What Makes A Song A Comfort Cover?


The concept of Comfort Covers arose naturally from personal practice. As a member of a hospice music group with a mezzo-soprano lead singer, I have found ways to apply my own baritone harmony voice as an enhancement of the intended effect. The arrangements are further elaborations of this basic idea.

The main difference between comfort singing and general performing for audiences flows from objective – instead of showcasing one’s own achievements as musicians, the focus rests on the recipients and the circumstances they find themselves in, circumstances that dictate a service approach to musicianship.

Various settings have been tried and proven to reach this goal. In most of them the human voice takes center stage. Music therapists agree that singing to patients, including non-responsive ones or those suffering from dementia, can have a powerful and positive effect. Since music is processed largely in the lower brain, its impact on emotion remains unaffected, regardless age or physical condition.

Music for comfort and support need not be provided on a professional level. In fact, the average volunteer and amateur may offer just the spontaneity and intimacy to which emotions respond so freely. Most important here are good listening skills and the capacity to step aside from one’s ego. A duo or small group of singers is preferred — no need to crowd our listeners.

Since those facing serious health challenges will muster but little attention to matters outside of their immediate concerns, it is best to keep the songs recognizable, simple, accessible, calming, and not too long. Comfort Covers are designed to fit the bill, with their lower female lead voice, baritone harmony voice and warm, mostly open guitar chords, always within the first five fret positions from the nut.

For these reasons the arrangements have been adapted somewhat. Occasionally, rhythms and chords were slightly simplified and streamlined without affecting recognizability. Here and there an intro or interlude was omitted in order to reduce duration.

The baritone voice doesn’t merely replicate the melody as a “second part” in thirds or sixths. It sings its own tune, modestly winding its way between the mezzo and the bass line of the guitar, thereby amalgamating the three elements into an organic whole and adding that particular quality that turns a song into a Comfort Cover.

The guitar part is printed in chords only, leaving it up to the player to fit these to personal preferences and skills. Listening to tracks of the original songs will be helpful.

One last word regarding our target group: it’s all about them. They decide what to hear or when it’s time for a break. The better we learn to respect their wishes, the more often we will return home with unforgettable experiences.


Johannes H. Hindriks