Sunday, November 20, 2011

10 ways to breathe new life into old songs

Sometimes old choir repertoire becomes stale.

bored choir

Photo by quinn.anya

Well-loved songs start to wear out and lose their sparkle. What can you do to overcome this?

The more the choir sing a particular song, the deeper they go into the words and music, revealing hidden subtleties and producing a richer interpretation.

But there is a danger that if a song is sung too many times, singers stop discovering new treasures and begin going through the motions. The singers know the song so well that they no longer make an effort, go on automatic pilot and the song starts to lose its magic.

Here are ten things to try when this happens.

  1. change the arrangement – add a new part (if it’s a three-part song, add a fourth part); get people to swap parts; put more unison sections in 
  2. sing in an ‘inappropriate’ style – e.g. opera, Country & Western, reggae, hard rock, lullaby, etc. 
  3. play with the dynamics – and vocal quality: soft and loud, ridiculously fast or slow, raucous, angelic, crescendos all over the place 
  4. move the singers around – put the basses next to the altos for a change; stand in a circle; distribute singers all around the rehearsal space 
  5. get rid of the words – sing just the vowels; do the whole thing on an ‘oo’; ‘la la la’ it 
  6. vary the focus of attention – focus on the audience, the other harmonies, the meaning of the words, the mood of the piece, the conductor, the altos, etc.
  7. restructure the song – build up the harmonies from verse to verse; design a big ending; repeat some of the verses; have small groups sing parts of the song 
  8. sing it backwards – line by line; verse by verse; miss out every other word
  9. try different groups – get individuals to form groups of four and sing to the rest of the choir; split the choir in two and have a competition for which half can sing the song best; add solo spots 
  10. drop the song – if the song has really, really gone stale, then drop it from your repertoire. You can always re-introduce it later.

Any of these tricks and methods should be used playfully. It’s fun to try as many ‘wrong’ ways of singing the song as possible. It can reveal previously hidden gems. At the very least, it will have refreshed the song when you come back to do it ‘properly’.

other ideas

I’m sure you all have loads of other ideas that you’ve tried. Do leave a comment and let me know what works for you.


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox!

Click to subscribe by email.


found this helpful?

I provide this content free of charge, because I like to be helpful. If you have found it useful, you may like to ...

... to say thank you.





Monthly Music Round-up: