Monday, January 21, 2019

Tell your choir leader what you’re struggling with, otherwise they can’t help you

Sometimes one section of the choir struggles with their part. I ask what the problem is, but am faced with a sea of blank faces.


If I don’t know what the difficulties are, I can’t help. Why won’t singers say why they’re struggling?

that one person who asks questions

When I was at university, some of my lectures had over 100 students in them. It was all tricky maths and science stuff. There was lots of frantic copying of what was being written on the board. However, there was very little understanding.

One of my mates would regularly stick his hand up and ask questions. The whole lecture theatre would breathe a sigh of relief. Everyone was struggling, but thought they were alone. His question was the one we’d all wanted to ask.

Most of us were too scared to put our hands up. We were frightened that we were the only stupid person in the room. We worried that our question was so simplistic that we would be ridiculed – both by the lecturer and the other students. We were scared to show our ignorance.

But my mate didn’t care – he wanted to learn.

we’re all in this together

It’s the same with singing.

Pretty much everyone in the room has doubts: about their singing ability, about whether they’re getting their part right, whether they can even ‘sing’ or not.

If we’re having difficulty with our part, we assume we’re the only one.

Our assumption is that everyone else is better than us, so we’d better keep quiet.

If our choir leader asks what our section is having difficulty with, we’re scared to be the one to speak in case our problem is ridiculously simple compared with what the others are dealing with.

But it only takes one.

Like my mate at university, it just needs one individual to say “I’m not sure how we get from the last note back to the beginning” or “Can you go over the second phrase again?” or “For some reason I can’t get that interval on the third line”.

There will usually be a sigh of relief because somebody has asked exactly the question that YOU wanted to ask.

we’re here to help not to ridicule

You have to understand that your choir leader wants to help you.

It’s in her interest to make it as easy as possible for every single singer in the choir to be able to sing their part. That’s when the song will work and everyone will enjoy it.

We like to think that choirs and singing workshops are safe places where people don’t feel intimidated and are not scared to give it a go. But we all bring baggage from our schooling, our parents and bullies that we’ve met along the way.

You need to remind yourself that a choir is a team. Everyone is there to support everyone else.

Expressing your struggle with a part is not a sign of weakness and won’t open you up to criticism, especially if your choir leader has asked you what you’re struggling with.

If you do get criticised or judged, then you’re in the wrong choir!

you don’t need to be brave

Next time you’re having difficulty with your part, ask your choir leader for help.

It doesn’t matter if you think you’re the only one having that struggle, you’re almost certainly not.

You are asking your question to benefit the whole choir. Every singer is responsible for helping the group make the best sound possible.

You move towards a song bit by bit, mistake by mistake, difficulty by difficulty. As each obstacle is put to one side, the song begins to bed in.

You don’t need to be be brave to do this.

Everyone is in the same boat. Each singer picks up a new song at a different pace and in a different way. Nobody is going to ridicule you. You are simply expressing something that will help your whole team get better at singing the song.

you might also like to read …

Ask questions – your choir leader (probably) won’t bite!

You are not alone – most people in your choir think they can’t sing well

Don’t try to help your fellow singers – it’s not your job!

Why feedback is important when teaching and learning songs

What to do if you think someone in your part is singing it ‘wrong’

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Chris Rowbury



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Chris Rowbury


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