Developing a song for performance — my view

by Emily Leatha Everson

There is much work to be done on a song before it is ready for public view and everyone develops their own process. Here I’ll share a little bit of mine.

At some moment before each performance, I have a little panic attack. An inner voice shrieks “What in the bloody HELL are you doing?” To throw some cold water on this annoying freak-out, I have found it helpful to simply respond to a list of questions, which I answer for each song before each performance…part of a “Pre-performance Routine.”

I’ve gathered these questions from many places (acting classes, song performance classes, articles, voice lessons, books, etc.). This list does not stand in for the whole process of crafting a song performance (for me, this requires a much longer list and the help of many talented and supportive people!). But, this most basic set of questions reminds me that I have a specific reason to sing this song today. I have something to say. I have a story to tell.

Who are you?

Who are you singing to?

When is it?

Where are you now?

Where were you before?

What just happened/What are you responding to?

What are you doing now?

What is your goal?

Why are you doing this?

How are you doing this, using what means/actions?

What obstacles/dangers must you surmount to achieve this goal?

This list is just a starting point. Feel free to change it to suit your needs!

Please feel free to share questions and exercises that you find helpful in your “pre-performance routine.”

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2 Responses to “Developing a song for performance — my view”

  1. Emily Leatha Everson Says:

    Mr. Miyazaki posted an article (9/6/2008) remarking about, “…songs expressing a burning thought that the singer needs to personally convey.” This might be another good question to answer…”What is the thought/message that you personally have an urgent need to convey…with this song, right now?”

  2. Davey Says:

    Hi Emily.
    On the way to check out the 10/20 program, I saw your blog.

    Liza Minelli says she went so far as to know what color the carpet was, age of the singer, time of day, what she was wearing. When I went to school it was called “sense memory” that conjures up an experience that you can use to convey the atmosphere, emotion, etc. of the song.

    Hope youare doing fine.


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