Monday, October 02, 2017

How do you know how loud you should sing in choir?

Your singing teacher is always telling you to be more confident and sing up.

boy shouting

But your choir leader asks you to sing quietly and listen to each other. So how loud should you be singing?

Like anything in music, there are no absolutes. It’s all about volume relative to others.

self confidence

If you’re an under-confident, self-conscious singer, you may feel that you’re singing too quietly. Your singing teacher or choir leader might even encourage you to sing out more.

The tendency when you’re learning something new is to be hesitant and hold back until you feel you’re mastering things. But in singing it’s a little different.

When you’re starting out or learning a new song, you need to sing out loud and proud and make big mistakes so you can hear them and correct them. If you’re always singing quietly and half-heartedly, then you’ll never really find out if you’re on the right track.

If you are (initially) an under-confident singer, then you should make sure you stand front and centre in your choir even though it may feel scary!  See Why you should stand front and centre if you’re not a confident singer.

working as a team

Being in a choir is about working as a team and getting the balance right.

As I’ve written before, singing in a choir is all about listening.
  • You need to listen carefully to the other voices in your own part so that you’re all maintaining the same volume, blend and pitch.
  • You need to listen carefully to the other harmony parts so you can balance the harmonies and hear clearly how they fit together.
  • You need to listen carefully to your own voice to make sure you’re on pitch, getting your part right and matching the volume of those around you.
Not much to ask!

At first, having so many different focuses can be confusing. It’s a bit like when you learn to drive. But it will get easier with time.

how do you judge how loud you’re singing?

A simple rule regarding volume is this:
  • if you can hear everyone else, but not yourself, then you need to sing up a bit;
  • if you can hear only yourself and nobody else, then reduce your volume slightly.
At first, even this can be difficult if you’re not used to listening to your own voice and other voices at the same time.

A simple trick is to cup your ear with your hand. You will then be able to hear your own voice very clearly without having to increase your volume. By adjusting the angle and shape of the ‘cup’ you can adjust the mix between your own voice and the others around you.

You might focus in on your own voice to start with to make sure you’re on pitch and sounding good, then add in more of the other voices around you to make sure you’re blending well and matching their volume.

You can dip in and out of this as the song is going along to give you frequent feedback. Some small acappella groups might do this all the time to make sure they really nail the harmonies perfectly, but in a big choir you’ll only need to do it now and again or when you’re first learning a song.

what you can’t control

No matter how hard you try, there is no way of controlling the relative volume of your entire section. If the sopranos or tenors are too loud for example, it’s your choir leader’s job to balance the volume by instructing your whole section.

hearing loss

If you find yourself singing too loud and other singers start complaining, or you simply can’t hear the mix of voices when everyone sings together, then you might have some hearing loss.

Don’t be too embarrassed to go and get your hearing checked. It may be something as simple as too much ear wax!

If you do have some hearing loss, you might find these two posts useful:

Singers with hearing loss: how choir leaders can help

Are you a singer with hearing loss? Steps you can take to make your life easier in your choir

finding the balance

As I said at the beginning, there are no absolutes in singing, it’s all about relative volume.

It may feel that you’re being pulled in two different directions:
  1. sing up so we can hear you clearly;
  2. sing quietly and listen to the other singers.
It’s about finding the balance between these two apparently contradictory demands. Once you feel more confident as a singer and can sing out loud and proud, then you will have far more control over how much you listen and blend in with other voices.

Good luck!

Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox!

Click to subscribe by email.

Chris Rowbury



Monthly Music Roundup:

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: