Dos and Don’ts Of Your Opening Song

Dos and Don’ts Of Your Opening Song
When it comes to the beginning of your show, imagine you are ‘dating’ the audience –says Tom Jackson.

I have seen great artists start their show off on the wrong foot – like an awkward date. I teach them how to choose the right opening song so that they – and their audience – can relax and connect.

The song you pick to open your show should reflect how people on a date like to greet each other.

The song you pick to open your show should reflect how people on a date like to greet each other

Don’t Show Off

If you open your set with your most virtuosic vocal riffs and high notes, that would be like getting in the car on your first date and saying, “Hi! Did you know I have a Mercedes? I’ve got lots of money too!”

That would be arrogant. Later in the date, some of that information may come out, but it is not how you would start.

Do Remember: They Don’t Know You Yet

I’m sure you have been to a concert where an emcee introduces the opening band saying, “Ladies and gentlemen – have we got a treat for you…”

Then the opening act comes out and says, “Come on everybody, stand up and put your hands together with me!”

If I’m in the audience, I’m thinking, “Whoa! I don’t even know you yet!”

Do I want to stand up and put my hands together at some point in the night?

Give your audience time to get to know you before you try to get them hyped up

Yes! But I am not there yet.

Give your audience time to get to know you before you try to get them hyped up.

Don’t Force It

I think it is so strange when, before a single song has even been sung, an artist says, “Are you having a good time!?”

Imagine if I pick up a girl she gets in the car and I go “Hey, are you having a good time?” She’s thinking, “I don’t know – we haven’t done anything yet!”

As you start your show, you don’t need to try and get everyone having a great time right away.

Remember, the date is just starting.

Do Follow My Top Ten Characteristics of an Opening Song

In my course, I teach artists the following characteristics of a good opening song. If you follow this formula, you’ll be able to pick the best opening song in any situation.

A Great Opening Song:


A great opening song has no extended vocal licks / solos where you try to show off

  1. Has an energy level of 3.5 out of 5. In other words, not too high, not too low.
  2. Is short.
  3. Has no extended solos.
  4. Has no extended vocal licks/solos where you try to show off.
  5. Has “horizontal” subject matter. In other words, the lyrics are directed from you to a specific character – it is not about your deep personal angst, or God, or the world.
  6. Is easy for the audience to move to. It has a good groove.
  7. Doesn’t require you to think about breathing, vocal technique or movement.
  8. Has a high level of comfort for you and the band.
  9. Has a “trash can” ending (also called train wreck). This sounds like: Buuuuuuuum brump! The audience knows exactly when to clap.
  10. When the song ends, listen to your audience – read them. They are telling you what your next move should be. You’ve prepared your plan for the show, but you can make little adjustments to respond to the vibe you get form your audience.

Tom Jackson photoTom Jackson is the author of Tom Jackson’s Live Music Method, and the DVD series All Roads Lead To The Stage. He tours internationally as a live music producer and speaker as well as being the founder of Live Music Cares, which helps touring musicians bring awareness and fundraising to charitable organizations. Find out more about Tom at On Stage Success and Tom Jackson Productions.

Lang_Bliss picTom’s team of certified live music producers includes Lang Bliss, who will be contributing this month’s feedback for our singing competition entries.

Lang Bliss has played and sung with award-winning artists including Michael W. Smith, Rich Mullins, Michael McDonald, and has been a songwriter for BMG publishing. Find out more about Lang Bliss.

Here is Lang’s feedback for this week’s competition entry:

My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry

Mu-sonic Mu-sonic - More Than Words

Mu-sonic has spent a lot of time developing his talent and picked a great tune to do.

It seems that this song is a great fit for him both on the guitar and vocally.

His guitar playing is somewhat more developed than his vocal skill, so the recommendation I‘d make is to get with a great vocal coach to smooth out some of the “rough spots” in terms of range and tonal quality when he moves out of his most comfortable range.

Why I chose Mu-sonic as a Finalist

I chose Mu-sonic to move on in the competition because I feel he has put the time in on his instrument and voice and I like how he made the song “his own”. Great job!