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How To Nail Your Showtune Cover On YouTube

YouTube, Showtunes, Theatre Nerds

If you’re anything like me, you likely spend more hours than you’d care to admit getting lost down a deep, dark rabbit hole of YouTube videos related to all things theater. The site makes it all too easy to click, click, click until you’ve tracked down a bootlegged version of “Hamilton” that miraculously hasn’t been taken down yet. You’ve watched so many Jeremy Jordan performances that you’ve started to convince yourself that somewhere, in a glorious alternate universe, you are meant for each other — or maybe that’s just me.

As great as YouTube is at miraculously melting away minutes of your day, it’s also a fantastic way to get your name, face and voice out there as a performer. Whether you’re just starting off on down the yellow brick road of a theater-lovin’ journey or are a seasoned pro looking to get some more facetime with your fans, here are some tips for creating a high-quality YouTube cover video that will showcase your skills.

Choose the Right Equipment

In an age of iPhones, PhotoBooth and selfie sticks, it can be tempting to avoid forking over a wad of hard-earned cash in favor of some of your more accessible tech. However, as much we’re led to believe in the unparalleled powers of these itty-bitty cameras, it pays here to have some professional gear.

In this case, your microphone is way more important than the camera you use. Some microphones on the market are specifically meant for podcasts and plug right into your computer with a USB. Before you buy one, just make sure it’s OK for singing, since some made for only conversational speech might not be able to handle your high-G (as impressive as it is).

Make sure to read customer reviews of a mic before you buy one that’s right for you. If you’re planning on making multiple YouTube videos or performing in the future, they’re absolutely worth the investment.

Pick the Right Song

This can be a tough one. After all, how is it possible to choose the perfect song when you’re selecting from a songbook of millions? In this case, practice makes perfect. Pick out a playlist of some of your Broadway favorites, close your bedroom door and jam out by yourself for a while to see which ones feel just meh and which ones make you feel like a full-blown hallelujah chorus is emanating from your vocal cords.

You’ll get bonus points if the song is remotely popular at the time, since more people will likely be searching for it while perusing YouTube. This is a double-edged sword, though, since you don’t want to sing that same song everyone else on the internet has decided to sing.

Really, though, it’s about picking something that’s in your range, that you feel comfortable singing and that is going to translate well onscreen. If the bridge feels just a taaaaad too high or you’re finding the character in question too absurd for your comfort level, it’s best to put down the sheet music and find something that really suits you.

Looking for some sheet music? MusicNotes is a great resource and has plenty of Broadway tunes.

Enlist the Help of a Friend

Two is better than one, as they say, and grabbing one of your musical-loving friends could be just the thing that takes your YouTube video to the next level. It might feel a little weird to ask, “Hey, want to come over and sing ‘All I Ask of You’ fifty times in front of a camera together?” but the best of friends will be all for it. After all, performers love any opportunity they can get to perform.

Even if the song you’re performing isn’t a traditional duet, you can get creative with harmonies that will give the solo showtune an imaginative spin. It will require a little more musical know-how on your end to get the tune just right, but that’s all part of the fun!

Make the Song Your Own

A cover wouldn’t be a cover if you merely stared straight at the camera and imitated the exact vocal intricacies of the album recording — though if you’re an impersonator, this might be the exact gig for you. No, the key to recording a one-of-a-kind cover is letting yourself shine through with the song. This might mean adding a riff where it feels right or changing the tune slightly from the one sung by the OG cast.

This is your one-person show, and if you’re brave enough to post yourself singing on YouTube, you’re brave enough to take control of the material you’ve chosen to sing. You want your interpretation to be solely your own. This may take a little more practice on your end to nail down exactly what you want to change and what you want to retain, but fans watching you online will have a great deal of respect when a note they’ve become accustomed to is suddenly changed — and it magically works.

Put a Unique Spin on Your Tune

This is closely linked to the point above, but getting attention in your YouTube videos sometimes requires a little more than a fantastic voice and quality camera and sound equipment. You may have to get a little creative. What if you tackled a “Les Miserables” jam while strumming your guitar? What if you sang a song that’s predominantly performed by a member of the opposite sex? What if, rather than sitting in your room and facing your camera at your bedroom wall, you went outside and performed while walking down your street?

Anything you can do that sets your video apart from the rest that exist online will only gain you more of a following. It might be tempting to sit down one night and take one video of yourself wailing through “Memory” when you’re feeling particularly warmed up, but planning things out creatively and thinking your song choice through will have the best effects.

Though it can be downright terrifying to put yourself out there and press the “Upload” button on a Broadway YouTube video, using these tips will help put you in the best position possible to launch your online stardom. Who knows? One day when you’re bringing audiences to their feet on the Great White Way, someone in your shoes might be looking back at your earliest videos to see where you got your start.

Looking for examples? Here’s a few of our favorites….

Have a cover on the web? We’d love to see it, leave a link below in the comments…

Written by Brianna Hand

Bri Hand is a writer, editor, and theater aficionado based out of Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to performing in musicals throughout high school, Bri spends her time doing deep research on them to fuel both her writing and conversations.


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