So you’re ready for a new vocal endeavor. You’re beginning to build a repertoire of songs, you’ve developed your basic skills of connecting to your breath and exploring your different registers, and it’s time to level up. It can be difficult to comb through the infinite library of music and choose your next project. Maybe you’ve picked something too easy and you were left itching for a challenge, or maybe you’ve tried to sing something too advanced and felt overwhelmed or even defeated. Let us help you navigate the next destination of your vocal journey with this list of 10 intermediate songs.
1. I Can’t Make You Love Me - Bonnie Raitt
You’re nailing your pitch and rhythm with skillful precision, but you need to breathe life into your singing and bring emotion back into the mix. Bonnie Raitt is a great pick to explore your soulful sound, and her lyrics beg for a vocal delivery with conviction and heart. The verses will show off your lower range, and the chorus opens up into higher, longer notes that will get you singing with the same power you hear in Bonnie Raitt’s voice.
2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s - Deep Blue Something
This classic ‘90s one-hit wonder isn’t as easy as it sounds! The chorus moves and moves, leaving virtually no space to breathe in between phrases. This is the perfect opportunity to connect to your breath and take in a lot of air within a little amount of time. Here’s a tip to get you started: mark each breath on your lyric sheet. Most vocalists use apostrophes to mark where to breathe, but you can use any eye-catching symbol that works best for you as you read along.
3. Lovesong - The Cure
Here’s a song for the singer looking to explore a darker sound in their voice. Robert Smith does a fantastic job of creating a warm, dark tone while still keeping his delivery light and airy. Use this song as an exercise in vocal color - darker tones come from further back in the mouth and throat, and brighter tones come from the front of the face. Just like painting, using different colors in your voice lends itself to a more interesting, engaging performance.
4. Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol
While the melodies in this song are fairly simple, you’ll need solid pitch accuracy to sing this effectively. There’s an interval in the verses that jumps from the third scale degree down to the seventh, resolving to the one. Because the melody is so sparse and open, nailing this interval is crucial. An added challenge to this song is to incorporate dynamics into your singing. Listen to the rest of the band and how they build in energy and volume and mirror this arc with your voice.
5. Can’t Help Falling in Love - Elvis Presley
Singing a love ballad like this with long, legato phrases will have you exercising your breath control the entire time. You’ll need to take low, deep breaths into the belly and use that air in a controlled but relaxed exhalation. You don’t want to sound choppy and out of breath - you want to sound as buttery smooth as Elvis did! If you’re looking for more practice with this skill, this song is a great choice.
6. Break My Heart - Dua Lipa
If you’re ready for your pop star moment but aren’t quite ready for the stratospheric Mariah Carey range, here’s your song. You’ll climb up to some higher notes while still having plenty of space to come back down to a more comfortable register. Rhythmically, punchy and percussive lines are sprinkled throughout this entire song. Adding this style and expression to your singing requires strong diction and an intentional balance of vowels and consonants. Think of your voice like a funky guitar, and you’ll be on the right track.
7. Born This Way - Lady Gaga
Not only does this pop hit have an empowering message, but it’s also a great opportunity to show off your vocal agility and stamina. Every section in this tune moves fast and requires high energy throughout, especially the anthemic chorus. Put your breath control and range to the test, and don’t forget that the flexibility you need to sing this can only come from relaxing your larynx and connecting to your diaphragm!
8. I Can See Clearly Now - Johnny Nash
Spread a little sunshine with this feel-good classic! Not only will singing it put you in a good mood, but smiling while you sing can open up the resonant spaces in the front of your face and let those notes ring out with a clear, bright tone. This song also has great contrast between its A and B sections. Dig deep and let those notes fly out when the B section comes along - it’s short but very, very sweet.
9. Come Sail Away - Styx
If you’re looking to steal the show at karaoke night, this is an excellent choice. Take inspiration from Tommy Shaw’s performance here with a bright, forward sound. The sustained notes on the verses require strong breath control, and there are enough opportunities to explore your higher range without biting off more than you can chew. The hard work lies in the first half of this song - once you conquer the verses the chorus is a breeze, and you’ll have everyone singing along with you!
10. Fly Me to the Moon - Frank Sinatra
Here’s our pick for the jazz cats. In listening to Frank Sinatra’s performance, you’ll hear masterful precision in the melodic and rhythmic choices he makes all in an effortless, laid-back delivery. This song is a great starting point to put your ear training and improv to the test. Branch out and make this standard your own - get creative and come up with your own interpretations of the melody!
Now that you have the foundations of vocal technique under your belt, it’s time to craft the finer details of your singing - explore the colors of your voice, experiment with expressions and dynamics, and make the music your own. Whether you choose one or all ten of these recommended songs, you’ll be developing new skills and strengthening those you already have. Once you’ve made your way through this list, check out our Vocals Resources page for more singing tips, or visit a school near you!
About the Author
Stephanie Brill is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She teaches vocals, keyboard + piano, bass guitar, guitar, and even ukulele at School of Rock St. Paul.