Monday, June 29, 2015

How to pace a long singing workshop effectively

If a singing workshop is just a couple of hours long, then singers’ energy and concentration will probably be fine.

CCF 2010 (1)

But for workshops which last a whole day, energy, concentration, focus, boredom, etc. all become factors. What’s the most effective way to pace a long singing workshop?

grab ’em while they’re fresh

Energy and enthusiasm (and trepidation!) are at their peak when a workshop starts. Take advantage of this to put the group through their paces (lots of pitching and harmonising exercises and fun singing games) and maximise teaching time while energy levels are up. Start with an easy song, but then try to tackle harder material while everyone is fresh.

you need breaks, but ...

You’ll need to break up the workshop to give people time to rest, go to the toilet and grab a drink. But you need to plan carefully. If, for example, you have 40 singers and each one takes a minute to get a cup of tea, that’s 40 minutes gone before you realise it. And if you say a break is going to be 10 minutes long, you can be sure that it will become 15 or even 20 minutes. So factor this in.

On a one-day singing workshop I never have a formal tea break in the morning, just a 10 minute “wee and water” break. We then have a longer, more formal tea break in the afternoon when people are flagging.

have seats, but don’t use them all the time

It’s best if people stand when singing. But people will get tired when they’ve been on their feet for a long time. Make it clear that people can sit down whenever they need to, but every now and then get everyone up to sing through an entire song. Variety keeps energy up.

Make sure you teach the harmonies to each song in small chunks so no one section is waiting around too long. If you DO have a tricky part to teach, make it clear that other sections can sit down while they wait.

how to deal with the post-lunch slump

After lunch, singers will have forgotten everything they’ve learnt so far! They will have no recollection of the songs they learnt in the morning, their brains will have turned to mush and they will have very little capacity to learn anything new.

I try to limit all the teaching to the morning session. If I do teach anything after lunch, I make sure it’s not too hard. I start the afternoon session with some energising or “brain gym” exercises. I then go at a much slower pace and don’t get impatient when I have to go over and over things. Singers will need a lot of reminding, so make sure you leave plenty of time.

leave time for revision (and singing)

At the end of a long workshop it’s important to revise everything. People have come to sing, not to learn all the time, so make sure you leave plenty of time to sing through all the songs you’ve taught. Participants will want to feel a sense of accomplishment, that they’re really nailed a song and that it’s bedded in.

Recent research has shown that revising something just at the point of forgetting helps to establish it in long term memory. Revising all the songs at the end has this effect. People will just be on the verge of forgetting what they learnt at the start of the day, so it’s a great time to run through it again so it will stay with them

what’s your experience?

How do you find the pace of one-day singing workshops? If you’re a workshop leader, do you have any other useful suggestions for pacing the day? And if you attend workshops, how do you find the longer ones? I’d love to hear from you. Do drop by and leave a comment.

Chris Rowbury




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: