Monday, November 13, 2017

Why it’s vital to include voice training in your choir leading

I’m just back from leading a singing weekend for singers who want to improve their small group harmony singing skills. We focused quite a lot on blending which required us to look at vocal technique.

But should you make space for this kind of work in your regular choir? Or have people just come to sing?

There will always be singers who complain about warm ups or any kind of vocal development work. They just don’t see the point and want to get on with the singing.

But I believe that these are vital parts of any choir rehearsal (see Preparing to sing: why bother?)

In fact the lines between warm up, voice training and singing should become very blurred. They’re pretty much all the same thing when you come down to it. And all of it should be FUN!

When I say “voice training” I don’t mean technical stuff involving anatomy or bel canto techniques, but simple exercises and games that will help choir members to sing, listen and blend better (I’m a great believer in using fun and visual imagery rather than technical and anatomical jargon).

Exercises to enable proper breath support for sustaining notes and improving tone; developing sensitivity amongst your singers so they can embrace the whole range of possible dynamics within a song; refining the blend of voices by working on timbre, vowel shapes, etc.; games to help with tuning and dropping in pitch; placing singers so they are in smaller groups with one person on each harmony; and so on.

You don’t need to be a fully trained vocal coach in order to cover the simple basics. Not only will it help your singers enjoy their voices more, but it will help them sustain their voice for the length of the rehearsal without getting tired and hurting their throats.

beyond note learning

It’s not enough to teach nothing but the notes if you’re going to perform in public. Of course, if it’s just a group that gets together to sing for themselves, it’s not so important. But if you’re going to share your singing, it needs to be done well.

That means singers need to have control over their voices. Those voices need to blend, and singers need to work together and listen carefully in order to add dynamics to their singing.

None of these things happen naturally. Like any new hobby (tennis, piano, carpentry), you need to work at developing the appropriate skills.

Not only will your audiences enjoy your performances more, but your choir members will get an enormous sense of satisfaction out of really nailing a song well, of rising to the challenge of becoming better and better singers, and their overall enjoyment of the beautiful music they make will improve dramatically.

Next time you go to a concert you’ll easily spot those choirs which have done nothing but learn the notes in the right order.

other posts you might like

How to develop perfect warm up exercises for your choir

The singers who didn’t like warm ups (and what became of them)

“Darling, your technique is showing” – don’t be a singer who is all style and no substance

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Chris Rowbury



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