Monday, May 25, 2020

How to get the most out of singing online – a guide for singers

Choirs are not meeting at the moment so lots of you have gone online to sing.

Virtual Choir

Given that it will be just you singing at a screen, what can you do to get the most out of an online singing session?

DISCLAIMER: I’ve not had a huge amount of experience of joining in with online singing sessions. Do feel free to add your own advice in the comments!

It can be scary singing by yourself, especially if you normally sing in a choir. Suddenly you find yourself at home staring at a screen without much feedback and without hearing the other singers.

before the session starts

You’ll probably want to find somewhere private in your house so that you won’t feel inhibited by other members of the household overhearing you – especially if there is a silly warm up involved. Make yourself comfortable and shut the door. Try to reduce any external sources of noise. For example, you may want to shut the window if you’re near a busy road.

Position your device or webcam so you can sit comfortably and still appear at a sensible scale on the video. You might need to adjust the height and angle of your device. Most software platforms used for online singing (Zoom for example) allow you to see a preview of your video feed before you join the session. If you want people to see you clearly, don’t sit with a window or other bright light source behind you.

Before you start, it’s worth spending some time to develop healthy ways to sit or stand and to release any tensions before the session even begins. Ailsa Nicholson has created a series of three videos: How to keep your voice happy and healthy on Zoom. This will help with alignment, posture, tension and has voice exercises to help when your voice is tired. Here is Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

If the song leader doesn’t incorporate a warm up in their session, then you should make sure you prepare your voice beforehand. You’ll probably remember a few simple warm up exercises from your choir or other online singing sessions. Any kind of stretching and vocalising, if done gently, will be of benefit. It you’re worried about others in the house hearing you making strange noises, you might find this post useful: How to warm up your voice on the bus (or any other public space)

You might find it useful to use headphones instead of your computer or phone speakers. Using headphones creates a certain intimacy which can help shut out the rest of the world.

It might be that the leader of the online singing session sends out resources the session so you can learn your part in advance. Or you might want to get involved in a virtual choir where you record your own part at home. In these cases, you might find this post useful:

How to learn effectively from a recording of a song in parts

during the session

When you’re singing along with the session leader, try to balance the volume of your voice so you can hear them as well as yourself. You may need to adjust the volume coming out of your device.

Try not to thrust your head forward to engage more with what’s going on on the screen (an easy habit to fall into).

Take a break from time to time. You can turn your camera off temporarily if you don’t want people to think you’re rude! Do some stretching and wiggling. A good time would be when there’s general chit chat going on or the song leader is introducing one of the other parts. If you find yourself getting tense or hoarse or uncomfortable in any way, think about cutting the session short and taking care of yourself.

Singing by yourself into a screen can be a weird experience at first. You may not like the sound of your own voice, or you might be worried about whether you’re getting it right (since you won’t be getting any feedback) or you might find it hard holding your part against another harmony. Be patient and online sessions will get easier as you become more familiar. In the meantime, you might find some of these posts useful:

Do let me know if you have other ideas to help get the best out of singing online.


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Chris Rowbury




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