Monday, September 06, 2021

5 ideas for when your mind goes blank in front of your singers

It’s happened to us all: you’re mid-rehearsal and suddenly your mind goes completely blank.

Instead of panicking, here are some things you can do.

I’ve often likened my job to my worst nightmare.

In my dream I’m standing in front of a crowd of keen faces all expecting me to know what to do next. But my mind is completely empty.

It happens to me in real life too. I’m sure it’s happened to you. And if it hasn’t happened yet, it will one day.

Here are some things you can try when that happens.

  1. don’t panic – take your time and own the moment. Breathe and be in the now. Sometimes I share my nightmare with the singers. It gets everyone to laugh and relax.
  2. do the same again – if you have no idea what to do next, simply repeat what you’ve just done. But this time, choose a different focus or emphasis. If you’re in the middle of teaching a song, go over the part you’ve just taught to make sure everyone knows it. If you’re in the middle of a warm up, repeat the warm up exercise but ask the singers to focus on a different aspect: relaxed body, vocal dynamics, blend, volume, other singers, etc.
  3. ask your singers what to do – rather than your singers expecting you to do all the work all the time, throw the ball back to them. Ask them what they’d like to do in that moment. Go with the consensus, it might surprise you. Or ask them their favourite song so you can all just have a good sing of a familiar song in the middle of a difficult rehearsal.
  4. use the moment to break habits – it’s easy to get into a habitual routine when it comes to weekly choir sessions. The danger is that singers may begin to switch off and go onto automatic pilot. What’s great is to surprise your singers and shake things up from time to time. This moment is a great opportunity to do something completely different and unexpected. Jumping on the spot, singing other people’s parts, moving singers around, singing a familiar song ‘wrong’. And so on. The only limits are your imagination.
  5. time for reflection – maybe not in the moment itself, but it might be worth trying to figure out why exactly you’ve gone blank at this particular time. Were you thinking of something else (that’s usually the case for me – I’m no longer in the moment, but am thinking about what comes next)? Are you not prepared enough to be doing this right now (you might not know the song well enough)? Are you boring yourself (time to think of some new rehearsal techniques)? Is your heart really not in it (time to retire or change things up?)?

I’d love to hear from you: what you do when your mind goes blank. I’m sure there are plenty of other ideas out there.


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Chris Rowbury




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