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Arts & Entertainment

Selecting a Song

Reba McEntire

Lesson time 15:26 min

Melody, lyrics, relatability. Learn how Reba assesses what makes a great country song, using examples from “Fancy”, Merle Haggard’s “Carolyn”, and others.

Reba McEntire
Teaches Country Music
Reba teaches her approach to making great country music and navigating the business in 21 video lessons.
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Song selection is so important for a new artist because you don't know how many shots you're going to have at a song release on radio. If it's your first single it could be your last. It could be the first of maybe five, and after five shots you're out. I was very lucky when I got started in 1976. They were more patient. I don't know that they forgot about me, whatever, but I got to continue releasing songs. And my first one, I think it peaked at 88 on the charts. And it was six years before I got a number one record. Things are moving at a very faster pace nowadays than they were when I was first starting in the music business. You don't get as long of a time. You know, there's a new girl on the block, there's somebody else coming in maybe with a better song. So have all your ducks in a row. Make sure you've got the right music, the right song, the right producer to produce the music, the musicians. And when you release that song everything's very important, but the A, number one thing, is that song. When you're in the music business you have to have a song. If you write your own material that's great. My opinion? If you can write that many songs that are number one hits in your mind your wishful thinking, or you're not human. Because I don't know-- there are people who can do that. I am not one of them. I have to depend upon the songwriters and the publishing companies to provide material for me. Without them-- well if it's left up to my song writing talent we're in bad shape. So the publishers, the song pitchers, the songwriters, they're very important to our music community because they are the ones who provide the songs for us to sing. And there's lots of talented songwriters out there. Thank God. When I'm looking for songs first thing I do about six to eight months out, I let the publishing company know that I'm looking for songs, this is when I'm going to record. That's number one. That's what you got to do. And then number two is what I do, I start accepting all these songs. They have to be published. You know, because it gets a little sticky if I listen to a song that's not published and then in my subconscious a year or two later, I write something that's similar to that. I could get sued. It's happened before, not to me, but other people. So you have to be very careful about that. And so then when I listen to the songs, the songs that I don't like at all, I let them go. The ones I really do like, or maybe just kind of like, I keep. And I keep listening to them over and over. And the songs that I want to keep listening to over and over those are the ones that usually make the list of the ones I'm going to record. When I'm listening to songs trying to find a song to record, I can tell after a verse and a chorus if that's a song I'm going to keep to listen to a second time, sometimes it's ...

For Love of Country

You know her songs. Her Oklahoma charm. Now learn directly from Reba in her first-ever online class. Join her as she records a never-before-heard song, creates a new acoustic version of Fancy, breaks down her hits, and delivers emotional performances on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. This is more than a music class. This is Reba's life, business, and country music MasterClass.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

The class has taught me to be a better performer, and reminded me that the audience deserves a flawless performance no matter how I am feeling.

Enjoyed the honesty, frankness and the entire picture presented from the artist's point of view of the music business.

I helps me to be me more authentically through improving how I express myself.

Enchanting to see the humanity, the life, the armour and the frailties of one in the top of the game. Love you, Reba


Dean J.

Dean -Canada Listening to Reba even n her opening Words. She has renewed my passion for music and causeme to pick up my guitar again . A talent that I have put on hold to long. As Reba was talking about Selecting a Good Song . I realized that I need to use my voice to be the pallet of colors, I choose from to paint the Canvas. The Canvas is the People's hearts. To have the song paint for them the Feelings . Emotions and Memories in the lyrics. The song must be vivid with color like an artist brush . The words of the Song must touch your heart in order to touch others. I realized that a Song is more than just words it has a life.

Ashie N.

This has really helped me understand feelings and instincts when song writing and selecting songs!

Gretchen T.

What do you guys think of your own songwriting? I just wrote a bunch but I don't know if it has potential or not. Perhaps recruiting a songwriter and see what happens. I like to write songs on different life stories I have had.

