5 ways to keep your singers focused in choir rehearsals

An important part of running a successful choir is getting the right balance in rehearsals. You want the choir to bond as a team and make friendships but you don’t want to be teaching over chatter – even if it’s singers discussing the music! As irritating as chatter can be to you as the choir leader, if the room was completely silent all of the time it would be a bit un-nerving and you’d be convinced no-one was having a good time! Striking the correct balance is therefore vital to the choir’s health. Here are five tried and tested strategies to keep well paced and ordered rehearsals and thus everyone’s attention without losing the fun.

Plan

Make sure you have a good structured rehearsal planned in advance so that you can keep the time well paced and varied. Create a good balance of new and current repertoire so that it’s not all learning which can lead to a lack of concentration. Similarly if you are just working on songs the choir know well, attention spans may wane. Try and vary the structure of rehearsals week by week so that it’s not always the same formula. If people expect the unexpected they will probably give you more attention and their anticipation will also lead to better attendance.

Divert if necessary

Don’t be scared to divert from your plan if you sense something is not going well. For example, if there is a part of the music which the choir are struggling with, of course it needs to be worked on but don’t let it take up too much rehearsal time, return to it the following week perhaps asking people to work on it in the meantime. If you keep at it people will start getting fidgety and de-motivated particularly if they feel it’s difficult. Instead sing through something which they know or are more confident with for a while.

Create social opportunity

Make sure your singers have plenty of opportunity to socialise. Consider a tea break during rehearsal or invite members to join you for a drink in the local pub afterwards. This way when you need them to be quiet and concentrate on the music in rehearsal they will know that there is plenty of opportunity to catch up with friends later. In addition to this choir social events are a good way to further the bond between members. We hold events twice a year for our choirs at which they can be as noisy as they like!

Don’t forget to laugh

Good interaction with your choir will probably involve some humour and this is a really important element of the choir bonding as a team with you their leader. However when funny moments occur quickly quieten things down again diverting focus back to the music to avoid noise levels rising. It is much easier to control the noise level before it gets too elevated. If you’re regularly having to stop to quieten a noisy room you may feel exhausted and unfulfilled after the rehearsal.

Have some re-focusing tools

If you feel people are restless and chatty quickly re-gain their attention by having a handful of fun, quirky exercises up your sleeve. These are particularly useful to re-energise your singers perhaps after the break or as it gets later into the evening. Teambuilding exercises work best here, such as singing The Grand Old Duke of York and clapping instead of singing ‘up’ and stamping instead of singing ‘down’. When doing exercises like this they require so much focus that it’s impossible to think about anything else let alone chatting!

Christine Mulgrew

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

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Maddie Cordes - 3 years ago Reply

Thanks Christine, agree with all those tips, very helpful. I agree it’s all about getting a balance as dialogue is good – just at the right time and in the right place.

Friday Favourites | Discover Singing - last year Reply

[…] 5 ways to keep your singers focused (Total Choir Resources) – “As irritating as chatter can be to you as the choir leader, if the room was completely silent all of the time it would be a bit un-nerving and you’d be convinced no-one was having a good time!  Striking the correct balance is therefore vital to the choir’s health. “ […]

Cecilia Simmons - a few months ago Reply

I’m always looking for movement songs to use with my choir. Thanks for giving me another one to add to the arsenal.

Chris - a few months ago Reply

Thank you for this. I’ll admit I was afraid it would be somewhat glib and cliched as many such lists are these days, but I found it thoughtful and helpful. I especially like the Grand Old Duke of York idea!

    Christine Mulgrew - a few months ago Reply

    Thanks Chris,

    Glad you liked the article. We always aim to give well thought out tried and tested methods in our articles. Have fun with The Grand Old Duke!

Peter - a few months ago Reply

You are always helpful. Consider a scenario where you have barely 2 hours to rehearse and 30 minutes is wasted chattering. How can one handle that? Personally, I detest distractions and anything that could hinder the flow of the rehearsal because of limited time and the volume of repertoires we have to cover. However, I try to make the rehearsal less stiff.

Jeanette - a few months ago Reply

We are in the process of learning a new programme for our Dec 2 concert. With a couple of pieces still being analysed, learning parts etc. I always include a couple of songs the choir knows really well, during the rehearsal time, to break it up. I, quite often, unintentionally, have the group laughing, when something I say, or demonstrate, doesn’t come out quite as intended. I’m lucky my group has a great sense of humour. I like the idea of Grand Old Duke of York to refocus people after the break. Thank you for that suggestion.

    Christine Mulgrew - a few months ago Reply

    Thanks Jeanette,

    Your message made me chuckle, I too often end up unintentionally giving my choir a giggle! Have fun with The Grand Old Duke exercise.

Valerie - a few months ago Reply

Thank you so much for a brilliant article as usual. All your tips always help.
Valerie

Harrington - a few months ago Reply

Wonderful lesson

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