Singing – how well should you know the song?

I played piano at a party late last year. The brief was to entertain the crowd but also to encourage and then be ready to back any of the guests who wanted to get up and sing. It turned out to be a really enjoyable night – there must have been 20 participants in the sing-song, and every single one of them not only knew the words, but put their own twist on the songs in a way they knew would excite the crowd.

That’s not always the case however.. Equally as often you might hear someone get through the first verse and chorus OK, and then halfway through the second verse they’ll ask for help with the words. Everyone laughs along but is secretly wishing that they never bothered starting the song since they didn’t know it all.

You see to know something for a sing-song, all you really need to do is know the words and some version of the melody. People want to and will help you out, but if you call a song, you need to be able to sing all of it.

I also played piano for an informal get-together in the summer. 70-80 people showed up to have a good time singing songs from Grease. They were led through the words, melody and harmony lines in a fast and entertaining manner. At the end of the night they produced an energetic, boisterous and fairly accurate version of the songs and harmonies within them. It was great fun, and for the situation in which they were, they knew the songs as well as they needed to know them.

When it comes to a professional performance however, you need to know the words, the exact melody and harmonies, and deliver them in your own distinctive style so that the paying audience will be moved, excited or inspired, and feel that they got value for money.

There’s knowing something, Knowing something, and there’s KNOWING something. Once you figure out which level you want to be at, get to know, Know or KNOW it as accurately as you need to. Your audience will thank you.

I'm Kieran and I play piano. Actually I do a bit more than just playing - I teach others how to play, and I write music, arrange it and host/produce shows.

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