“But Miss Robin, I love all my songs. I can’t pick!” Yep, I have students who simply cannot choose only one favorite for their recital. When this happens, I might show them ways to make a medley.
I tell them to choose two or three songs. If they are older, more experienced students, they may choose more.
How to choose?
- By theme: Christmas or other holiday; seasons; animal songs; love songs, etc.
- By genre: Pop; rock; blues; country; folk; classical, etc.
- By similarities in tempo, key signature, style or patterns, even in random selections. For example, “Popcorn” by Hot Butter from the ‘70s could be paired with Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” because they are both staccato and in a minor mode. For Billboard Top 20 medley hits, go here.
Next decide the order of songs in the medley. The student should play them through. Switch the order and try again. Does one seem to flow better into another?
Think about creating interest/avoiding boredom. Do the songs all sound the same? Try these ideas:
- add another piece with a contrasting tempo. Include one in the relative minor key, or go from D to D minor.
- Make a surprise in the medley by turning a ballad into an upbeat song or a fast piece into a slow song. Change from 3/4 to 4/4.
- Remember that modulating up in pitch raises the energy and intensity. Modulating down in pitch tends to calm. But beware—it could also be anticlimactic!
Will songs flow easily into one another, or do they need a transition? Here are ways to tie songs together.
- The chorus of one song might serve as transition between each.
- The intro might work as a transition.
- Can the student create his/her own brief transition?
- Your student might need to try different combinations of verse, chorus and bridge of each song until the medley is cohesive.
Finally, make sure the medley isn’t too long. Students with many favorites might try to fit too many in. Keep the audience in mind. Make the ending special. Can the intro be repeated as an ending? Can your student place the most exciting piece last?
A medley can allow students to include more of their favorite songs. It can showcase their versatility and make performances even more exciting. They will have learned a skill they can use in the future (for graduations, weddings…)—to make a medley!
Robin Steinweg has found music to be like the creamy filling of a sandwich cookie–sweet in the middle–especially making music with family. A great joy is seeing her students excited to make music for themselves. From her studio in Sauk-Prairie, Wisconsin, she teaches ages 4-84 piano, guitar, voice, woodwinds, ukulele and recorder. Musically, she composes, arranges, performs, directs, consults and teaches. She enjoys one musical husband, two musical sons, a musical daughter-in-law and a 2-yr-old granddaughter who lives life dolce and fortissimo. Robin also writes articles, devotions and books for adults and the kids in their lives.