Sunday, February 17, 2013

Can you remember a song while standing on one leg?

I teach a song in the morning and it’s sounding pretty good.

photo by kalavinka

Then after lunch I get the group to stand facing a different direction and it all goes wrong. What’s happening here?

don’t try too many new things at once

I’ve noticed over the years that when people first learn a song they also somehow encode where they are when they learn it.

If I’ve been teaching a song and we have a short break, when we come back to it, people usually go back to exactly where they were standing before. If I move them around, then it seems to disrupt the learning experience.

I think it’s something to do with novelty.

If you’re learning something new, then you want everything else other than what you’re learning to be fixed so your brain can focus on just the new material coming in.

So if you move to a different part of the room, or stand next to a different section, or have typewritten lyrics in your hand instead of handwritten ones on the wall, or are asked to sing different words, then it’s too much to take in.

We’ve all had that experience where we’ve learnt the words to a song at home and know them perfectly sitting in our favourite armchair. But when we come to the concert, the lyrics seem to disappear into thin air.

introduce novelty as soon as possible

I think we need some fixed points when first learning a new song, but then we should start as soon as possible to put that learning in different contexts so it becomes really embedded.

I might teach a song with people standing in exactly the same positions as we learn, but as soon as we begin to repeat and revise I will start to move people around.

Not in a big way at first. Perhaps just getting the choir to face the other way. Then I’ll maybe move to a different part of the room. Next I’ll shift the parts in relation to each other. And finally I’ll break the group down into smaller units.

If we’ve not done a song for a while it definitely helps recall if the singers go back to stand where they first learnt the song. But as soon as it is recalled, I try to shake it up a bit.

  • Try a new rehearsal space.
  • Don’t have your annual concert in the same venue each year.
  • Try the tenors standing next to the sopranos.
  • Move everyone into the kitchen to sing.
  • If you must use the same rehearsal/ concert venue, then use it differently each time.
  • Turn the lights out.
  • Try singing the song standing on one leg (and waving your arms in the air).
  • Have the singers face the wall instead of the window.
  • Sing the song in reverse from the last verse to the first.
  • Add dance moves (then take them away later).
  • Get everyone to walk around the space at random whilst singing.

If you can recall the song accurately under all these different situations, then it’s really gone in and you won’t be thrown by anything.

What’s your experience? Do leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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