Monday, October 08, 2018

Why are some ‘easy’ songs hard (and vice versa)?

Sometimes I start a singing session off with what I consider to be an easy song.

photo from Wellcome Images

But the group end up struggling and it turns out to be really hard! What’s going on here.

I’m sure many choir leaders have found this: you plan to start off with an easy song, but it soon becomes clear that your choir are finding it much more difficult than you thought.

The opposite is also true. I’ve often thought a song would take ages to learn and the singers would struggle. But they learn it really quickly and it turns out to be much easier than I’d thought.

What’s going on here? Are we choir leaders just bad judges of material?

I really don’t know the answer (which is why I’m writing this post!).

There are times, of course, when we over- or under-estimate the abilities of our singers. This is especially true if it’s a new group and we haven’t got to know them yet.

Another issue is that we may find something quite easy because we’re musically more experienced than most of our singers. Or we’re more familiar with the Georgian harmonies. Or our sense of rhythm is more finely honed. We sometimes forget that the singers will be hearing the song for the first time and the timing or harmonies might feel unfamiliar.

Structure can also be a problem. I find it easy to internalise the structure of a song, but many singers need loads of repetition before the structure becomes apparent.

Familiarity with material can change over time. When I first teach a song, it usually takes quite a while and singers can often struggle. But when I’ve taught the song many times, the teaching (and learning of it) become much faster and easier.

Finally, let me ask you: have you had the experience of finding a song much easier (or harder) than expected? What factors do you think come into play?

I’d love to hear your ideas. Do drop by and leave a comment. Thanks.

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Chris Rowbury



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