You should consider creating a musical repertoire the moment you think about becoming a musician: whether a solo singer, a member of a band or an instrumentalist. If you are used to attending shows or performing at shows, you would realize and acknowledge how important it is to build yourself a repertoire. A repertoire ensures the continuity of your performance. It is really awkward to exit the stage mid-way into the full duration of your performance because you’ve run out of songs to sing or play, and have exhausted the ones you know. A repertoire also gives you to a guidance on how to flow; the song to start the performance with, the song to end the performance, and everything in between.

What is a musical repertoire?

Musical repertoire is a collection of music pieces played by an individual musician or ensemble, composed for a particular instrument or group of instruments, voice, or choir, or from a particular period or area.

A repertoire simply means the collection of all the songs or musical pieces that you know and can sing or play with ease any time, any day; it is more like your bank of songs or musical compositions that you can just reach into and pull out of whenever the need arises. What is the whole point of having a repertoire? How can I build my repertoire? This article is here to answer the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ to building a musical repertoire.

Take for example, you have a gig and you’re expected to play for about 45 minutes and you only know 4 songs that you can play conveniently; the songs are covers and they are approximately 4, 6, 4 and 7 minutes long respectively, that affords you a total play time of 21 minutes; what happens to the remaining 24 minutes?

The ‘Why’

  • It boosts your confidence of knowing how to play songs by heart without depending on a sheet music.
  • Having a repertoire makes your audience enjoy you; it extends your performance time as a musician.
  • It improves your ability to improvise; knowing the original song by heart will give you more ideas for improvisation in the song.
  • It makes you prepared at every time, even if you have an impromptu gig, you’re not left stranded or clueless on what to do.
  • Having a repertoire helps to build your identity as a musician; you gain more publicity for yourself and attract collaboration opportunities from other musicians and organizations.

The ‘How’

One thing to note is that creating a song repertoire doesn’t happen in one day. The songs in a repertoire have to be scored, studied and known like the back of your palm, that should definitely take some time to set up.

  • When creating a repertoire, you may want to start with one song first and learn the heck out of it; break it into parts and learn each part like that is the only song you’ll play for life. Before you pick the first song in your lineup, take into consideration your audience. Would they flow with the song? Is it an all-time favourite song? Is it a popular and easy to sing-along song? Don’t pick a song that is known to only you as your first song; you can always include “unknown” songs somewhere in the middle because your first song should capture the attention of your listeners. As much as you want to play something your audience would love, make sure you love the song too, it makes it easier for you to learn and play, your love for the songs you play shows in your performance. If you choose a song that your audience would like, but you do not like yourself, you can always improvise and add some extra to the song; perform it your own way.
  • Proceed with a lineup of songs that follow each other; choose about 10 to 15 songs and do not jump onto the next one until you are done with the present one, learn it in such a way that even if you are woken up from sleep, you can play the solos, chorus, bridge and every other part of the song PROFESSIONALLY
  • You can delve into other genres of music; you need to be able to play more than one genre because as you go on in your career, you will meet instances where your crowd is not your ‘regular’ audience. You may be a blues guitarist and your crowd is craving some rock music; the beauty of being a professional is your ability to switch things up spontaneously. So, it is advisable to have different genres of songs in your repertoire.
  • As you build your repertoire, you build your experience level too, so it gets easier to play different genres in a single performance; only experienced musicians can vary between blues, country, rock and jazz in a 30-minute performance and still hold the attention of the crowd.
  • We stated earlier that building a repertoire takes time, but that does not mean you should spend weeks on only one song. Set a timeline for yourself; push yourself into accomplishing tasks within a set timeframe.
  • Listen to other musicians and heroes that you look up to. Watch videos online and see how people perform songs on stage, watch their shows and hear how their repertoires were arranged. Attend concerts and shows and see the kind of songs that move the crowd; songs of the 80’s and 90’s may be more musically appealing than our present generation songs; find out what people want.
  • Write often. Write new songs, people like to hear new stuff. Update your repertoire: cancel out songs tat are going out of fun and style or songs that you have performed a gazillion times over and add up new ones.

Simple Tricks For Stage Performances

? A trick is to do small talks in between, either introducing the next song by its meaning or the artist, or giving a simple story or experience relating to the song, or say something about why this next song is important to you. Don’t talk too much though and not after every song so that you don’t bore your audience or make them ‘lose taste’ in the performance.

??Another trick is to do more solos if you are running out of songs. You can even give room for other instruments to solo. After you have played a solo on the guitar for instance, let the band play the chorus, then give room for the drums to solo, piano, bass guitar etc.; you’ll cover more ground and buy more time with that. Knowing the original song will give you ideas on where to pause to allow solos in (this is why it is really important to have an in-depth knowledge of any song in your repertoire).

???Your repertoire is not a ‘constant’, even while on stage, it can be versatile; no one likes to hear the same set or line up of songs all the time. You should be able to take out one or two songs from the regular line up and replace with other songs to give the performance a different “flavour”; depending on what the crowd wants.

Start building your repertoire now! Set procrastination aside.

Are there other tips for building a repertoire or stage performance tricks you’ll like to add to this list? Please drop them in the comments below.

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