School is about to begin again, and many of you new students will be entering college as singers. There are a lot of resources available to you new singers, and this list is meant to help get you started on the right foot with sheet music.
Your goal as a freshman is to become aware of many different styles of music and composers while improving your young technique without putting any undue strain on it. These books are meant to help that.
The First Book Series
Voice teacher Joan Frey Boytim compiled these books to aid young singers and teachers find good repertoire for their beginning voices. They have a wide range of musical styles from the late Renaissance up to now, and they are challenging enough to be interesting without being too hard for young voices.
As a teacher, I have found some excellent material that I previously did not know.
[All book images are from (left to right) highest voice to lowest voice.]
Italian Songs and Arias books
It is almost a rite of passage to sing some or all of the so-called “Italian Songs and Arais”. You can sing these for your whole life and benefit from them.
What you should know is that these are old arias, and in the 19th century someone wrote out some Romantic sounding accompaniments for them. They are very pretty but are not historically accurate. However, those are the most popular versions:
There has lately been a resurgence of interest in authentic performance practice for these songs, and as such a variety of new books have come out. The ones that I’ve used were edited by John Glenn Paton, and they include images of the original sheet music, translations, more historically accurate accompaniment, ornament suggestions, IPA for pronunciation, and some history about the composer and opera. They are excellent resources!
Musical Theater Anthologies
At some point, you will sing musical theater pieces whether they are for your teacher or for an audition. The best renditions that I have found are in the Musical Theater Anthology series. The keys and accompaniments are very similar to the shows from which they are taken, which is different from “Fake book” versions that transpose the keys and offer basic chordal accompaniments.
If your voice is on the edge of being high or low, then it might be in your interest to buy two versions. Personally, I own both baritone and tenor versions of these books because voice types are often not as clear in musical theater as they are in opera. For example, is Freddie from My Fair Lady a tenor or a high baritone? Well, he’s in the tenor book, but “On the Street Where You Live” is not as high as “If I Loved You”, which is in the baritone book.
Of course, you should buy whatever your teacher asks of you, but these are very common books for young singers.
You Should Buy Your Sheet Music
Unless it is public domain, you should buy your sheet music rather than photocopy someone’s. For one thing, it is illegal oftentimes to make photocopies. For another, it is much easier to manage sheet music in books than as scattered sheets, and when you need to look up new repertoire, books make it much easier. Lastly, some competitions (like NATS competitions) insist that you have the original sheet music with you, or else they will not let you compete.
Any other suggestions? If you have questions, comments or concerns, then please share them in a comment below.
[Sheet music photo by Kay Körner, Dresden]