expressive worship

4 Things to Remember When Doing Only 1 Song

It isn’t easy to work with just one song. Whether it’s a solo in church, a special event appearance, or even an audition – the pressure is on! You have to be ready to “bring it” right away.

After years and years of judging contests and observing the 1-song showcase or audition, the cold, hard truth is that I can count the “one song masters” on one hand! But I have learned that there are 4 main characteristics of those who do well with their one song.

First of all:

1. All of them are well prepared. They have rehearsed the song so many times that they aren’t “thinking” about what they should sing, say, or do. They are completely comfortable, and it looks and feels natural.

Sufficient preparation will allow you to be comfortable on the platform and give you confidence. So learn the fundamentals, such as placement onstage, angles, the five places to go, and the four tools you can use to sing a song, and practice them over and over.

One artist I worked with thought it would be really cool to try a new song on an awards show one year. You could tell no one in the band was comfortable with it, but they thought it would be “hip” to do something nobody expected. Their “hip” idea turned out to be a pure disaster! They were trying to impress people, and that’s always a big mistake. They should have played a song they’d played 100 times before, that they did really well, and that worked.

Which brings us to:

2. Song selection. Learn how to choose a song that complements and showcases what you do well. In sports, they call it “staying within yourself.” Don’t try to do more than you are capable of doing. You want to find a groove right out of the chute and make that emotional connection right away, and the right song is the first step.

But what if you have several songs to choose from? That brings us to the third thing:

3. Know your audience. Is it a Sunday morning worship service? Is it special music for the local VFW club dinner event? Is it an audition for a summer festival slot? What are they looking for? Great musicality, a great performance, a great song, a certain message? You need to know who is watching you and why. Try to figure out what they are expecting, without changing who you are!

And finally, there’s the matter of how to present the song. You need to remember to:

4. Keep the integrity of the song. This is critical vocally, musically, and visually. Quite often, less is more, especially in the beginning of the song. But always use the song as your script!

A great way to “showcase” a voice, harmonies, or lyrics is to choose a song with a memorable chorus. Begin with the chorus a cappella and/or out of meter. Maybe use a stool at the appropriate time to help communicate your song. In an audition or competition, if you emotionally connect with the judges, your chances increase at getting the gig or at least just having an impact on them.

As a song builds musically, vocally, and dynamically, you need to be more expressive in order to help keep the integrity of the song. Remember, people want to see the music, not just hear it. In many cases, people aren’t able to pinpoint why performances affect them, they just know when they do. Communication is 15% content, 30% tone and emotion, and 55% what you do with your body, which means  your audience wants to see and feel your passion.

So, the next time you are performing only 1 song, use these tips and tools and something good will probably happen!

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Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson, world renowned Live Music Producer, helps musicians and worship teams develop songs into “unique worship moments.” His Live Music Methods help create freedom in the room so your congregation can express their worship more freely and passionately than ever before! Tom has worked with nearly every genre from rock to pop to Christian Gospel, impacting major artists and worship leaders such as Jars of Clay, Casting Crowns, NewSong, Sidewalk Prophets, Chris Tomlin, Francesca Battistelli, Todd Agnew, Phillips, Craig & Dean, Parachute Band, The Martins, plus a multitude of independent artists.

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  1. Larry Shaw says:

    Tom, this one blog is PRICELESS in value – if only we would put all those thoughts into practice! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Samuel John says:

    Tom Jackson,
    I love this post. I’ve always wondered the unique requirements that a one-song set demands. At our church, like most churches, our ‘offering’ is typically done separately from the worship set, and in a way that makes the ‘offering song’ a one-song set. It has always challenged me: how can I engage an audience, and bring them to a place of surrender to God… all in one song? It’s a challenge, but one I face with excitement.
    This post offers some practical insight into what to do. Thanks for the tips!

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