What Do I Sing About?

by Deb Rabbai

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When I was starting to improvise musically, I found myself grasping at straws around exactly what to sing about.

I remember the very first thing I sang; it was a blues verse and the suggestion was Mayor Koch (I’m totally dating myself now). I was so lost! All I remember was that I rhymed Koch with crotch and I felt awful. I was a slave to rhyming and what a word I chose to rhyme!!!

Over the years I’ve found that there are lots of places to take cues from when embarking on singing about something and not having to feel like a slave to the rhyme. I’m not going to list areas of content but merely point your attention in the direction of ways to think about what you might sing about in the moment.

Environment

Often the music may suggest a style or time period. In those time periods or styles if you let yourself and your imagination run free you can imagine a place where this music may be set. In thinking of that place, you begin to see it and imagine yourself in it. Describing the place where you are can be a really great way to embrace the feeling for your song.

Emotion

The music may also suggest a feeling, mood, or sensibility. In being open to what’s being played - if you allow yourself the freedom to feel whatever those emotions may be - you may be compelled to sing about that emotion. In singing about it, you help yourself define how you feel in the song.

Metaphor and Simile

Sometimes comparing one thing to another and then justifying those choices can be really challenging and really fun. For example; “My heart is a bird that takes wing when you call my name.” How else is my heart like a bird? Fragile? Small? Curious? Innocent? These are fun things to explore.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that staying open and listening to the music is of primary importance when starting to sing about something? Letting the music move you and guide you, even lyrically, is the best place to start.

Deb Rabbai's Phony Award Winning Songs