A healthy competition that encourages collaboration, talent, and self-esteem
It’s impossible to please all of your participants with song choice, especially when they’re at different skill levels and have different musical tastes. So, how do you keep everyone engaged? A Cover Song Challenge is a great way to increase participants’ motivation, provide them a sense of independence, and recognize their efforts. Active participants, beginners, and members who wouldn’t usually get involved all have the opportunity to try new things, collaborate, and showcase their skills.
Plan a Master Schedule for the semester for the Cover Song Challenge
Plan an entire semester’s worth of weekly “Cover Song Challenge” themes. Try to create categories that can be achievable at any skill level.
Create a “Cover Song Challenge” approved Song List
Choose a diverse set of popular songs with participants’ musical tastes in mind. Be mindful of the level of difficulty. Have song materials ready and adapted for various skill levels.
By limiting song options to a common playlist, you give participants a sense of “guided choice.” They are in control of what song they choose from the list.
A set song list also makes it easier for the staff to prepare appropriate learning materials such as tablature, sheet music, song form, lyric sheets, and Workshop resources.
Each week, post new cover song challenge flyers in prominent locations
Participants work with staff and their peers to prepare their cover song, including:
Selecting a song from the approved Song List
Learning, practicing, and rehearsing individually or with a group
Soliciting feedback from vocal instructors
Setting up a recording session or a video performance that will be used as their submission for the challenge
Participants submit their cover song using some or all of the following methods:
Cell phone audio or video
iPad audio or video
A multi-tracked session in the studio
Everyone listens to each cover song and chooses a winner for the week
Selecting a winner. There are multiple ways you can select your winner each week, the goal is to be consistent.
Staff members choose their favorite cover song each week
Youth participants vote each week
Present the winner with an award
One idea is to create and frame “Cover Song Challenge” Golden Record awards to present to the winner each week. (e.g. Paint old vinyl records or CDs with gold spray paint; print a certificate; etc.)
Consider displaying the Golden Record Awards in a prominent location within your program space (e.g. in the hallway, studio wall, trophy case, etc.)
Help participants channel their inner Milli Vanilli while learning stage presence
A Lip Sync Battle is a fun and silly “performance” that gets participants to know each other and conquer their stage fright. Vocal performers lip sync on stage in front of their peers while instrumentalist “air” play (guitar, bass, drums, keys, etc). This helps eliminate the need for knowing how to play while allowing inexperienced performance start to think about stage presence and getting comfortable in front of a crowd.
“Love is a Battlefield” – Two teams test their knowledge of commonly used lyrics in love songs!
Music is a universal language and it’s favorite topic is love! This icebreaker activity puts your participants love of music to the test. Which team can identify the most songs that include “Love Lyrics” and which team will leave the game broken-hearted?
Decide on the length of the game (ie. first team to “x” number of points or the team with most points after “x” number of minutes/rounds, etc.
Evenly divide a group of participants into two teams or, play off the “love” theme, divide the group into male vs. female.
At the start of each round the staff members pick a “Love Lyric” ie. a specific word that is commonly used in love songs like “Love” or “baby” (see sample list below).
The teams go back and forth and naming songs that include the round’s “Love Lyric”.
Staff members check/google the song’s lyrics to make sure it includes the round’s “Love Lyric”
If a team mistakenly identifies a song that does NOT include the round’s “Love Lyric” then the other team gets a point.
Also, if a team can’t think of a song that includes the round’s “Love Lyric” then the other team gets a point.
Tips and variations:
To keep the game moving quickly, set a time limit of 5 or 10 seconds for each team to think of a song that contains the round’s “Love Lyric”.
Have members sing the lyrics each round
Play love songs in the background while playing the game
“Last one standing” – form a circle, choose a “Love Lyric” and go around the circle naming songs until there is only one person left.
Choose different themes and/or lyrics
Write down songs that you don’t know or add them to a playlist (insight into your members’ musical interests)
Go beyond “check one, two!” Tips that help participants feel comfortable and sound their best
Many young musicians have never performed on stage in front of others and the experience can be overwhelming. Give you participants opportunities to discuss and practice seven tips to have an effective soundcheck. Topics include helping your participants understand the importance of being friendly, on time, prepared, aware, assertive, realistic, and respectful.
Before a performance, schedule a soundcheck rehearsal to discuss and practice the seven tips below. Use your personal performance experience to discuss why these proper etiquette during a soundcheck is important and how it will ultimately benefit their performance and sound. After the discussion, run practice soundchecks to help participants understand what makes an effective soundcheck. Help reduce stress and make the process fun until everyone is comfortable with their sound.
