Sunday, February 24, 2013

Don’t play a recording of a song to your choir before you teach it to them

I’m often asked by choir members to play a recording of a song before I start teaching it so they can get an idea of how it sounds.

Photo by ~~Tone~~

Yet at a recent workshop people said that the easiest song to learn was the one that they’d never heard before. So should I play a recording first?

Sometimes I might sing through the whole melody line of a song before teaching it to give singers a rough idea of where we’re going. But I never play a full recording of a song.

The problem as I see it is that singers will immediately try to reproduce what they’ve heard. It’s amazing how quickly people encode a particular way of singing.

I’ve written before about how quickly habits are formed and how once a song is ‘set’ it’s very different to change (see Stop me if you’ve sung this before: learning different versions of songs you know already).

If you play a recording of a song people will subconsciously assume that this is the way that you want it performed and will have it in their head the whole time they’re learning.

Another issue is if the recording is not the exact version that you will be teaching. For example you might just have the melody being sung whereas you will be teaching a four-part harmony version. Once the melody is in people’s heads it can then be harder to learn the harmonies (see It’s hard to teach songs that people already know).

Similarly, demonstrating a song to be learnt (either by the choir leader singing solo or getting a small group to demonstrate) can have a similar effect.

I’ll be writing in a later post about how careful you need to be when teaching a new song for the first time. You need to make sure that the singers don’t get into bad habits from the start.

Do you ever use recordings before you teach a song? Have you noticed a difference when you do? Has anybody found playing a recording to be an advantage when teaching?

I’d love to hear of your experiences. Do take the time to leave a comment, it will be much appreciated!

Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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