5 tips for keeping your choir’s attention in rehearsals

Keeping your choir’s attention throughout a rehearsal can be challenging sometimes. There can be times when noise levels begin to rise and singers don’t seem to be as focused as you’d like them to be. Don’t take offence, this is in many ways the nature of any group of people brought together for an acivity. It doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be there or that they don’t like what you’re doing. Try out these attention-grabbing tips and you’ll soon have everyone’s focus back where you need it – on the music.

Don’t be predictable

We’ve mentioned in the past the importance of planning rehearsals to ensure a range of activities, as well as covering the repertoire you need to within performance deadlines. However, don’t allow that planning to become too regimented. If rehearsals always run in a predictable pattern, people can become bored and fidgety, which is when focus on what you’re doing can start to wander. Keep the choir on its toes by changing your routine. If you usually start with announcements, launch straight into warm-ups. If you’re working on repertoire and want to improve a certain element such as breathing, why not do a breathing exercise during the rehearsal of that piece?

Ask people to participate

Don’t give your singers all the answers. After a sing-through of a piece, ask them questions such as what they thought of the blend, what needs improvement – anything that will get them thinking and invested in the piece. You are much more likely to keep their attention when they work hard to meet your and their expectations.

Be innovative

Try not to focus upon the same set of warm-ups each week. Think of new ideas and variations to try out with your choir. By sparking people’s creativity and imagination, you will definitely get their attention. If you have lots of fun and interesting warm-ups to hand, you can always use one during the rehearsal at any time you feel the energy or attention dipping. This is particularly handy after a refreshment break when people have been chatting and may be distracted with other things.

Be inclusive when learning parts

It can be very easy when teaching different sections of your choir to leave other sections sitting there with nothing to do. Boredom often leads to chatting. Instead of letting this happen, ask each section to either hum their part while working with another section, or ask them all to have a go at the part in question. Understanding and learning the other parts is never a bad thing for a choral singer and supports the section learning theirs. Tell singers they can go up or down the octave depending what’s comfortable for their voice.

Mix things up

As creatures of habit, we tend to enjoy routine and you may find that, week in week out, singers sit in the same places, next to the same people, hearing the same voices around them. That may mean that the stronger singers are having to work harder to carry the weaker ones and that people are only getting one experience of the choir’s sound which may lead to boredom and chatter. Try moving everyone around a couple of times over the evening. This can be either within sections or, if you’re feeling brave, why not mix the whole choir up? Mixing people up can give the rehearsal a fresh energy. What we have found with this technique is that people suddenly pay more attention, work harder, enjoy hearing the different parts and voices around them and the whole piece is elevated.

Christine Mulgrew

Christine is a contemporary choir leader who loves to help novice and nervous singers find their voice.

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John Mark - 3 years ago Reply

These tips are so helpful in our choir Christine! Thank you!

    Christine Mulgrew - 3 years ago Reply

    Hi John, many thanks for your comment, it’s always great to be able to help a fellow choir leader, especially when it comes to getting your choir’s attention!

Richard - 3 years ago Reply

Thanks for these ideas. Do you have any quick energisers for when rehearsals need a quick pick-me-up?

    Victoria Hopkins - 3 years ago Reply

    Hi Richard. Try this article for a bit of inspiration.

      Richard - 3 years ago Reply

      Excellent! Thanks very much. I run two church choirs and the fun warm ups etc provide some light relief from hymns and anthems. The Vicar was a bit taken aback when he came into the church only to find us singing ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ with claps and stamps and lots of laughter!

Mulemwa - last week Reply

Many thanks for the tips

Jane - 7 days ago Reply

Great ideas! I’ve got my lot a bit “Pavloved”. I let them chat sometimes and then I say “Breathing through your nose!” in a funny, singsongy, strong but friendly voice with upward inflection on the word nose! They know that’s my friendly “settle down” signal and instantly breathe through their noses! And you can’t talk when doing that!!! Plus it’s calming :)

Jim Seaborn - a few days ago Reply

Hi everyone
It all boils down to leadership. Your choir is a reflection of you. If you love what you do your group will reflect that in their singing. The only times i find my church choir chatty is before and after rehearsal (of course!) and if they think the piece is beyond their abilities after the first read through. When that happens that’s your opportunity to reign them back in and convince them through a carefully planned breakdown of the composition that they can do it. Chatter is ok as long as you harness it to your (and their) advantage!

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