Monday, October 19, 2015

6 ways to stop the strain of other singers relying on you (or you relying on them)

The rehearsal begins and the Altos looks around in panic: “Where’s Carol?” Carol is a strong, confident singer, but she’s not here this week.

Blind leading blind
Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind (detail)

The trouble is, the Alto section has come to rely on Carol, and now that she’s not here, they’re all a bit lost. How has this situation arisen, and what can be done about it?

Of course, it’s not just the Altos. Any section can get into the habit of depending on one singer to keep them on track. And it doesn’t have to be the whole section, it may be just three or four singers who stand next to a particularly confident singer.

There are many reasons why this is not a good idea.

Too much dependency on one singer:

  • makes the other singers vulnerable – when the person they’re relying on doesn’t turn up, they’re lost
  • stops singers from taking responsibility for their own contribution
  • can prevent singers from realising how well they’re doing on their own
  • puts a lot of pressure on a singer who has come to enjoy themselves
  • singles out some singers as being somehow ‘better’ than the rest

Maybe you’re one of these (seemingly) confident singers who ends up being relied upon, or perhaps you’re a slightly hesitant singer who leans on someone who seems stronger than you. Either way, what can be done about this situation?

First of all, it’s the choir leader’s responsibility not to let this happen in the first place. If they haven’t noticed, then draw it to their attention. There are plenty of rehearsal techniques they can use to make sure every singer is equally confident and equally responsible for their own contribution without placing pressure on individual singers.

singers who have too much pressure placed on them

If you’re an apparently confident singer who picks things up quickly, you may find that the singers around you start to rely on you. This can put a lot of pressure on you as a choir member, especially since you want to have a good sing and be part of a team, not a leader.

Here are six ideas you can use to change the situation:

  1. move around – make sure you regularly move places within your section so other singers don’t get into the habit of standing next to you
  2. sing quietly – for one rehearsal try singing much quieter than usual. Put the work in as usual and stay focused, but just hold back on the volume
  3. distance yourself – if possible, try distancing yourself slightly from the rest of your section, perhaps standing at the back or side
  4. change parts – move to a different part now and then if you can
  5. just say “no” – don’t accept the responsibility. If other singers keep asking you for advice or whether they’ve got something right, refer them to your choir leader
  6. step up – you can reframe the problem and play to your strengths: if you don’t already have section leaders, ask your choir leader if you can, then formalise the roles and ask if you can be one for your section 

singers who end up relying on someone else in their section

If you’re a hesitant singer who lacks a bit of confidence, you may end up relying on someone who you think is somehow better than you. It’s not always the case though – they may be finding it as difficult as you, but just appear to be comfortable and don’t have a problem with singing out. Then it’s a case of the blind leading the blind!

Here are six ideas that my help reduce your dependency:

  1. take responsibility – first of all, make sure that you put the work in: take responsibility for your own place in the choir (see You are the most important singer in your choir and How to be a good choir member), don’t dump on someone else (“I won’t bother learning it, I can always stand next to Carol, she always knows it.”)
  2. distance yourself – gradually increase the distance between you and the person you rely on, and try standing next to different singers in your section
  3. listen, listen, listen – focus on listening to the other singers in your section and not just the one singer, then move your attention to hearing the other parts in the choir
  4. get help – if you’re really struggling, ask your choir leader for help, or get together with some of the other singers in your section and have an extra rehearsal round someone’s house
  5. sing out loud – the singer you rely on may appear to know more than you, but you hone in on them because they just sing out – you know more than you think
  6. copy good practice – if you think the person you’re relying on is somehow better than you, then try to copy what they do. Behave as if you’re confident and know what you’re doing and soon you will actually be confident and not need to lean on anyone else (see Two big ideas to create the perfect choir or singing experience)
I’m sure there are lots of other clever tactics that can be used. Do let us know if you’ve been in the position of being relied upon to much or finding yourself having to rely on another singer. How did you resolve the situation?

Chris Rowbury



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Chris Rowbury


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