If you regularly use backing tracks with your choir, you’ll already know that there are many benefits. There is a wide range to choose from, covering decades of contemporary music. They are easy to access online and are very cost effective.
A live band is great, but there are costs involved and you need to ensure your performance space is big enough for a band and a choir. Backing tracks are convenient, particularly if you are performing out and about at events and you still want a full sound.
That said, performing with backing tracks is by no means problem-free. One area that can prove tricky is the instrumental, that part of a rock or pop song where the band takes over for a while. If you have a band, you can let the musicians get on with it, but with a backing track you and your choir can be left standing there feeling a bit awkward! So how do you overcome the long instrumental? Here are three ideas that I’ve employed with my choir.
If you’re covering a nice upbeat song, then having some small shakers hidden away in your singers’ pockets can be a great instrumental solution. We use small ‘eggs’ in bright colours. Make sure you include plenty of practice at this in rehearsal and keep the rhythm straightforward. Be clear with your singers about when they can and cannot use the shakers – it’s very easy to get carried away!
If you have a soloist in the song or a microphone handy then why not bring a singer forward to do some ad-libs during the instrumental? This could involve some ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ or repetition of the song lyrics. If you don’t have soloists, something similar from the whole choir can work too.
If the song is upbeat, you don’t want to lose any energy as singers stand there for a 16 bar intrumental. Why not incorporate a ‘step-clap’ action at this point or some other movement? This could be as simple as clapping and enouraging the audience to join in. A couple of notes on this: make sure you don’t get carried away and forget to count the bars ready to bring the choir back in. Also, practise, practise, practise! If movement and clapping doesn’t come together for your choir in rehearsal then don’t use it. You can test the water by trying some movement in a warm-up exercise first.