How to Plan a Vocal Recital

Plan a Vocal Recital in 8 Steps

Vocal Recital -- Large Picture
Image courtesy of Quincena Musical via flickr cc license

There is a time and place for singing to oneself, but as a general rule everything is better shared. Others want to hear you! It may only be family and close friends to start, but the more you sing in front of people the larger the audience that appreciates what you have to offer.

Recitals are not only a great place for others to partake of your 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 is what to consider when you plan one.

Plan the Length of Your Recital

Your leading question should be how long you personally want to sing. When you first start, you may just want to sing one song. As you advance, you may want to sing 10 songs. Ask the appropriate number of friends to sing with you, so that your recital length is at least 45 minutes long.

Select Songs

The next step is picking what you will sing. Singing only one or two songs is fairly easy. As the length of your recitals grow, it becomes harder. Start by asking yourself what languages and genres you want to sing. 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. An orchestra never plays “Sleigh Ride,” by Arthur Fiedler up front, because the audience is familiar with it and expects to hear it during Christmas.

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 similar might bore your audience.

Hire an Accompanist

The easiest choice for accompaniment is a pianist. Pick a good one, because your success relies entirely in their hands. I once agreed to allow an amateur play for me and found out she could not keep time or play my music. I practiced enough with her to memorize where her mistakes were and compensated. One of the observers in the audience commented they had never heard a singer do so well with such a bad accompanist. Though proud of my accomplishment, I will never do it again!

Find 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 is most convenient for people to attend. If you are a student hoping to attract friends, it may work to plan an afternoon recital. If you are not, then weekends and evenings may work best. Always check what else is scheduled during your recital time. Are there events you will have to compete with, such as a wedding or a Broadway musical coming into town only one night? If a big football fan plans to attend, then you may need to be aware of their favorite team's game schedule.

Print a Program or Announce Songs

I suggest 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 you absolutely cannot create 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, refreshments are a good idea. People have made the effort to hear you, and a little food at the end shows your appreciation and is part of the entertainment. It also gives people an excuse to socialize. The refreshments can be as fancy or simple as you want. You may ask your closest friends to each bring a plate of cookies and then provide napkins, cups, and pitchers of water. Or you may have it catered. It is up to you. If you are the main organize, then try to delegate the responsibility or keep it as simple as possible.