How to Plan a Successful Vocal Recital

Young women having fun and playing music together
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Recitals are not only a great place for others to partake of your singing talent, but they give you something to work towards. They are your personal deadline to master the songs you will sing. Recitals also teach you to sing in front of people with confidence and without fear. Here are a few things to consider when you are planning your vocal debut to ensure a successful event.

Plan the Length of Your Recital

First things first -- decide how long you want to sing. When you first start out, you may just want to sing one song. As you advance, you may want to sing 10 songs. You want to aim for a recital length of at least 45 minutes long, so ask the appropriate number of vocalists to sing with you.

Select Songs

The next step is picking what you will sing. Singing only one or two songs is fairly easy, but as the length of your recitals grows, it becomes harder to put together an arrangement. Start by asking yourself what languages and genres you want to sing. Then, find four ways to organize or choose music. If you sing all jazz, for instance, you could focus on four types: bebop, ragtime, classic jazz, and mainstream. A classical recital might be arranged by languages: French, German, Italian, and English.

Arrange Songs from Complex to Simple

You have your audience’s fullest attention towards the beginning of your recital. Keep their focus by moving from complex to simple. For example, at a holiday concert, an orchestra never plays “Sleigh Ride,” by Arthur Fiedler up front, because the audience is familiar with it and will be expecting to hear it. Waiting to play it towards the end, keeps them wanting more.

Another aspect of song arrangement is variety: Be sure to place songs of varying tempo and key next to each other. Two slow songs back-to-back that sound too similar might bore your audience.

Hire an Accompanist and Find a Venue

The easiest choice for accompaniment is a pianist, but it's imperative to pick a good one because your success relies entirely on their hands. If they can't keep time or play your music well, all your hard work may be in vain.

As far as a venue, there are many places you can sing for free or almost free. Sometimes you find chapels with wonderful acoustics connected to prisons, hospitals, and nursing homes. Typically these venues are not sought after and coordinators are more than happy to have you sing. Often music stores have recitals that are free or charge a small fee. Churches sometimes allow congregation members the use of their buildings. There are also community halls, lecture halls, schools, and outdoor venues to consider. Just be sure to plan a date as far in advance as possible. Whether well sought after or not, reserving a time with your venue is crucial.

Choose a Date and Time

Pick a date and time that's most convenient for people to attend. If you're a student hoping to entice friends to show up with their support, it may work to plan an afternoon recital. If not, then weekends and evenings may work best. Also, don't forget to check what else is scheduled during your desired recital time. Make note of any events you will have to compete with, such as a wedding, one night only Broadway musical, or a big sporting event.

Print a Program or Announce Songs

Consider creating a program so members of the audience can follow along. It also helps keep a multi-singer recital organized. A small note about what you are singing or a translation of songs in foreign languages engages the audience as well. If it's not possible to put together a printed program, then announce each group of songs before you sing them.

Provide Refreshments With Help

If you are singing for less than an hour, offering refreshments would be a nice touch. People have made the effort to hear you, and a little food and drink at the end shows your appreciation and enhances the entertainment. It also gives people an excuse to socialize. The refreshments can be as fancy (read: catered) or simple as you want -- you may even consider asking your closest friends to each bring a plate of cookies and then provide napkins, cups, and pitchers of water. If you are the main organizer, then try to delegate the responsibility or keep it as simple as possible.