So… this may be a little thin for it’s own page but I had it as a section on the Songbooks page and it never really seem to fit, then it started growing… now it’s here.



I’m still pretty early in my sing-a-long manager life, the latest was really only my 3rd or 4th attempt, but I think I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on it and it’s not as easy as I assumed it would be. The most important thing I’ve learned is that YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN! No matter how many people say “bring your uke, I love to sing!” it will not happen if you don’t make it happen (at least I’ve never seen that happen).


The Most Important Part – Songs

It all starts with a good song list. Making a good sing-a-long song list is an art. Remember how much love and time you put into making mix tapes for your high school girlfriend? They had to be perfect. Well… it’s like that only you’re trying to please more than one person, all the songs have to sound good on the uke AND you want your audience to sing the songs, not just listen to them.

– In General –

Most songs are about love and/or feelings that I wouldn’t necessarily call positive… These don’t really lend themselves to belting out with a bunch of friends around the campfire. The occasional dark ditty is fun to throw in as a novelty but in general you want to stick to the small percentage of positive songs. Many songs are hard to sing. Let It Go and Bohemian Rhapsody would be really cool but (again, with the possible exception of novelty factor) they can bring a good sing-a-long to a screeching halt. I recommend to try and keep it simple. So, even though we’ve eliminated 95% of the songs out there, there are so many songs left that we’ve still got plenty to choose from. Enough negativity, some attributes to look for… Nostalgia, a lot of those old FM one hit wonders that you loved to hate for being too vanilla are great. Simple, top of the lungs lyrics, a memory spark and a chorus heard way too many times really work. Engaging, try and find a couple songs that lend themselves to getting people involved. Call and return, single out people for verses by way of random pointing, split the group in to two groups… stuff like that.

– Specifically –

So I start early (at least a month before the event), I consider characteristics like event type, audience age, audience musical taste, etc. For example, my last sing-a-long had all ages from grand parents to grand kids so I really needed a wide variety of music types. I looked for (and found) examples of songs that I liked, and worked well on the uke, from country, kids, classic rock and some current stuff. Based on this I put something together then send it out to the target market. This gives an opportunity to provide input (and practice if so desired). Though I do offer to take input songs have to work and be playable on the uke so veto is possible and I am the final approver. I usually don’t get a lot of input so try to be emotionally prepared for that. The number of songs is important too. You don’t want to overwhelm people with too much to choose from or overwhelm yourself with too much to learn and practice but at the same time you want to have enough variety that there are a couple options for each music type / person. It’s okay if you don’t get to all your songs, more is better than not enough, but not too much. Easy, right?

You can see some of the songbooks I’ve put together on my Songbooks page.


Make It As Easy As Possible For Everyone

Once the song list has solidified (maybe a week before the event) I print out hard copies. I print a lyrics only version for each attendee and a tab / chord sheet version for me. I make sure they are usable meaning they have page numbers and a table of contents so it’s easy to see all the options and say “Freefallin’ page 18” and everyone can find it without too much trouble.


Put It On The Agenda

The last step is just to make sure it happens at the event. Put it on the schedule… give everyone a 20 minute warning… whatever it takes… make sure time is set aside and make sure everyone is aware.


It Might Feel Weird But…

On a side note: I rarely like to have (much less convey) the attitude “trust me, you don’t think this is going to be fun but I know better for you” but this is one case where that attitude is really justified. I find that even the most anti-social / too cool for school individuals really enjoy a good sing-a-long after being forced to participate. If you put a lot of time, expertise and love in to creating a good sing-a-long it will be fun and people will really have a good time.


I Think In Bullets

So, in summary:

  • Create a playlist
    • At least one month before the event
    • Consider the audience, event and what makes a good sing-a-long song
    • Find a good quantity and variety
    • Send it out
    • Give people a chance to practice it and give input
  • Finalize and print hard copies
    • lyrics only version for each attendee
    • Tab versions for uke players
    • Include page numbers and TOC
  • Make it happen
    • Get it on the event schedule
    • Tell people when it’s going to happen
  • Believe it will rock
    • Tell others it will rock
    • I will rock

Did I miss anything? Is this good? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Have fun.


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