How To Choose New Repertoire

Choosing new repertoire can be difficult. Sometimes we can find ourselves in a creative rut, or maybe we’ve just been focussed on the same repertoire for so long that we don’t know where to go from there.

I’m not going to lie, I’m not the biggest fan of finding new rep. Especially if I don’t quite know what I’m looking for. Unusually for a creative, I’m the kind of person who actually quite likes having several parameters. Maybe it’s the rebellious streak in me that likes looking for something that almost fits the rules, but doesn’t quite.

If I don’t know what I’m looking for, I often feel like I just end up wasting my time listening to song after song, aria after aria, without really getting anywhere which, as someone who really needs to feel productive and forward moving, means I often walk away from repertoire searches empty handed. A very frustrating turn of events, let me tell you.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

In today’s technological society, it shocks me how few people truly use technology to their advantage. Turn what would otherwise be wasted time into productive time. 30-minute train commute to University/ Work? Find an artist you admire (any voice type!) and hit shuffle on Spotify. Working on an essay or series of translations in the library? Leave autoplay on when listening on Youtube. I have discovered a great many wonderful pieces this way.

As a side note: I’ve aluded to it before but, please, don’t just listen to your voice type. You’re missing out on so many great artists and such great repertoire if you do. For my final recital this year I performed a selection of three wonderful Massenet songs, two of which were only available as recordings by men (one only by a baritone). 

If I only listened to sopranos all day every day I would never have found these beautiful mélodie, which would have been a real shame.

Ask for Advice

How many of you reading this have a singing teacher you respect and admire? Quite a few, I’d imagine. Why waste this bountiful resource right at your fingertips. In most cases, your teacher has been there, done that, and has been through exactly what you’re going through. On top of that, there’s a high chance they’ve probably heard music you haven’t even come across yet, and may be able to make suitable suggestions.

Having spoken to a few of my colleagues at University, I am aware that some teachers are adamant that students find their own repertoire to bring to lessons. This may well be the case, but I’ll bet you all the money in my purse (it’s not much, mind you) that a quality teacher would never allow you to realistically pursue repertoire that didn’t suit you or that you weren’t quite ready to study just yet.

As I’ve said, your teacher will almost always be far more experienced than you, so for the love of music don’t throw a diva strop just because your teacher told you singing a massive Strauss lieder or Puccini aria at 15 years old is a bit much, especially if you are likely to develop into a performer capable of the role. They know what they’re talking about.

Constantly being told ‘not yet’ or ‘maybe in a few years’ when you find repertoire you absolutely love is soul-crushing, I know, but believe me, you’d be surprised how quickly those few years fly by.

Attend Recitals

You’re studying to be a musician. Chances are, this means you love music and going to concerts. I’ve some good news; you can use these concerts and recitals to make you a better singer. Bonus!

A top tip if you’re using a recital to find new repertoire; get a program. I don’t know how many times I’ve been to a recital, found the perfect song, and then been completely unable to remember the song’s name (or worse, never having even been told the song’s name) and therefore not being able to ever find the bloody thing.

Just Gie It a Go

Found a song or aria? Not sure you like it? Try it anyway. Some of my favourite pieces have been songs I’ve absolutely detested when I’ve started learning them.

If all else fails and these tips just haven’t thrown up that perfect piece, head into your university library, pick up a vocal anthology and open it on a random page. It might be a win. It might be a bust. It’ll definitely be something that may come in useful in your development as a singer.