Ed W.

I like writing songs and lyrics (they just come to me sometimes). But my songs are only heard by me and a few others (good feedback though) when I bring my guitar on some retreats - but beyond that, they are just my songs. It was good to hear about stuff I didn't consider about audience and listening, in case I ever think about doing anything with them.

Edward F.

I can't be the only person who thought that the guy who sang the original demo was awesome...

Pete B.

This is great. Just wish it covered the process of getting access to listen to demos from publishers. This would be easy for Reba, but can anyone access them if they have never been released by other artists? Do publishers have a site online here I can listen to demos?

Pamela E.

I am very interested in song writing. I am constantly thinking of song lyrics, themes, and music but I have no training in how to actually write and submit a song. What did Reba mean when she said a song had to be "published" before she would consider it? My preference is story songs which may come from my Celtic heritage where telling stories is as much a way of life as breathing.

Kelly B.

I really appreciated your honest and straightforward advice, Reba in this lesson. You humanize the process of song selection by making it relatable. Thank you! :)

Margaret M.

Whoa, Reba's a businesswoman! I thought this was fascinating. Relatable songs: "For My Broken Heart," Reba>This was on the radio when I was getting over the worst breakup of my life. I'd hear it and think, Yeah, that's exactly it. "Who'll Stop the Rain," CCR. "Tangled up in Blue," Bob Dylan. Melody: "Galveston," Jimmy Webb, "Travelling Soldier," Dixie Chicks [this one made my sister cry, first time she heard it], "Whoever's in New England," Reba. Lyrics: "The Gambler," Kenny Rogers, "Pancho and Lefty," Townes Van Zandt, "A Case of You," Joni Mitchell.

Yolanda H.

Melodies: Mama said, don’t say I do if you don’t (original) Mr Mom (Lonestar) I hope you’re feeling me (Charlie Pride, orig, but I prefer the uptempo version) Tennessee Whiskey (Chris Stapleton) Baby, let’s lay down and dance (Garth Brooks) Bear tracks/Ole Slew Foot (Johnny Horton) Roses in the snow (Emmylou Harris) There is a time (Dilliards/Darlings) Are you lonesome tonight (Carter family version) Tennessee 1949 (Larry Sparks) Blue Ridge Mountain Boy (Dolly Parton) Broken Halos (Chris Stapleton) Merry go round (Kacey Muscgraves) Turn On The Radio (Reba McEntire) Lyrics: Mama said, don’t say I do if you don’t (original) Mr Mom (Lonestar) Wrong about you (Garth Brooks) Going out like that (Reba McEntire) Pass me by if you’re only passing through (Johnny Rodriguez) There is a time (Dilliards/Darlings) Fancy (Reba McEntire) Things are tough all over (Shelby Lynne) Sugar Hill (Dolly Parton) Tacoma (Caitlyn Smith) Burgers and fries and cherry pies (Charlie Pride) I hope you dance (Lee Ann Womack) Mama, he's crazy (The Judds) Merry go round (Kacey Muscgraves) Silver Lining (Kacey Muscgraves) Cry pretty (Carrie Underwood) What Makes You Country (Luke Bryan) Bucked Off (Brad Paisley) Don’t rock the jukebox (Alan Jackson) Turn On The Radio (Reba McEntire) Relatability / touching: Mama said, don’t say I do if you don’t (original) Stranger things have happened (Ronnie Milsap) A picture of me without you (Lorrie Morgan) When you say nothing at all (Aliison Kraus) Is There Life Out There (Reba McEntire) Jesus, take the wheel (Carrie Underwood) I hope you dance (Lee Ann Womack) The River (Garth Brooks) Broken Halos (Chris Stapleton) Mama, he's crazy (The Judds) Y’all Come (Bill Monroe) Love Someone (Lukas Graham) Miss Me More (Kelsea Ballerini) People loving people (Garth Brooks) Coat of many colors (Dolly Parton)