of this I think depends on the person.

In at least my early music for example, you might find some Neil Diamond stuff and Johnny Rivers.  You might guess that I am quite fond of both of those artists.  Well, yes and no, ha ha.  They also sing in a similar key to one that I might have a chance in.  They also "usually" (key word that should worry us) sing in a range that I might have a chance at.  And so I like to pick on their songs.  On the other hand, Stevie Wonder (the brat) sings in a very different key than me as does CCR Clearance Clearwater Revival (the brats) and also the Temptations (more brats).  Now, I also like everything those three last artist groups or people did.  However, one of my first steps is generally to modify it to a key I have a chance at - and that will not be the original key.  For a 2013 song included here I do a CCR song "Have you ever seen the Rain".  Yeah, but after doing the song, I raised the song 7 half steps (similar to lowering it 5 half steps - since an octave is 12 half steps).  Then I redid some of the guitar and bass to lower those notes and I also modified the organ part.  Wrong key for me... initially.  So the song may sound odd to you, but I would guess mostly since it is in a different key than what it was written.


In the movie "A League of their Own" about women in baseball, Geena Davis knows her little sister has a batting problem.  Her little sister cannot lay off the high fast balls but tries to swing at them.  As I think Geena pointed out - "she can't hit 'em, and she cannot lay off 'em".  Well, those of us who do music can also have days like Geena's younger sister.  There are some songs I like so much that I am just going to try them, even though the range or key or other should tell me "to lay off that fast ball".  So we all can have that issue.  Well, we are all just human.


Somewhere in all of the middle of this, we take a chance and do a song and perhaps record it.  Just speaking from my own experiences.  It is worth it.  It is fun to do a song.  And if it sounds even half way reasonable, I feel good when I play it back.  And I would recommend this hobby to everyone.

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