Seven Tips for an Effective Soundcheck:
Be friendly: No egos. Everyone is learning, trying their best, and wants you to sound your best.
Be on time: Whether you’re part of a band or solo act, there may be others waiting for you to check.
Be prepared: Do you have all your gear? Are you in tune? Are you mentally prepared?
Be aware: Watch the front of house sound engineer for any instructions or questions.
Be assertive: Can hear yourself and others? Having other issues? Speak up (in a nice way).
Be realistic: Don’t be shy! Perform like it’s the show – this helps engineer get accurate level settings.
Be respectful: Don’t distract others while they are sound checking by talking or playing an instrument.
Specific soundcheck tips for the band:
Want to sound your best? Sing an actual song (don’t just repeat, “check 1, 2…”)
Sing close to the mic (the sound engineer will turn your volume up or down when needed)
Please DON’T tap the mic!
Pointing the mic at monitors or speakers will cause feedback
Set your stage level volume on your amp/instrument so that you can hear yourself
Please don’t adjust knobs or levels when you’re done checking (unless asked)
Sound engineers will make you louder/softer for the audience as needed
Create a performance that participants will remember for the rest of their lives!
Most participants in your Music Studio probably won’t become professional musicians, but why not give them a chance to feel like one while performing on stage?! Creating a Signature Event helps participants look forward to an annual performance and gives them a goal to work towards while building their self-confidence and self-esteem. Whether it’s an Album Release Party, Awards Night, Talent Show, or Vocal Competition, help your participants dream big as they perform for their adoring fans!
Go big! – Create a signature event that involves your participants in something bigger than they ever thought possible. Here are some general tips for creating a memorable Signature Event:
Book a professional concert venue (e.g. House of Blues, Hard Rock, or local college auditorium)
Rent a red carpet, staging, sound system, and lighting
Secure corporate sponsors and special guest performers
Document the special occasion by hiring professional photographers and videographers
Create awards and custom swag (e.g. t-shirts, posters, etc)
Create a buzz promoting your event in the press and community
Get support from other program departments
The Dance Team could choreograph a dance routine and perform on stage
Visual Arts participants can design a flyer or custom T-Shirts
Teen Center members pass out invitations or help with the setup/teardown of equipment
Invite everyone! Plan for EVERYONE in your organization to attend
Rent buses so all youth members at your organization can attend
Staff members chaperone participants in the audience
Invite everyone – administrative staff, board members, friends, and family
Pick a family-friendly day/time to make it easy for people to get there
Make sure the venue has parking or public transportation
Include donors, sponsors, foundations, and program partners. Highlight how their contributions and support made the night possible.
Prepare! In addition to the logistics discussed above, be sure to:
Avoid schedule conflicts. Coordinate with your organizational staff to make sure you choose a date/time free of other program or event conflicts.
Develop a rehearsal schedule so participants are confident on stage
Forget recitals… create youth-led performances that they look forward to!
Teens love Open Mic Nights! Promote a supportive performance environment for all skill levels that reflects your teens’ diverse styles and musical tastes. Increase collaboration by featuring bands and group performances along with solo acts. Encourage your teens to lead these events, empowering participants to develop their leadership skills.
Staff members provide inspiration to all their participants by supporting frequent Open Mic Nights.
Create a regular schedule (e.g. 1st Thursday of the month). Participants stay motivated and grow musically when given a goal to work towards.
Set up a weekly Open Studio time and regular set of workshops to help participants prepare.
Participants choose the songs they want to learn with the goal of performing at the next Open Mic
Help some participants collaborate to perform the song in a band
Create a band on their own with their friends
If a participant doesn’t have friends ready to play, mentors can use youth leaders or other talented musicians to form a band around them
Encourage performances by solo acts or studio collaborations
Performances can include acoustic acts, vocalists, or rappers performing to a track (originals or covers)
Showcase original music productions or music videos.
Youth-led event – In addition to performers, rally other teens to help:
Design flyers and marketing plans.
Make a setlist.
Set up equipment and lighting, and run the soundboard.
Act as the Open Mic emcee.
Promote and support the performers
Transform the vibe of your music room into a concert venue
When possible, set up a stage with stage lights.
Encourage dancing, cheering, and an overall supportive environment.
Invite everyone in the building (e.g. Teen Center participants and staff), friends, and family members.
Promote a supportive environment
“We are all still learning” attitude.
Audience cheers for everyone despite skill level (discourage booing).
Ask the audience to encourage/cheer when nerves are high.
Don’t pressure a participant who is not feeling ready to perform.