The second half of The Beatles's "Abbey Road' consists of a 16-minute medley of several songs. Named the 14th greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone, "Abbey Road" is a testament to the power of an effective and engaging medley. You can make your own song medley as well, whether using popular songs or your own. In order to make an effective medley, you will need to be careful in your song selection, performance style and ordering of sections and transitions. With some attention to detail, you too can construct an entertaining and effective medley.
Create a theme or style for your medley. You could make a medley of songs about heartbreak or one made up of only folk songs. Your choices are limitless. You could make a medley of totally unrelated songs as well. The quality of a medley depends on the sum of its parts. Pick songs that you enjoy and know the words and/or music to, as it is difficult to remember the music and lyrics for several songs played in succession. For the same reason, keep the number of songs or parts of songs in your medley to something manageable. You can make a medley of two full songs or one comprised of several shorter sections.
Determine the key of your medley. A medley that flows well will consist of songs all in the same key. If you can, pick songs that are all in the same key. If your songs are all in different keys, pick a key you are comfortable with and sing them all in that key. This will have an effect on the pitch of different sections of songs. Depending on the key you choose, some verses or choruses will sound lower or higher than normal and may be difficult to sing. If you decide to keep the original, differing keys to each song, you will have to think of interesting transitions into each new key change.
Determine the tempo of your medley. This is semi-contingent on the songs that you have chosen. A slow ballad and an upbeat rock and roll song will have different tempos and you will have to compromise on one tempo in order to make the medley fluid. Use this to your advantage. A fast take on a traditionally slow ballad will put an interesting spin on a familiar song and will take your medley beyond the point of merely stitching songs together to a wholly original place. As was the case with the key of the song, you don't necessarily have to choose one tempo. If you don't, you will need to change tempo on cue, a difficult thing to do, especially with more than one person or a band involved.
Experiment with your medley until it sounds cohesive. Try different combinations of verses and choruses. Establish a theme. For example, you can use the chorus for one song as a transition into all the different songs in your medley. Use dynamics in your medley, raising and lowering the energy and intensity throughout it to keep the listener interested. Once you have the medley the way you want it, practice it several times over to make sure you remember all the parts and, most importantly, that it sounds great!
James Gilmore has written professionally since 2005. Since then, he has written and proofread obituaries for "The Press & Sun-Bulletin" in Binghamton, N.Y., press releases for "Goals, Seminars and Consultants" and articles for Made Man and various other websites. He writes a good deal of music-related content and holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Ithaca College.