Sunday, August 26, 2012

Easy songs for your choir 1: what is ‘easy’?

This post is part of a series of occasional Questions and Answers. Just use the
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Linda writes:
“Because I like to sing, my work has asked me to do a lunch time fun singing workshop for my colleagues. I would dearly like to do this as it would be fun, but I have no idea where to start and what songs to teach.
I imagine when you say rounds it is 3 blind mice etc. but I don't know what a call & response song is or a chant. Could you please start me off with a few ideas?”

I’m often asked for sources of easy songs for choirs.

Songs that can be used as warm ups or preparation for more complex songs. Songs for newly-formed beginners choirs, or songs for people who want easy things to sing for fun. And songs to introduce people to harmony singing.

You can access quite a few by looking at my post Finding songs for your choir. The Unicorn Camp books have lots of easy songs in them. I can also recommend the Natural Voice warm up songbook (with CD) To Grace the Earth. Other good sources are the Sing Up website and Vocal Union.

But what makes a song ‘easy’?

easy songs

An ‘easy’ song has:
  • a tune without too many notes and a melody that doesn’t jump about too much with big intervals between notes
  • lyrics that don’t have too many words
  • simple and obvious harmonies, or no harmonies at all
  • a range of notes that is comfortable for everyone
  • straightforward rhythms (1, 2, 3, 4 or waltz time)
  • a melody that is memorable (not an easy concept to pin down!)
You might think that songs in English are easier than songs in foreign languages, but often an African or Eastern European song might have just one or two easy words, whereas an English song might have lots of verses.

You might think a popular, well-known song would be a great place to start, but people always remember the tune slightly differently, usually don’t know the proper words beyond the first line or two, and tend to paraphrase the rough meaning rather than remember the lyrics accurately. You’ll spend a lot of time getting everyone to sing it the same way!

You might think that children’s songs and nursery rhymes would be too childish for adults, but when I ask a group what oldies they want to revive, they usually choose the kids’ songs!

Types of easy songs include rounds, chants and call & response songs. I’ll be looking at what these are next week in part 2 of Easy songs for your choir: rounds, chants, call and response.

Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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