Monday, February 03, 2020

How much should you polish a song before moving onto the next one?

Some songs are quick to learn and some take a while before they bed in.

How long should you spend on a teaching/ learning a song before moving onto the next one?

easy songs

Even if a song is learnt quickly, it’s important to remember that singers have come to SING and not to be learning the whole time (see We’ve come to sing, not to learn!).

Once an easy song has been learnt, sing it several times to give your singers satisfaction. To stop it getting boring, you might want to mix parts up, try different choir formations, add new dynamics, sing every verse, etc.

harder songs

If a song proves more difficult, there might come a time when you should leave it and move onto something else. You can always come back to it later in that rehearsal or even leave it for a few weeks. See If a song’s not working, when do you stop flogging the dead horse?

It partly depends on the type of group. If your singers regularly perform to a very high standard or are entering competitions, then obviously you’ll need to spend a lot of time polishing a song. See Teacher of songs or song-polisher – which kind of choir leader are you?

But if yours is a non-performing choir or a “singing for fun” group, then it’s not as vital to perfect a song (even if that were possible). It’s still worth polishing it though as it gives singers a sense of achievement.

too much polishing?

However, even if you need to polish a song in great detail, it’s important to not keep working at it. You’ll get a sense when your singers are getting bored or losing concentration. Rehearsals are often more effective if you switch between songs regularly rather than slogging away on a single song.

There is also the danger that something becomes lost if you work on a song too much. Singers’ analytical minds become engaged and feeling and sensitivity can disappear. See Singing – the more you do it, the worse you get! and Over-rehearsed or under-prepared: which is better?

songs and memory

A final issue is concerned with how people learn and retain songs, especially if they’re taught by ear. In a one-day workshop, I’ll move on from a song even if it’s not entirely under singers’ belts and needs a few more repetitions. I’ll come back to it later in the day though.

Research has shown that if you revise something just at the point of forgetting. it will then go into long-term memory. During a day workshop, you need to leave it a few hours before revisiting the song. See Why I record the songs at the end of every singing workshop I lead.

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Chris Rowbury




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