Sunday, October 14, 2012

How to pace yourself in choir rehearsals and singing workshops

Have you ever been swept along by the enthusiasm of a singing session only to feel drained at the end or with a sore throat and aching legs?

Really, really tired by Evers' Project 365 Blog

Have you tried a full singing day only to duck out at lunch time due to exhaustion?
How can we – as singers or choir leaders – pace ourselves better?

This week I’m focusing on singers. Next week I’ll cover choir and singing workshop leaders and how we often give our energy away.

Here – in no particular order – are some things to consider which will help you pace yourself better.

how to pace yourself

  • save the best for last – you don’t have to give 100% all the time, especially when you’re learning a song. Even in a rehearsal for a concert you should hold back some energy for the gig itself. If you peak too early you’ll have nothing left to give.
  • let others do the work too – you’re not the only person in your section. Being in a choir is team work so make sure you’re working together and not trying to do all the work yourself. It’s all about balance.
  • less is more – when you love what you’re doing there is a tendency to go at it hell for leather. If you really like a song, you might be tempted to over-sing it or even shout. Often a gentle, restrained approach comes across to an audience far better than if a song is belted out. Especially if you’re singing outdoors.
  • you are not solely responsible – sometimes you might find that you’re doing the work of your whole section, especially if you think the other singers haven’t quite got it right yet. Don’t be tempted to compensate for others.
  • it’s not a competition – often in a workshop we find ourselves judging our own abilities and efforts against other singers. There can be a tendency to try to be better than (or to just keep up with) the others. But they may have years more experience than you. Just work within your own limits and don’t try to be something you’re not.
  • do what’s right for you – you’re the only one who knows what limitations you might have. You might be feeling under the weather or have a bad back. Don’t push beyond what you should do or you’ll suffer in the end. Know your limits and stick to them.
  • go your own way – in a group we can find ourselves comparing with others. You might like the way someone else is singing or be jealous of their big voice. What might start as admiration can result in copying how someone else is singing. Resist that temptation! You are not them. You are built differently and have your own unique voice so use that instead.
  • less pain if you don’t strain – you might find that the part you’re singing is a little too high or too low for your range. You might think that you want to sing high (or low) like your favourite singer. This will only hurt your voice. You can extend your range, but slowly over a number of sessions. If you find yourself straining, even a little bit, then bring some technique and self-awareness to bear or change to another part.
  • do what you gotta do – if you need to sit down – even if everyone else is standing – then sit down. Nobody will think less of you. Or stand up if you’ve been sitting too long and walk around a bit. Go to the loo. Get a breath of fresh air. Only you know what you need.
  • check in with yourself – regularly! It’s all to easy to get carried along by the song without realising that you’re holding onto tension or you’re really tired or you’re straining your voice. Check in with yourself – your posture, your breathing, your aches, your energy levels – and act accordingly. It might even mean that you go home early.
  • take time out – singing together should be pleasurable. It’s not a marathon. Different people have different energy levels so someone might be flagging whilst someone else is just hitting their stride. If you need to take a break, then take a break. Don’t gut it out or you’ll regret it later.
  • be aware of the context – not only is everyone different, but we all have different contexts. Someone might have been awake all night with the kids. Someone else might have just come back from a restful holiday. Someone might be worrying about a job interview the next day. So don’t compare yourself with how others are managing. Also, realise that the next time you’re in this situation you will feel different.
  • be nourished – make sure you are breathing, drinking, resting and eating enough to sustain you, however long the session. Make provisions and have back up plans.
  • pace yourself – you have a finite amount of energy so make sure you share it out well. If it’s a two-hour choir session, it might not matter if you’re exhausted at the end because you can go home and get a good sleep and it’s a whole week until the next session. But if it’s a one-day or one-week workshop, you don’t want to use up all your energy in the first few hours. Make sure you always have a little energy in reserve for the next bit.
  • it’s a tiring business! – no matter how well you pace yourself, the fact is that singing, rehearsing, learning new songs, and performing all take quite a bit of energy. So you may well be tired at the end. Just make sure you are not exhausted and that you have enough energy to sustain you properly throughout the whole session, not just the first bit.
  • factor in some time off – knowing that singing takes energy, make sure you plan for some rest time between singing sessions. Maybe you’ll have to skip choir one night because you have an early start and a big meeting the following day. If you’ve been on a week-long singing workshop, try to have at least one day off before you get back to your normal routine.

what works for you?

OK, so there are quite a few ideas to chew over, but what’s your experience? I’d love to hear how you manage to pace yourself in singing sessions. Do you have different strategies depending on how long the session is? Are you always exhausted no matter what you try? What is the one thing that’s really worked for you?

Do leave a comment and share your thoughts.

next week

Next time I’m going to be looking at us who stand out front: Energy conservation for singing leaders: how to not get carried away.

Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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